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We have just released a new feature for Moderators across the entire network: the ability to remove a Meta post from showing up in the Hot Meta Posts (HMP) section of the Community Bulletin on the parent site.

Some details about this feature:

  • Moving forward, any meta posts that are added to HMP for the associated parent site will have a “Selected for Hot Meta Posts” history entry added (accessible on the timeline and revisions for the meta post). This will only be added once (the first time that the post shows up in HMP).
  • Removal of the Meta post from HMP will be through the mod menu for the given post, where a “Remove from hot meta posts” option will be provided for any Meta post that has a “Selected for HMP” entry in its history (in the recent past) and has not yet been removed.
    • This will work identically to the way that the "Remove from hot network questions" button works on main sites.
  • A Meta post that has been removed from HMP cannot be selected again by the system to appear in the Bulletin as a Hot Meta Post (it could still show up as Featured).
  • When this function is called by a mod, it will:
    • Add a “Removed from HMP” entry to the post timeline (identifying the mod who removed the post).
    • Immediately refresh the cache for the Community Bulletin for the parent site.
  • Similarly, when a post on HMP is deleted, the cache for the Community Bulletin on the parent site will now be refreshed right away.

As many of you may know, Hot Meta Posts had been removed from the Community Bulletin on Stack Overflow for over a year, before they were restored a couple of weeks ago. To quote Catija:

What we really want to avoid in the Hot Meta Posts are questions that call out, or are rude towards, specific users, moderators, or staff. Usually these questions don't get upvoted so our concerns are relatively low, but please understand that if we see these in the HMP we may act to reduce their visibility by changing the tags…

This new feature will provide moderators with a much more robust (and transparent) way to remove posts from HMP than has been available to date.

Additionally, now that we will be recording HMP selection (and removal) in post history, we will be better equipped to analyze the effectiveness of Hot Meta Posts in the future, and to make decisions about how we can improve this feature.

The current state of HMP network wide & future discovery

Hot Meta Posts is a very useful way to share important discussions that take place on Meta sites with the wider community. For many users who are looking to be more active in the Community, it can serve as their entry point for meta. That said, while for the main sites with more active and frequent Meta discussions there is almost always something to show in the HMP section of the Community Bulletin, for other sites this feature can go unused.

For example, right now (as I am writing this), Hot Meta Posts are only appearing on 32 out of 174 sites where they could potentially appear. On the other 142 sites, there simply are no recent meta discussions (or feature-requests, for sites where these are allowed on HMP) with a score of at least three that can be shown.

To quote Catija again:

We're planning to schedule more investigation for improvements to Hot Meta Posts network-wide as a project in Q4 2020. When we posted about this change last year, several answers proposed ideas of how to adjust the HMP feature along with questions about the impact of this change that we should consider and we'd like to investigate some of those, particularly thinking about the things that Bhargav wrote in his answer. These are important concerns we need to keep in mind, and I'm looking forward to seeing how we can improve and grow from this rather than just returning to where it was.

So, having the goal in mind of making interesting and useful meta discussions be more discoverable to users on the main sites, what types of content from meta sites would you like to see surfaced on the main sites that is not happening now? How might that content help to create new engagement among users who are more interested in getting involved in the community, in content curation, and in site governance? Are there any pain points that currently exist with this feature (even if it is only on site specific) that you would like to see addressed?

While we cannot make any promises or commitments at this point as to what changes will be made, and when: We are happy to hear thoughts from the wider Stack Exchange community about this, having in mind the effectiveness of this feature on both the sites that currently use it widely, and those who do not. Thank you all for your contributions to this discussion.

