On 2019-03-11, a number of changes related to the Hot Network Questions (HNQ) list were applied across the Stack Exchange network. You can read all about it here: Updating the Hot Network Questions List - now with a bit more network and a little less "hotness"!

Please notice the following paragraph specifically:

Moderators have the ability to remove questions from the HNQ List.

There are times when the hotness formula selects a question that a site would rather not have featured. Up until now, the only recourse that was available was to close the question (which may be appropriate anyway but isn't ideal when done purely to manage traffic), or to do nothing. We're putting the power in the hands of our moderators to remove questions that don't set a good example for their sites. I recommend each site have a meta discussion with guidance for moderators about when - if ever - a question should be removed.

Once a moderator excludes a question, it can't be selected again, so don't think of this as a temporary "hide this question" option. In general, we recommend that you exclude questions that attract negative attention to your sites, that is, questions that are controversial, start large amounts of debate or arguments or even edit wars. Removing a question should not be a substitute for fixing it! Remember that it may take several hours for a moderator to respond to a flag so do what you can, first:

  • If the title seems click-baity or doesn't adequately describe the question, edit it!
  • If the body is full of spelling or grammatical errors, fix them!
  • If the body contains unnecessary detail or salacious content, see if it can be removed without impacting the question.
  • If the question is unclear or broad, vote to close it. In most cases it will be better to close a question and wait for it to be improved rather than asking for it to be removed.

This tool is a big gun and should be used sparingly. Don't reach for it if you think the question can be fixed.

When moderators kick a post off the HNQ list there will be a delay of up to fifteen minutes or so as the list is cached but the question will be removed the next time it runs. In addition, an event will be logged in the post timeline and edit history that indicates when it was removed and by whom. This will help us understand what sort of posts are unwelcome in the HNQ list on different sites.

At this point in time, mods can only use this tool on a post currently in the HNQ list - they can't use it preemptively to prevent a question from being added to it.

Now that it's possible for moderators to remove questions from the HNQ list, I would like for us, the community, to take some time and think about:

  • what having a question on the HNQ list means for Arqade, how we'd like to appear to the network as a whole
  • what we hope will happen when someone visits Arqade through a Hot Network Question, how we hope new users will behave, and ask and answer questions
  • which kinds of question, that is not off-topic or low quality, would implicitly or explicitly work against those hopes, due to the content of the question, the answers, or the comments
  • 5
    I have featured this post to bring more attention to Robotnik's answer, which I think brings up some good points that have gone unnoticed by the majority of the community, since the answer was posted after this question stopped being hot. Jul 1, 2019 at 15:08
  • On this topic, the HNQ list definitely does not make the best questions more popular. My top three answers are all just a quickly noted down thing to a question that doesn't exactly shine in quality and only got that many upvotes because of HNQ. Jul 12, 2019 at 16:27

4 Answers 4


I think having the HNQ for us is fine, we don't get that many questions that go hot, and there aren't too many problematic ones. However, we should make sure that good questions go to HNQ to give us a good network image.

The hope I have when someone visits the Arqade is that they will see our goal of being a well curated site that gives expert answers to well written questions and join us in our effort. Whether their contributions are asking new questions, sharing their knowledge through well written answers, helping curate our current repository of knowledge, or helping shape our site through discussions on meta.

That being said, I would be in favor of removing all questions from HNQ. A large amount of them can be answered from a simple image search, and they simply encourage people to ask more of them here. Seeing as how we have very specific guidelines that most people completely ignore when asking game id questions, and a good number of people from our site would prefer to ban the questions altogether, let's not promote these types of questions at all.

