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What are advantages and disadvantages of having questions from this site in SE network hot questions list?

It is clear that there are some advantages for the OP: The question gets more visibility through some visits both from other sites and from this site, this might add more votes and more bumps, which again increases the exposure of the particular question.

What are the advantages for the Math.SE community as a whole? I can see some positive aspects: Maybe some of the users who visit this site through that list can be made aware of this site. Some of them might visit the site again. Simply, more people will know about existence of this site.

I guess there are also some disadvantages. For example, questions which appear on this list and also answers to them might receive many upvotes (some kind of Matthew effect). It seems a bit unfair that one question is much more upvoted than other posts of comparable or even better quality.

Is it better not to remove questions from hot questions list (for example, by adding MathJax to the tile)? Or is this good thing to do, so that other questions will have chance to get there and we will have more diversity in this list?


I will try to explain what motivated me to ask this question. Although some of the issues in the following paragraphs might deserve a separate discussion (or discussions) on meta.

I was thinking about this mainly in the context of editing the titles. The titles should be informative and describe the question as well as possible. But when I want to improve the title I face this dilemma, especially if the question is already in the hot question list: Should I edit it? If I include MathJax, it will not have chance to become a network hot questions - or if it already is, it will be removed from the list.

Sometimes it is perfectly possible to write a descriptive title which does not use MathJax at all. And if the math is not complicated, it is possible to use Unicode instead of MathJax. But my experience is that using Unicode instead of MathJax tends to lead to much worse list of related questions and also makes a searching difficult. For example, if you have a look at these two questions (I have added Wayback Machine links - just in the case the titles will be edited):

In one case the title uses MathJax, in the other case, the title uses Unicode. Both titles are specific enough and perfectly readable. But if you look at the list of related questions in the sidebar (which is generated by the SE software), only in the case where MathJax is used, the questions shown there are at least containing the correct symbol and there is chance that if a duplicate is on the site, it will be shown there. For the Unicode-titled questions, the questions shown in the sidebar seem not to be closely related. You can find a few more examples here. I listed there some pairs of questions with MathJax and Unicode titles, and you can compare the results. My experience is that MathJax-based title tends to produce better list of related questions.

Also MathJax seems to be better for searching. If I google for "A∪C" site:math.stackexchange.com I get completely different results than from "A\cup C" site:math.stackexchange.com. The latter is much better. (As a side note, both MathJax and Unicode are definitely better if they appear in some list of questions - be it from search or related questions or elsewhere - than titles like "question from elementary set theory".)

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  • $\begingroup$ The upsides you mention are achieved by having any hot question. The downsides, on the contrary, arise when a specific question is hot for a prolonged period of time. So perhaps the solution would be to decrease the exposure time of a particular question on the list of hot questions. $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin Oct 11 '15 at 9:49
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    $\begingroup$ see How can I get people to join a site and not simply glance and pass it by? $\endgroup$ – gnat Oct 11 '15 at 11:09
  • $\begingroup$ There was some HNQ-related discussion also in this chat. Importen from the comments on this answer, although HNQ is only marginally related to the topic of the question. (Which is about highly voted incorrect answers.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jun 25 '17 at 9:05
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The advantages you gave of using MathJax are not really as prominent as you made them seem. For example, looking at your search engine results, it appears that both queries gave valid, relevant results. Just the one that used ∪ returned posts that were posted using the ∪ symbol, and the one that used \cup returned posts that were posted using \cup-- which are, of course, more frequently occurring, and thus the "better for searching" illusion.

Also, looking at the "related threads": it appears that the questions related to the one using the ∪ symbol got thrown off by the "Is this a correct proof" phrase in the title. Because the related questions are: "Uncountability of R. Is this proof correct?", "Is this proof by contradiction using sets correct?", etc. If that phrase were not there, then the related questions would likely be more relevant.

Finally, with the current version of MathJax, when Unicode characters occur within math mode, MathJax parses them as if they were written as TeX. So there should not be any different appearancewise between the two. [though some browser-OS combinations still yield use different fonts for the two]

One advantage of using unicode is, that you can fit more information in the title. For example, when I was posting something containing several $\Leftrightarrows$ in the title, I ran out of room, and it was good that I could resort to the ⇔ symbol.

So the question of which to use comes down mainly to whether or not we would like the particular question to be able to appear in the hot questions list.

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