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    I would suggest adding the word "meta" on the top bar along with its own button. – Mari-Lou A Aug 27 at 8:18
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    I must be missing something here. A post on meta is rude and therefore not allowed as HMP but it's still allowed on meta - as long as it's not seen by too many. Is that it? I must be missing something here. – 4386427 Aug 28 at 13:20
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    @4386427: They're trying to walk a fine line between not being accused of censorship and not having too many post titles that are openly critical of the company being shown conspicuously to every visitor. They're can't just come out and say that they don't want people criticizing them on their own platform, but they're hoping that at least some of the most scathing criticism will contain something that can be construed as "call[ing] out, or […] rude towards, specific users, moderators, or staff", e.g. because it criticizes an SE executive by name. – Ilmari Karonen Aug 28 at 18:49
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    It's... Actually even weirder than that, @Ilmari. There are two parts to it, technical and social - and they work together. The technical bit is hinted at by the two mentions of "cache" in this post. The social bit... Well, if you go back & read the discussion that surrounded the removal of HMP on SO last year, you'll quickly realize that the folks who made that call didn't know how it worked. Like, at all. The sum of those two factors is that even though it's always been possible for employees & mods to kick questions out of the list, it took a while and some folks didn't know how. – Shog9 Aug 28 at 21:06
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    @4386427 removing a post from HMP should work faster in removing it than just closing or the question. And in normal cases, these posts should be removed on Meta as well. We are just providing another avenue here where this can be done. Additionally, this gives mods the ability to remove meta posts from HMP that they would rather not include (not because the content is inappropriate, just because they want to make room for other posts). This will be the most common use of this function. – Yaakov Ellis Aug 31 at 17:30

12 Answers 12

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What types of content from meta sites would you like to see surfaced on the main sites that is not happening now

Something that cycles through a site's 'faq' tagged posts if there aren't any hot meta posts could be nice.

These posts aren't actively ongoing discussions, but I'd label them interesting and useful meta posts. I think they can provide valuable bits of information to newer users on a site. Especially if the site they're on may be a bit different than what they may be used to (Interpersonal Skills, for example). If such posts were automatically shown, we could get a lot more visibility for our citation expectations, good question and answer checklists and sandbox, for example.

In the past, we've been (ab)using the featured tag to get some of these posts in the sidebar. The problem with that is that if it's overused, it will reduce the amount of hot meta posts that can be shown. Something that automatically picks faq questions when there aren't any hot meta posts would help with that. It will also reduce some workload, users and moderators won't have to find and flag/tag these posts manually.