  • 3
    I will agree on game-identification being excluded from the HNQ. In addition to your two points, and despite they occasionally get a decent amount of views, I can see other SE sites not being interested in questions asking "I saw this game in a video. What is it?" Mar 14, 2019 at 18:34
  • 2
    My answer would be the complete opposite of this. "let's not promote these types of questions at all" - making arbitrary rules in Meta to serve an ulterior motive is untoward. My answer would suggest no good question ever get on it. Viral votes from random people belittles the currency of SE. Thankfully, now we will be aware if it ever has gone viral, and with it, take the appropriate amount of salt.
    – Mazura
    Mar 16, 2019 at 0:41
  • 1
    Removed once it gets there is pretty raw. They need to be ineligible in the first place. - My question was on the HNQ, why was it removed?.... Can't wait for the flood of those questions.
    – Mazura
    Mar 16, 2019 at 0:51
  • 1
    @Mazura currently we can’t exactly tags, however I am not asking to promote these questions. I saying we should not promote these by keeping them off the HNQ with the tools we currently have at our disposal
    – Dragonrage Mod
    Mar 16, 2019 at 1:03
  • 3
    Actively not promoting something that's ontopic, via a modhammer, justified by this meta, is wack. I'm all for using w/e best close reason (that doesn't really fit) for questions that obviously need to go away but have no accredited close 'reason'. But you came right out and said (imo), sweet, let's abuse it for this purpose.
    – Mazura
    Mar 16, 2019 at 1:33
  • 2
    @Mazura it may be ontopic, but that doesn't mean other people will want to know about it...
    – somebody
    Mar 16, 2019 at 2:45
  • 2
    @somebody or that it is a good question that we would like to have represent our site.
    – Dragonrage Mod
    Mar 16, 2019 at 2:45
  • 1
    @Mazura also, what do you mean by "no good question ever get on it"? get on what? if you mean HNQ, isn't that the opposite of the purpose of the HNQ? plus, re: the "take the appropriate amount of salt" part, you can't really tell it has ever been viral after it leaves HNQ, so we aren't exactly aware unless we dig through post history. re: "They need to be ineligible in the first place"... that's a good idea but the tools to do this are not yet available. plus i don't think people ask questions to get it onto HNQ anyway, so they won't even care enough to write a meta post about it
    – somebody
    Mar 16, 2019 at 2:49
  • @somebody - I thought being able to see that it once was on it, was one of the new features. People most definitely write "clickbaity titles" (see below), and at the vary least I can attest to having employed the tactic. - "doesn't mean other people will want to know about it" - then I want all Minecraft and Pokémon stricken ;) - "a good question that we would like to have represent our site" that is supposed to be chosen by users votes (and other mysterious criteria, to get on the HNQ), not in Meta, especially because we don't like it. Those votes will at first come from this user base.
    – Mazura
    Mar 16, 2019 at 19:36
  • 3
    ... which is trying to be circumvented. - - Other sites are asking this same question; some of their answers are: suicide, sexual assault, etc. Not Pokemon and ID questions...
    – Mazura
    Mar 16, 2019 at 19:38
  • 1
    @Mazura re: "doesn't mean other people will want to know about it" - i meant things like game-identification, generally people don't want to know when someone else goes "oh i remember this game that hat this and that". "able to see that it once was on it" - of course. but that doesn't mean anyone but the mods (and high-rep users) will check every single question they see to figure out how believable the answers probably are. "a good question ..." - remember that some of the same type people that view HNQ also have/made accounts here, and it's probably them that get it on to HNQ anyway
    – somebody
    Mar 16, 2019 at 23:41
  • 5
    @somebody The problem we're supposed to be addressing here are questions that would attract negative attention by appearing on the HNQ list, yet otherwise are good on-topic questions on Arqade. Moderators are not supposed to be deciding what people would actually interested in. So long as the title of the question makes it clear that it's an identification question, users can make their own decision about whether they want to know about it.
    – user86571
    Mar 19, 2019 at 19:04
  • 1
    @somebody "it may be ontopic, but that doesn't mean other people will want to know about it... " I disagree. If it's a capture from a movie/tv series then someone on a different site that also watched that may be interested in also knowing or even be able to answer it. A similar argument could be made to ban technical-issues, but if it gets enough attention to hit HNQ it's probably a decent question and users on the more technical sites may be able to help answer or otherwise be interested in it.
    – Batophobia
    Jul 5, 2019 at 14:41

Let's not mince words here: the Hot Network Question (HNQ) Removal button/tool was provided to give sites and the community at large the ability to remove controversial posts before those posts cause another public mess like this one:

Some things happened yesterday that caused a need for us to (quickly) remove a site's eligibility to contribute to the list of hot network questions.

What happened was that someone called SE out on Twitter for something you could conceivably see as problematic (two questions with out of context bad titles showing next to each other in [HNQ]).

Why does HNQ cause controversy?

Questions on the HNQ list are presented to the whole network with very little context. For example: "My children are useless, what should I do?" - Interesting question, right? Is this Parenting SE? What sort of parent would call their child useless? :click: - ...oh, it's a question about a videogame.

What this means is that the HNQ ends up being a list of glorified click-bait questions most of the time, popular because they're controversial, interesting or absurd, something that Arqade has a history of generating almost effortlessly.

While most HNQs are positively received, there has been a few instances where out-of-context questions are not just absurd, but inappropriate without context, as seen in the above-linked situation.

What does being featured on HNQ do for Arqade?

Apart from the obvious (the question gets more views, votes, and more chance of getting a high-quality answer), there's a few other benefits which are quite important to helping to grow the site and the community:

  1. (Substantial) increases in site traffic
  2. New (or cross-site) user engagement
  3. Higher content generation (as some of those new users stick around to ask/answer other questions).

We (Arqade) don't do a whole lot of advertising - most of our traffic is driven from search engine hits and cross-SE efforts - mainly HNQ (but also Community Promotion Ads). To kick a question off HNQ is to say "This question is so bad that its terribleness outweighs the potential for community growth."

