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Since this was brought up in another thread, I'll make it a question just so it can be "official".

I asked a question yesterday and got 5 great answers. However, the question seems to be a Hot Network Question because views are over 2k (normal views on Writing are typically >100). I appreciate the boost in privilege points, and I don't want to sound ungrateful. Hot Network is like a door prize, say thank you and smile.

But, I got THREE pointless comments on my question today from users with 101, 103, and 111 points – one troll deliberately misgendered a character as an insult, one needed to correct spelling, one needed to tell everyone we are all using a common marketing term incorrectly (according to him). Obviously NONE contributed in the least to the question….

Being a grownup, I wouldn't even care except that I've left another SE community because it is almost nothing BUT trolls. I removed the link from my sidebar and now avoid it like the plague (there are other WB communities online where we can use standard social media tools to block bad actors and serial harassers). One ubiquitous troll there has over 14,000pts and has never asked a question – sorry, at that point you are professional troll who is using the site to attack and insult people while never using functions that might get you treated in-kind. He is not participating in the community, just abusing other users. That tone spreads quickly on the site, and it becomes Lord of the Flies where everyone plays aggressive defense. That site has become useless to me. I continued to answer there for a while I had ~6000pts so I wasn't a casual user) but as I said, there are other communities that actually have user tools to prevent harassment. SE doesn't. I left.

Writers has a smaller community, but the tone here is encouraging and positive. I get the feeling we are actually writers. There are fewer closed posts and fewer problems. I'd even say fewer egos. I hate to say it, but I got nothing useful from the boosted question (other than a SE points), just a bad reminder that posting here is sometimes inviting random webtrolls who aren't site participants and often have some agenda. Obviously I did not respond to comments that contribute nothing. It's still tedious to get notices and see they are silly, anti-social, or useless.

Ok, I already know the answer because HNQ is treated like some favor from the gods that no one has any control over, but can I opt out of the Hot Network Questions? I'd rather get fewer views from people in the group who regularly participate. The signal to noise here was almost perfect. I never before had a series of useless comments, usually I see really good answers. Being in the HNQ just boosted random noise and added no useful signal.

Thanks for hearing me out. I'm not complaining, I'm trying to keep what is great about Writing. I don't participate in the other communities here. I'm not trying to make Writers out to be my precious domain where no one should touch me, but I don't see how Writers is really going to benefit from the random peanut gallery. If there is a way I could opt-out of the HNQ across all the communities, that would be ok for me.

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    Are you asking about a way to opt out individually, or are you asking about a way for the site as a whole to opt out of HNQ? The two would be rather different. – a CVn Mar 20 '18 at 18:59
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    Also, I can't help but feel that your exposition detracts from the question you're actually asking. (If you get not-answers, flag them as such. If you see rudeness, flag it as such. If you get non-helpful comments, flag them. Etc. While the HNQ list can sometimes be a blessing in disguise, that's orthogonal to the issue of helpful vs non-helpful responses.) – a CVn Mar 20 '18 at 19:00
  • @MichaelKjörling I changed the title from "we" to "I" to match the question – hope that clears up your confusion.... If I felt the moderators had been responsive to trolling in the past (feel free to re-read) I would not have an issue with SE lacking the very BASIC user-content block controls that every other online community has. I have explained my user-experience plainly: from regular users of Writers the answers are excellent. Being on the HNQ invited random trolling and off topic comments that lowered signal-to-noise and made my SE experience worse. Anything else I can answer for you? – wetcircuit Mar 20 '18 at 19:14
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    This doesn't answer your question but I would suggest protecting the Writing question so at least some of the trolls can't answer. – Cyn says make Monica whole Mar 13 at 20:23
  • Thank you for that suggestion @Cyn, I didn't know. I probably could have done that at the time and 2 of the 3 answers would have been below the threshold. – wetcircuit Mar 13 at 20:30
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You can see the Hot Network questions here. As of writing this your question is on the third page and is therefore shown all around the network, which means that other users might see the title and think it's interesting, so they check it out. And everyone with more than 200 reputation on any site of the network gets the association bonus of 100 rep when joining another community, which unlocks basic privileges like commenting and upvoting.

There are lots of discussions about the Hot Network Questions. For example many people don't want to see any on the right side of their site. There have also been a lot of discussions about implementing features that act similar to the Protection feature (10 on-site rep required to answer; association bonus doesn't count) so that for example voting on HNQs would only unlock after 15 on-site rep.

What's important is to look at What is the Goal of “Hot Network Questions”? The idea is:

The goal of the hot questions should be to drive up interest in the site. The hot questions should be a lure to encourage SE network users to contribute to other content, not just do a drive-by on the hot question.

But looking at what Shog9 has to say about this topic:

Don't get me wrong: a big part of the SE 2.0 model for site creation relies on folks having a wide range of interests, and jumping at the chance to participate in sites dedicated to those interests when they emerge. I have no doubt that pervasive, network-wide "hot" lists help in this goal, but calling that the primary purpose is akin to saying the primary purpose of convenience stores is to fund The March of Dimes.

