When I click on the StackExchange™ MultiCollider SuperDropdown™ button, the StackExchange™ MultiCollider SuperDropdown™ normally pops up showing "hot questions," i.e. when I first click on it this is what I get:

hot questions

But when I click on the button, I just want to see my recent notifications and happy dancing unicorns:


Maybe I'm strange but I would think that most people use the dropdown box in the same way. So could the "inbox" page be the default? I'd imagine this should be an easy change to make.

As a nice side effect, this would help with the issue some people have brought up (though I can't find the questions now) where new notifications don't remain highlighted after the box goes away, even if you haven't clicked on them. It doesn't fix the issue the way some people would want it fixed, but it does cut down by one the number of clicks you need to look at a notification you haven't seen yet. And when you're trying to catch up on several new notifications, that one click adds up.

  • 9
    +1 for the provocative illustrations. Have you considered a career in persuasive MS paint fantasy overlay art?
    – Nicole
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 4:36
  • 9
    That can be my backup plan if procrastinating on Stack Exchange doesn't work out ;-)
    – David Z
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 5:14
  • 3
    Please restrict your drawing to freehand circles. Non-rainbow-colored unicorns are right out!
    – Gabe
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 5:36
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    I don't understand, when I've got new messages, I see the inbox, when I don't, I see the hot questions. That's what I want, 'cos I never click unless I've got new messages...
    – Benjol
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 7:02
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    @Benjol: this applies for when you have e.g. 4 new notifications, and after you check out the first one, then you click on the dropdown again to look at the rest of them.
    – David Z
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 15:55
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    @David: Well, for the reasons discussed above, I quickly adopted the habit to open all the new notifications in separate browser tabs ... Commented Apr 30, 2011 at 11:28
  • @David, ok, I never saw that because I always do what @Hendrik said. That said, I often wonder how Jeff & co work, because their inboxes must be screaming at them permanently!
    – Benjol
    Commented Apr 30, 2011 at 13:54
  • @GeorgeEdison - (1) Why would you replace David's quotes with “smart” quotes? (2) I think your freehand circles destination fhc.quickmediasolutions.com is broken; that script hasn't worked for me for a while. Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 16:06
  • @Kevin: I don't remember changing the quotes, but sure enough - it's in the edit history. I'm not sure what happened to the FHC domain though. I can look into it. Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 17:32

5 Answers 5


Once upon a time, I would have agreed with you. I was not interested in seeing the hot question, so that was one unnecessary click. It annoyed me too.

Now, I view it as a feature that takes advantage of the traffic on the Stack Exchange Network to help new sites to grow. When one of Skeptics' questions show up in the StackExchange™ MultiCollider SuperDropdown™, it gives our site a lot more visibility and brings us a few new users each time. I am sure that heavy users of other sites will feel the same.

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    Interesting argument, but I wouldn't have thought that would be the case. I usually don't even look at the hot questions, and I'd imagine the same is true for many (though certainly not all) people who just want to get at their notifications. I'd be interested to see some data about how much traffic the SE™MCSD™ actually brings to sites whose questions show up there.
    – David Z
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 5:16
  • @DavidZaslavsky: If the question reaches the top, it's usually about 1k more views for Skeptics. More if the question catches on another site or gets retweeted.
    – Borror0
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 5:29
  • @Borror0: how do you get that figure?
    – David Z
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 5:37
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    That's an argument for showing some random pick of the hot questions -also- in the inbox tab, not a reason to willfully misconstrue the default intent of someone clicking on a "unread messages" notice.
    – Kzqai
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 6:04
  • Too bad fitness never reaches the top of that list... But I totally agree, new SE sites need this feature to gain new members. There's more to SE than SO. Even if some 'never' look at it, the effect is still significant.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 23:06
  • Well okay, if you insist... but it seems like this is just a way to get the few most successful sites to expand at the expense of the rest. Most of the hot questions I've noticed come from English or Programmers, and occasionally Skeptics or TeX. There's not one shred of evidence I'm aware of that the hot questions list has done any good for physics.SE.
    – David Z
    Commented Apr 9, 2011 at 2:50
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    Then the algorithm should be tweaked to be less skewed towards bigger or popular sites. But doesn't mean the collider has to change.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 9:29
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    I think this quote from Jeff confirms this, @David: the intent here is to explicitly expose you to the most interesting questions from across the network, whether you have accounts on those sites or not.
    – Arjan
    Commented Apr 30, 2011 at 11:32
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    The hot questions list is becoming diluted; I admit it was more useful when I saw questions asked on Math or Writing that I hadn't thought about, and sauntered over to take a look. But now there are questions about Judaism and German that I don't care about or don't understand, and won't ever be a curiosity that sparks new interest.
    – JYelton
    Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 19:01