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    I wonder how this would work in practice. Many sites have old, outdated FAQs. For some questions I wonder why an FAQ tag was added in the first place. And one site I checked only had 2 FAQs. – Laurel Aug 27 at 15:11
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    @Laurel I'm just throwing an idea out here, I admit it could use some research into how feasible it is going to be. Those things you mention are good things to keep in mind. Perhaps it can bring outdated/old posts to the attention of people that can fix them, perhaps they will lead to problems... I'm not sure, it's just an idea. I do realize not every site even may have faq tagged posts, just like they may not have any hot meta posts. What I do know is that one of the sites I moderate has some good faqs I would love to see getting more attention. – Tinkeringbell Aug 27 at 15:15
  • I really like your idea but it shouldn't compete with HMPs for its place to be. If you want such implementation it should get its separated and own place and don't mess posts which literally need to become "hot". – RobertS - Reinstate Monica Aug 27 at 17:02
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    @RobertS that's why I said I wanted this for if there weren't any hot meta posts. As soon as there's one that's hot, it can take over and get hotter, no problem! – Tinkeringbell Aug 27 at 17:06
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    @Laurel On many sites there are no FAQ tagged questions at all. When I became a mod on a 5-year-old site, I looked through the FAQ tagged questions, found that several of them were horribly out of date, and organised a retagging effort. On the other hand, maybe prominently displaying the FAQ as Tink suggests would encourage people to do more upkeep on them! – Rand al'Thor Aug 27 at 19:04
  • @Tinkeringbell That is exactly what I meant what I think is wrong. In this way they "compete" with each other for the space where they reside in, which is bad. HMPs and FAQs should never compete with each other. We currently only have so less HMPs (1 or 2). By designing in that way, there would be even less HMPs than actually in the Community Bulletin. I want more HMPs than the 1 or 2 we currently only have, not less. – RobertS - Reinstate Monica Aug 28 at 12:17
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    @RobertS It's not competing if there's no HMP, there's nothing the faq would be competing with. There can be something said for finetuning how soon posts become HMP (I upvoted several answers here with proposed tweaks to that), but at some point you reach a lowest level where you're either showing random meta posts or nothing. At that point, I'd much rather show a faq that introduces users to useful information about the site, than any random meta post. – Tinkeringbell Aug 28 at 12:22
  • @Tinkeringbell To only allow that there are no HMPs is very bad. We have a enough stuff which is "hot", at least on MSE, which never will get the HMP spot on the CM Bulletin although it is eligible because only one or two posts can be there at the same time. Given to that that HMPs are only eligible if posted in the past two weeks, which gives another time frame. There always should be at least some HMPs because we have a enough, really enough posts which deserves becoming Hot Meta Posts. I don't need FAQs which take the place there in. With this the whole purpose of HMPs seems obsolete. – RobertS - Reinstate Monica Aug 28 at 12:41
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    @RobertS Okay, now you've stopped making sense. MSE doesn't have HMPs in the community bulletin, as they would land you on the same site anyways. Who's the 'we' that has enough hot meta posts? And if your site has enough hot meta posts that can be semi-randomly picked for the community bulletin, why are you making such a fuss about suggesting to put a faq there, you won't ever see it happen if your site never runs out of HMPs. – Tinkeringbell Aug 28 at 12:50
  • @Tinkeringbell Sorry, I meant MSO (Meta Stack Overflow) not MSE. My bad. I talk about the Community Bulletin on Stack Overflow showing HMPs on Meta Stack Overflow. – RobertS - Reinstate Monica Aug 28 at 12:53
  • As said I really like your idea to show FAQ Meta posts (on another part of the interface), but please don't let them interfere with real HMPs which really need the spot. In this way, these FAQs also would not disappear as soon as there are HMPs. So we have a FAQ section and a HMP section. Both sides profit. – RobertS - Reinstate Monica Aug 28 at 13:00
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    There's something to be said about having a prominent place where FAQs won't disappear as soon as there are HMPs, but I took the question here as asking for suggestions for what else could be put in the community bulletion when there aren't any HMPs to show. Putting up FAQ posts when there are no HMPs doesn't interfere with them at all. As soon as they need the spot they have it, I don't see what part of my answer is unclear about that, and why you're stuck arguing that it somehow interferes. – Tinkeringbell Aug 28 at 13:09
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    I'd love to have RPG.SE's FAQ index given this sort of visibility, at least when other meta posts aren't taking up that space in the community bulletin area. :) – V2Blast Aug 31 at 21:11
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It might be interesting/useful if meta posts could "become hot" even when they're not new. For instance, the system could perhaps detect "bursts" of upvotes after a sufficiently long period of more-or-less stagnation. This could apply to either posts that were previously hot or posts that never made it to Hot Meta Posts.

Some examples of where this could be beneficial to the network:

  • An old feature request that gets new attention due to being linked in a related post, generating new discussion/idea
  • A post that gives good advice on a relevant topic (e.g., most of Shog9's old posts) getting new attention and sharing its wisdom with people who haven't seen it before, including those who may not actively browse that site's Meta (and thus are among the least likely to have seen it previously).
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    @RobertS-ReinstateMonica good point. I've edited the answer to clarify that it could refer to either posts that have been previously hot or posts that have never been hot. – Ryan M Aug 28 at 0:45
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    FWIW, for years I used a script to detect these for my own purposes: calculating the voting "acceleration" on posts and notifying me of the top ones if I hadn't seen them in the past 90 days. It worked quite well for flushing out old bugs that more people were encountering all of a sudden. – Shog9 Aug 28 at 6:15
  • @RyanM Great. BTW I agree fully with this claim. – RobertS - Reinstate Monica Aug 28 at 9:21
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    @Shog9 Does that script work with public data? If so, can it be made available? (mostly out of academic interest, I wouldn't really care about this enough to run it if I'm honest.) – E.P. Aug 28 at 13:28
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    that script does NOT work with public data. But here's a query that should give you a taste of what it did. I still use similar queries to monitor specific tags on the main sites. – Shog9 Aug 28 at 18:51
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Firstly, I would like to thank you for this change. The turnaround time between me asking about this in the Stack Overflow moderator room (Aug 5th) and it being implemented (Aug 27th) is quite remarkable, and almost unprecedented in the recent past.