So to answer the big question:

When should Arqade kick a question off HNQ?

Almost Never.

SE's announcement post (quoted in the question above) makes it pretty clear that kicking stuff off the HNQ should be the exception, not the rule:

This tool is a big gun and should be used sparingly. Don't reach for it if you think the question can be fixed.

We should only kick a question off HNQ that is controversial in a way that would/could bring a substantial negative reaction to Arqade and SE.

I'm not saying it won't happen on Arqade (for example if What benefits does being a Jew bring me? was asked today, I'd think that would be enough to warrant a flag/HNQ removal). But I don't think we should talk in terms of removing a type of question wholesale because some site members don't like them. That's not the sort of out-of-context, egregious, or potentially scandalous situation that the HNQ removal tool has been built for.

Its with that conclusion that I have to respectfully disagree with banning all Game Identification questions from HNQ. I get that the community is split on our support of them in general, but HNQ removal is a half-measure; it won't actually result in less of them being asked or new users reading our guidelines. If we want to re-re-re-visit our support of Game Identification overall, then let's do that, not try and hide them away by using a tool ill-suited for this purpose.

  • 1
    Short answer while I wait for my build to finish running, while the reason they created the tool was to avoid more twitter drama, we rarely get new tools for moderation, so we should use what we have where we can. I also disagree that removing them from hnq wont result in less of them being asked. I think almost all of the questions we get for that tag are low quality, in that a large portion can be solved by a quick reverse google image search. that being said, I dont like advertising our site with bad questions.Maybe in 6-8 years we can get better tooling
    – Dragonrage Mod
    Jun 3, 2019 at 18:04
  • 2
    The only times I really visit Arqade its from the hilarious out of context titles in the sidebar Jul 2, 2019 at 18:36
  • I also think it's important to note that this is a reflexive action. You remove a question from the HNQ, you do not prevent it from being able to get on in the first place. Essentially, the question to answer is "What questions that have been deemed popular should not be advertised?"
    – Batophobia
    Jul 5, 2019 at 14:50

I think we don't actually have all that many questions that aren't off-topic or LQ that are problematic if they were to end up on the HNQ list. However, we do sometimes have questions on the HNQ list that have what SE refers to as clickbaity titles. This is because we have a rule to put the name of the game as a tag, which removes a lot of context from the title. This leads to these question titles being something that sounds weird, illegal or creepy without that context. As an example: pretty much every highly upvoted question for .

We might want to make changes to this tagging rule, because questions with such titles tend to attract users that are less familiar with our rules and leave low quality answers. The options I see are:

  • editing the question title once it ends up on the HNQ list so it gets prefixed with "In GAMENAME,...". This is a reactive solution, so by the time it's on HNQ it might be too late.
  • Requiring questions with certain tags to always have the game name in the title as well. The main issue here is that we need to get a definition of what tags we want to do this with.
  • Reversing the rule about not putting the game name in the title to always put it there along with the tag. This is the simplest question, but it leads to a lot of duplication and could cause issues if the title is too long to easily edit in the the game name.
  • 6
    I don't think adding the game name to the title will do anything to lessen the clickbaitiness of titles (see workplace). it would just make the titles more cluttered
    – Dragonrage Mod
    Mar 14, 2019 at 15:27
  • 1
    @Dragonrage Agree and disagree. In cases where the title would be broad ("How can I recover MP?"), the title should be added just like we do for game identification questions. However, I don't think that would necessarily reduce the clickbait nature of some HNQ titles, and it should be done whether the question is a HNQ or not. Mar 14, 2019 at 16:36
  • 3
    "questions with [crappy] titles" has been a problem for 8y. Unironically, that's exactly one of the ways to go straight on to it. If it's, your title has to not suck, or the question will be removed, I'm all for that, for all questions, everywhere.
    – Mazura
    Mar 16, 2019 at 0:47
  • I think this actually a problem with the HNQ list format itself. These clickbaity tittles would be much less of a problem if it was obvious that they were about a game. What specific game doesn't really matter. The tiny little site icons in the HNQ list are meaningless to new users, and they're easy to confuse even if you're familiar with most of them.
    – user86571
    Mar 19, 2019 at 18:28

I'd say ANYTHING story related should NOT be on Hot network questions. The probability of story spoilers are a bit too much. Just recently I saw a spoiler for a plot element in Orson scott card's Ender's game on Hot network questions. Having a spoiler for a series like Bioshock end up on there would be a shame. Although i guess it could be argued that the statute of limitations applies for old series but imo story spoilers tend to ruin people's days.

These kinda questions always tend to become hot because of the nostalgia/i know this!/pop culture moment factor


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