That discussion also has some ideas that look like they might be helpful for what you have in mind, like here (no emphasis added):

Allow Removal from the List

Give trusted users (10k or 20k+) the ability to remove posts from the hot questions list. For whatever reason, if a question shouldn't be on there, the community should be able to purge it.

I would suggest allowing a tag to be added to posts that prevents it from showing up on the list, like a mod tag, but accessible to trusted users too.

Currently, as far as I am aware of, there is no way to opt-out - neither individually, nor as a whole site.


Personally I think that the HNQs are doing a good job of bringing people to the site. New users bring new perspectives and potentially new interesting questions and answers. Most of the people are looking for a distraction - they see something interesting and want to check it out for a few minutes. These people are what you seem to refer to as "noise". They are going through the question, voting a bit, maybe writing a comment and then they are probably gone. At least until the next interesting HNQ pops up. But I don't see too much harm in that in general. Random people interacting with questions and answers increases the amount of perspectives that look at the questions and answers and can potentially increase the quality.

And if there are low-quality entries, for example because an opinion-based question hit the HNQ and people are dropping low-quality duplicate half-answers - well, users with enough rep or mods can protect the question and end that. It's a bit more traffic than compared to the usual question on the site, but nothing out of the ordinary. And if these people don't bother to read the on-topic rules of the site where they just registered, maybe their answers get deleted.

I think we should not add a feature to opt-out, which is why I am downvoting this feature-request. I don't see big problems with the current setup and I think that the increased traffic is overall good and healthy for the site. Adding the possibility for single users to opt-out would probably mean quite some time for implementation and I am not sure if that is a good idea overall. It feels like wanting to close off the community from the rest of the network.


I wrote a bit about the comments to your question you mentioned, as I did in the original post from you here.

The first one, that got deleted by now, was something like "I would expect you to write about that Alex guy." I can only speculate on the intention of this user, but maybe he was trying to point out that the name Alex can be used for male and female characters alike in some languages. Anyway, it wasn't really explicit if he had any intentions and it didn't add anything to the question about how to write a useful "blurb". Comments are ephemeral on StackExchange and can be deleted at any point for any reason - just flag stuff like that as "No longer needed."

The second one was pointing out what he perceived as a typo. As he doesn't have the reputation to edit posts and there is a character limit of 6 characters that need to be changed at minimum he left a comment. I think that's a nice thing to do. Maybe it's because I am not a native speaker myself, but I think that it would be nice to point out to him why that is the correct word you used or edit your post and then flag the post as "No longer needed" - you acted on it after all. If it's obvious to a native speaker why that word is correct simply go to the flagging and be done with it.

The third comment was trying to clarify the usage of the word. Judging by his profile he is quite active on English Language & Usage, so it's quite natural that he would try to clarify this aspect. And that's what comments are meant for - clarifying things in the question. If the word you used is correct then explaining to this new user why it's correct as you did is the correct thing to do. We want to be a welcoming community after all. The comments could then be left there for future readers with a possibly similar confusion or be flagged as "No longer needed" after some time, as the need for clarification is not there anymore.

The first comment was quite useless, but not really trolling. It looked like a failed attempt at being funny to me and the other two seemed actually useful in the sense that comments are supposed to be used for this stuff. In that sense they did contribute to the question by trying to improve the information that future readers will find when reading your question.

Your notion about WorldBuilding.SE is quite difficult, especially because your criteria match only one person and by taking half a minute it's easy to find out who that is... I don't think attacking users is a good thing to do and saying that this user didn't contribute as they haven't asked a single question is not okay. There are lots of ways you can contribute to a site. Asking, answering, commenting, welcoming users, editing, voting, flagging, ... For more information about my stance on this you can read my answer to the question What does being a 'Contributor' look like on Worldbuilding? Only answering is not making you automatically a troll and you are still exposed to comments. SE is protecting relatively good against trolls as you need a minimum of rep to even comment somewhere, let alone VTC or do other things.

I also don't see what "BASIC user-content block controls that every other online community has" you mean. I have never encountered a community that could block trolls before they posted a comment that aims to ask for clarification on a term for example. There were times when I wished I could block a single user (two in fact over my time here on StackExchange), but most of the time it was enough to act on their posts like I would act with every other posts - voting (up or down), flagging if not appropriate, VTCing when I think that a question should not be answered on the site, flagging for moderator attention when I encounter something rude, ... Our mods are really, really good at handling all sorts of trolls. It might take some time, but in the end I haven't encountered trolls a lot here - not by a long shot as many as on other forums.

The thing is: getting away from the HNQ won't save you. It's just that there are more people interacting with your questions/answers. The more a site grows the more people there are interacting with your stuff. And the amount of experience varies. You will always encounter new users that need to learn the basics. And there will always be people that have harsher criteria for some things. More people simply mean more chances for someone needing help - because if someone doesn't know a term is used correctly they need help and we are all here to help others.