what types of content from meta sites would you like to see surfaced on the main sites that is not happening now?

There are some of the meta posts that have been posted long back but haven't had any significant views/votes. This might be because they posted it on a weekend when there was no activity or perhaps when there was too much activity and it slipped under the chaos. These posts might necessarily not be bad posts as such. Having a way to bring these to the forefront would be quite helpful. I understand that the community user bumps these regularly, but bumping them to the home page of the per site meta doesn't bring too many views as compared to them being visible on the main site. I don't want to use the "Hot Meta Posts" section for these, but perhaps another section on the Community Bulletin or somewhere else would be helpful.

Are there any pain points that currently exist with this feature (even if it is only on site specific) that you would like to see addressed?

As I mention in the answer you linked, Hot Meta Posts are geared towards posts that get upvotes/answers very quickly, and these might not be the best ones. A burnination request with a punny title would get a lot more votes than a post about how we can handle a particular type of off-topic questions, or something similar. Adding in some questions that are still new, or even those that are downvoted (as voting on meta is different) would perhaps be a nice experiment.

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    "I don't want to use the "Hot Meta Posts" section for these, but perhaps another section on the Community Bulletin or somewhere else would be helpful." If not HMP, what about featuring these posts. Do you have an idea how they could be identified? The posts the slipped through the cracks might be difficult to select. – Trilarion Aug 27 at 10:42
  • "Adding in some questions that are still new, or even those that are downvoted (as voting on meta is different) would perhaps be a nice experiment." Here, the difficulty may be how success of the experiment would be defined? Is getting more votes (or only more upvotes) important or more answers. Some topics might just be less popular than others but still help the Meta community moving forward. – Trilarion Aug 27 at 10:49
  • @Trilarion for the second question, more views is enough success to me. For the first, even I'm not very sure how to identify those posts. I was thinking of using the same qualifiers as the tumbleweed badge. – Bhargav Rao Aug 27 at 17:22
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Hot Meta Posts are only appearing on 32 out of 174 sites where they could potentially appear.

Quite frequently, we see users asking questions on Meta Stack Exchange which are more (or only) appropriate on a per-site Meta. This is due to the fact that they don't know each site has its own Meta. The existing ways to discover per-site Metas (via the 'hamburger' menu, or the Feedback link in the footer) are harder to find than Hot Meta Posts, which are only one click and no scrolling away from the home page.

Wouldn't it be good to extend the period and/or lower the threshold for Hot Meta Posts, so that users are more likely to learn about the existence of per-site Metas? One could say those don't deserve the 'hot' label anymore, but it's not like the hot questions tab contains only stellar questions. Also, IMHO good questions should be candidates for Hot Meta Posts; they might be about problems many other users may have too, and are useful to teach tips & tricks about using the website.

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    Maybe they should just display something like "There are no hot posts on meta right now, why don't you ask one?" and link it to the ask page for the per-site meta. – Kevin Aug 28 at 0:32
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    @Kevin That would invite far more off-topic questions on Meta than we currently have already. – user289905 Aug 28 at 12:04
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This is a good change - having accurate data should enable much more nuanced adjustment of this feature in the future.

Rotation and randomness

I have one question: how does this play with rotation? Previously, a question could be eligible for the list for a period of time, but only displayed intermittently during that time, as the set of questions displayed would be chosen randomly at regular periods from the set of eligible questions.

