Some recent controversy surrounding a decision involving Hot Network Questions has become a big featured question on MSE. This seems like it's eventually going to work towards a "better" version of Hot Network Questions, but what exactly is "better" is a bit up in the air. I thought that we could organize our own goals for Hot Network Questions here, before contributing our thoughts to the question on MSE. What would we like to get out of Hot Network Questions?
HNQ should promote our best content
As it stands now, HNQ–both here and on other sites I've observed–tends to feature the perverse, controversial, eye-catching, or bizarre questions of the site. This results in those questions getting "opinion-swamped" by the masses, with everyone trying to insert their own voice into an already saturated answer space. This has the outcome of bringing even more attention to the topic, but also making the question a disaster for both the querent and moderation. Having to sift through dozens of crappy answers to find which ones not only follow the sites rules, but provide value without rehashing another answer is a difficult task, and not really what anyone wants to use the Stack for.
I think the alternative–and a way to make cross-site featured content valuable–is to instead feature our very best content. Good questions that require a given level of expertise to answer should inherently help combat answer spam while showcasing the value and expertise of our community.
Unfortunately, I don't know what that might look like in implementation. Perhaps there's a moderator or community approval that's required to mark a question viable for HNQ (or its replacement), and then a modified version of the current algorithm selects which to showcase.
Find some way to reduce bad answers on popular questions from users coming in from the HNQ
There's a common thing we run into here:
- User asks a perfectly fine question.
- Question gets a bunch of upvotes/views, causing it to show up on the HNQ.
- Lots of people from across the SE network see it on the sidebar.
- They come and answer the question.
- They don't know rpg.se norms, aren't RPG experts, or whatever, so a lot of the answers are bad.
- Bad stuff happens: The question has to be locked, a bunch of extra moderation work gets created to deal with the bad answers, they get upset about the moderation and start meta drama, whatevs.
This is a pretty crappy experience for everyone involved, but especially for the asker, who didn't do anything wrong besides ask an interesting question, and now has to watch it turn into a warzone.
It would be nice if whatever changes get made to HNQ do something to address this issue. I'm not sure what the right solution is (Auto-protect HNQ questions? New review queue? Kill the association bonus?), but as far as goals go, improving this situation is one of mine.
HNQ should go.
I personally like HNQ, and go to other sites to look at interesting questions. However, as an adult with a firm grasp of my faculties, I don't contribute answers to sites I'm wildly unqualified to answer on. Sadly, that is not the general approach of Internet users in general.
All SE sites are pretty specific to something. Ubuntu users, RPG players, people knowledgable in Jewish law. Answers from people that lack that context are, by definition, bad answers and corrupt the target question and site.
This was managed for a while OK, but as the Internet gets generally worse, and as SE sites that require no specific domain knowledge (e.g. IPS) appear, general Internet Buzzfeed-and-comment-section norms intrude on an otherwise civilized site.
We pretty much have to go protect every RPG question that hits HNQ because of the volume of comments and answers from people that don't know jack crap about RPGs. Which defeats the point of HNQ, as it prevents the new from participating. And it wastes moderator time. Lose-lose-lose scenario.
So, it was a nice thing to have, but it's becoming more harmful than helpful. It either needs to go entirely, or have significant additional restrictions placed around it (you link through it to that site, you're read only for a while?).
I've only skimmed the MetaSE post answers, so this suggestion might already be on there, but I think some automated scripts and an alteration to the Protected post status could substantially help on this:
- If a post qualifies for HNQ status, the system automatically protects the question. So instead of a mod having to find that there's an issue with the post, the Community bot simply tosses the Protected Question status on it.
- Right now, Protected Questions only restrict your ability to answer, we should expand that to include your ability to vote on it. The association bonus isn't counted for the purposes of permitting answers, but it is counted to permit votes. In order to prevent answers that simply sound good from rising to the top, restrict vote counting to only include users whom have earned 15 status on the site. In this way, 100 other stack users from other sites can show up, look at the interesting question and back and forth, but they can't necessarily alter the votes unless the community considers them to have a worthwhile opinion.
Personally, I like HotNQ. I find it serves two purposes extremely well. First it helps me find interesting questions and I like interesting things. Second, it introduces me to other stacks that I didn't know existed; sometimes I find that I've some expertise to offer to those stacks and choose to become a member, other times, I just get to skim through the finer points of what boots are best for hiking thus answering a question I never knew I wanted the answer to.