There are fewer closed posts here and fewer problems - which is partly simply because there are fewer posts in total. Yes, according to the mod tools in the last 30 days WB had a close rate of a bit over 40%. But Writing had nearly 30%. That's not so terribly far away. And WB had 436 new questions while Writing had 164. You would see far more closed questions here - if there were more questions. And as there are fewer questions and fewer answers and fewer users there tend to be less problems. The biggest problem as far as I am aware of seems to be the lack of questions, which is why Writing hasn't graduated so far though there is a definite consensus among the users that Writing should graduate .

If you are really bent on not wanting new users to interact with your questions the easiest thing would be to protect them as soon as possible (3.5k reputation feature here; mods might be able to help you), though that would hardly be an appropriate use of this feature and would not block of comments. Another way would be to make sure your question doesn't reach the HNQ, though that's probably even harder. You can see the way "Hotness" is calculated, for example on Chemistry.SE. Or taken from here:

(MIN(AnswerCount, 10) * QScore) / 5 + AnswerScore
-------------------------------------------------
         MAX(QAgeInHours + 1, 6) ^ 1.4
  • Agree HNQ serves the site (if not the question). I didn't act on the 2nd comment as you said (you seemed to imply it was a hypocrisy on my part to use info and complain about it? I didn't). I stand by my statement, no-questions is not "proof" of trolling, he trolls just fine and I got curious what type of questions he asks since he is so quick on the critical trigger. User-controls to block trolls really doesn't need an explanation so I'll not bother, but you seem to confuse a "bad actor" with a "bad question". There is another option you forgot: PEOPLE LEAVE THE COMMUNITY. – wetcircuit Mar 20 '18 at 19:54
  • @wetcircuit I don't call it hypocrisy. I am saying that you should act on the second comment if it's valid or simply flag it if it's not valid. For me it does look like an improvement, but your repeated mentioning of this being trolling indicates that you think differently. User controls to block someone can only be implemented by you saying "I don't want to see stuff from this person." That won't help you with comments like those you received today as those people interacted with you for the first time I assume. Leaving the community is another option, but I would hardly call that a control. – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Mar 20 '18 at 20:08
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    Anyway, I am not trying to convert you to a new religion. It seems you have a very different opinion than I have on what it means to "contribute" and what it means to "troll". This is simply my opinion about what you wrote and about your feature request. – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Mar 20 '18 at 20:08
  • Well, the ability to block someone and asking to opt out of the HNQ are two different things, one of which I did not ask here. One blocks trolls and the other attempts to not attract their attention – maybe you are not a woman on the internet and this is new to you... 2/3 of those comments have disappeared, but I did not flag them. I don't know if the users removed them or maybe a mod. – wetcircuit Mar 20 '18 at 20:12
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    @wetcircuit I don't see why my sex is suddenly relevant to this discussion, but I can assure you that trolls are not new to me. I flagged the first comment for removal. Maybe the user removed the third comment on their own as you have pinged him with your explanation. Or Monica simply had a look after your first post and decided to clean up the comments. We would have to ask a mod for that information. I don't know why you want more tools to combat/prevent trolls but are not using the existing ones, but this discussion seems to be drifting further and further away... – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Mar 20 '18 at 20:20
  • Perhaps I have underestimated "flagging comments as unnecessary" as complaining. Since overt trolling is so often ignored and resisted with strawmen ("What does my sex have to do with it?" well, ask the dude who trolled my post with mis-gendering comment, which you deny is trolling, or read about the topic online, it is not obscure), I had assumed that flagging a comment would result in more nothing and resistance...? As you see, I did not engage with the comments, I do not believe I mischaracterized them here, and treated the one as an honest comment although it has since been deleted. – wetcircuit Mar 20 '18 at 20:33
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I think you may be missing the point somewhat. SE is not about getting you individually the answers you are looking for. It is about establishing a repository of questions and answers that may be of interest to a wide variety of people. (After all, SE is a commercial enterprise that needs to build traffic to survive.)

The SE model is all about finding questions of broad general interest and promoting them to gain more eyeballs. Hot Network Questions is part of cross pollination between sites that serves to bring new users to individual stacks and to SE as a whole.

Yes, a certain amount of trolling and self promotion goes with the territory and there are mechanisms in place to manage those things, but limiting the number of people who can read or answer your question is simply not what the site is about.

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As of right now you can flag a post for a moderator to kick the question from the HNQ list, which will also mean that it will not go back up on that list.

See the very recent MSE post Updating the Hot Network Questions List - now with a bit more network and a little less “hotness”! for more information, but the gist is that moderators can now kick questions from the HNQ list. This will obviously take some time and whether they will actually do this or not is up to them. We probably need some discussions about this on Meta to define some guidelines on how this new very powerful tool for mods should be used and whether they want the extra workload or not. My answer here merely indicates that in theory it is now possible.

You can't prevent your post from going to the HNQ list though.

By the way: you can also hide the HNQ list network wide for your account if you are tired of seeing the click-baits all the time. Just go to your profile preferences and turn the HNQ off.

There seem to be other things coming up in relation to the HNQ lists. Let's see how this evolves.

  • It's a good thing. – wetcircuit Mar 13 at 3:01

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