This is important, as it helps to avoid the list becoming static (and readers becoming blind to it). I am assuming that this behavior remains, with the "selected" record added the first time an eligible question is shown, but would be good to see that clarified.

Potential for the feedback loop

There's currently an age restriction on questions that can be "hot": 2 weeks for most sites, 3 days for SO. That restriction exists to constrain the positive feedback loop that normally goes along with the extra attention (question is considered hot based on votes, gets shown more, gets more votes, is considered "hotter", gets shown more, ...)

Constraining positive feedback loops is extremely important - however, the age of the question is only a rough proxy here, based on the assumption that questions will become "hot" soon after they are created. As Bhargav, fedorqui and others have noted, this assumption does not always hold - and relying on it can limit the attention that can be given to important discussions.

Now that you're tracking selection, there's less need to rely on heuristics to limit the feedback loop here: you can base the length of time a question is eligible on the time when it was first selected instead. This has the potential to greatly expand visibility and utility of crucial discussions across the network, regardless of site size and community behavior.

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    wonder if you consider constraining positive feedback loops extremely important for all network sites or only for Stack Overflow. Also wonder if this is only about hot meta posts or also about some other features involving such loops, such as hot-questions – gnat Aug 31 at 7:56
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    The problems (and opportunities) are pretty much the same for both... With one small exception, @gnat: in theory at least, meta questions should be promoted within the communites affected by them. IOW, both suffer from unconstrained feedback loops, but hot questions promoted to an external audience have at least the potential to skew in ways counter to the opinions of the relevant community. While this seems to have been less common than feared, it does happen on occasion and... Well, you're more'n aware of the resulting irritation. – Shog9 Aug 31 at 14:36
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Posts are hot and then become hotter by appearing in the sidebar. However, in small sites this initial hotness is difficult to get, so it is common that a debate never shows in the sidebar.

What criteria are used to select the links that appear in the community bulletin sidebar block? explains:

The rules are as follows:

  • ...
  • If there are still under four items, the rest of the space is filled with hot questions not marked with any moderator status tag, scoring at least 3 and posted within the past two weeks. These are picked semi-randomly. (Note that the timing, score and tags can be adjusted per-site to suit the needs of each community).

In small sites, the problem comes with the scoring at least 3 and posted within the past two weeks part: it can be rare that a post reaches this score of 3, since not many users visit their Meta. So I would suggest allowing to decrease this number so it is easier for a post to make it to the sidebar. Some comments in the question should signal a debate, so they could be used as a parameter to take into account.

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    One could for example calculate a hotness score for each question and just show the three hottest questions, regardless of the absolute hotness score. – Trilarion Aug 27 at 14:51
  • "If there are still under four items, the rest of the space is filled with hot discussion questions" - So hot questions are actually only a kind of redundant appendix if the space isn't filled yet? That's disastrous. – RobertS - Reinstate Monica Aug 27 at 15:01
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    @Trilarion agreed, only that a minimum threshold would be useful. I like what Shog is saying in his answer about helping to avoid the list becoming static (and readers becoming blind to it. In a small site can well be big periods where nothing happens in Meta. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Aug 27 at 16:00
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First of all I want to thank you for your engagement for doing changes at HMPs. The features added seem good and helpful.

"Are there any pain points that currently exist with this feature (even if it is only on site specific) that you would like to see addressed?"

One big pain point for me is that there are only such less posts addressed as HMP in the Community Bulletin (facing specially Stack Overflow but might be elsewhere, too).

I think there can only be max. 2 or 3 posts marked as HMP simultaneously which stay there then for about 1 or 2 weeks (my guess), which is IMHO problematic. Many posts which deserve being marked as HMP will get lost on the Meta site and many user who are not confirm about Meta or are just not so interested in Meta in general have no ability to share their opinion on these posts, which is bad.