How many people want the hot questions tab and how many people just want to see their inbox? I'm sure Jeff & co. can check that out. Does it really help traffic to the less popular sites? Is this something that a lot of people use? If they do, keep things as they are; otherwise, why not make life a tiny bit easier for the rest of us?

Having to choose the inbox every time you forget to open all messages in one go or simply want to find an older message can get really annoying after a while. Also, the default behavior is a bit jarring: if you have a message, it's going to default to the inbox; if not, you're presented with a list of questions that you might know nothing about. It's not really consistent behavior.


I agree with David Zaslavsky and would like Inbox to be the first tab. Besides the apparent argument that a user wants to have quick and fast access to the questions he is participating or asking himself (why make his life difficult? it's just ABC user experience) I find the "hot questions" functionality itself not so interesting. Why? Because Tags are the main drive behind the navigation of the website, not popularity. This is because usually an individual will be specialized in a series of technologies that he favorites in his right column and checks those out. He doesn't care if a question is "hot" (by the way hot is not so representative, not 'evident' enough.) if it concerns for example .NET while he's a jQuery ninja. I also agree with alex that there is no consistency: I spent quit some time trying to figure out where are my notifications when I realized that sometimes the system defaults to inbox, others on the hot questions. At least make those Tabs more apparent!


The intended usage of the the SE™MCSD™ is, as others have noted, to bring traffic to other sites. Me being a bored guy, I look through it often and open anything that's imteresting. Yes, I'm probably the only one who does that ;)

As I mentioned to you before, a rather crappy TeX question of mine once made it up there. I've seem that a lot of the MC™ suggestions are crap as well, from a global POV. From a global POV, most of these ought to be closed as 'too localised' ;) Heck, I've seen a debug-please question reach there.

This tells me that these sites already have enough traffic. By that, I mean that they have a stable and active community--so active that even the bad questions get lots of attention.

On the other hand, sites like Physics, which have a sleepy community rarely(if ever) reach the multicollider. I've never seen cooking/gamedev/android/stats/theoreticalCS/etc there either--forget beta sites. These places have awesome questions, which may also be interesting to a nonspecialis--but not enough activity to push any question to the 'hot' list.

This makes me feel that the 'hot questions' dropdown no longer carries out its intended purpose. It introduces users to sites they already kmew about--while keeping smaller sites in the dark. For example, how many of you knew that Physics.SE even existed?

To amend this, I propose a normalised hot question metric. I'm not sure of the nitty-gritties, but it must take site activity into account. Yes, the global relevancy issue is still there. Maybe there could be a 'block questions from this site' link next to each question. That way, a user who doesn't know German need not be perstered with questions from German.SE.

We could also have the ability to default to the inbox, but then everyone will do it and sleepy sites will get no new traffic via the MC™ at all. Of course, it would be reasonably easy to script :)


I think this suggestion is very useful, but it won't be implemented.

Simply because the 'hot questions' tab has the purpose of distracting you from your work to wander off to interesting questions and thus spend more time on the site. If the inbox was the default, then a lot less people would get distracted, you would actually get your work done or check out the answer you're looking for and this would result in less traffic for stack exchange.

So this is a case of users vs site admins. As always, traffic == $$$, so if you're getting distracted, that is only a problem for you, not for stack exchange.

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