I do not say I want hundreds of HMPs but just a bit more (best would be 10, fine would be at least 5 at the same time).

If the HMPs section in the Community Bulletin has too less space available, maybe think about to implement a special page where all HMPs are listed.

Or another solution as mentioned by @Trilarion in the comments would be to have a list of HMPs and just show 3 of them, cycling through the list each time the page is refreshed.

Any of such an improvement on that point would be a big improvement in my eyes.

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  • "Many posts which deserve being marked as HMP will get lost on the Meta site and we have no ability to share our opinion on it, which is bad." You can still find them on Meta but if you want to also give them extra attention as HMP why not cycling through in the HMP list? Just have X slots and Y candidates and always show a different selection (X out of Y) upon refresh. – Trilarion Aug 27 at 9:17
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    @Trilarion 1. Changed that sentence a little as it came out a little bit different than intended. 2. Took your concern into it. Thank you. – RobertS - Reinstate Monica Aug 27 at 9:27
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Today I discovered an edge-case that you might want to take into account in future updates.

When a post that is currently a HMP gets migrated the cache of the HMP isn't refreshed automatically. This causes a period of time in which the post is a HMP, but no longer on the site-specific meta (in this example).

Perhaps you can remove the post from HMP automatically on migration.

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"So, having the goal in mind of making interesting and useful meta discussions be more discoverable to users on the main sites, what types of content from meta sites would you like to see surfaced on the main sites that is not happening now?"

It is happening right now, but IMHO to less and rarely. s.

I think at a specific threshold of upvotes, a feature request should become a HMP.

"How might that content help to create new engagement among users who are more interested in getting involved in the community, in content curation, and in site governance?"

Providing user the ability to see more that they actually can have an impact on the site's features would I think have a good influence that they participate on discussions on the Meta sites more regularly.

And more experience and more opinions make also the discussion about adding a specific feature and - at the end of the day - the site better.

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I'm seeing a grayed out 'Remove from hot meta posts' in the mod menu for this post, even though it is a Hot Meta Post right now:

enter image description here

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    This post was in HMP before the change went live, so when you saw this, it didn't yet have a "Selected for HMP" entry in its Post History. I have gone and refreshed the community bulletin on chess.se, which now added the new "Selected for HMP" timeline entry. If you check back now, you will see that you have the option to remove it from HMP. – Yaakov Ellis Aug 27 at 8:24
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    I've removed it now (since it's a support question, not a discussion), that works. Thanks! – Glorfindel Aug 27 at 8:28
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All around a good change, I think. Certainly a good change that HMP was re-enabled on SO. Thanks again for that.

This is sort of a question out of curiosity mostly. As mentioned here about down-votes:

If downvoting is made more difficult, then upvoting would need to be made correspondingly more difficult.

The point being here is that there is that the two actions should be reciprocated.

I'm sure discussing down-votes here seems totally out of place here, but let me try to articulate my point. If Moderators have the ability to remove posts from being "hot," should they have the ability to do the opposite action? That is, have you considered giving them the ability to make a post hot that otherwise wouldn't be hot (for whatever reason)?

I'm sure most moderators have better things to do with their time than look at every single discussion on meta and decide whether it is correctly tagged as hot/not hot, but I'd imagine it'd be a useful tool to have if the need to use it ever did arise.

TL;DR: Have you considered the possibility of giving moderators the ability to do the reverse action? Would you mind sharing your thoughts on it?

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    technically - featuring will let us do that; on main meta, while its mainly left to staff, we occasionally use it to advertise posts of note. No reason why its not an option on per site metas – Journeyman Geek Sep 4 at 8:20
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with a score of at least three that can be shown.

Is the selection criteria "to only allow the hottest posts"? AFAIK, some randomness was introduced to prevent the posts from going stale and only two-three topics dominating the community bulletin, but I'm not seeing that on Stack Overflow. The same 2-3 posts have been static in the past 7 days. Can we introduce some randomness network wide?

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