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The SE software allows us to request certain regular expressions be automatically excluded from the Hot Network Questions.

I was asked by the CMs to make this post on the meta, and include the list. This way the community can express agreement or disagreement, as well as suggest improvements.

Let me start by stating that the goal is to filter out bad titles. If it happens that some good questions get filtered out, it is unfortunate, but the default state of a question is off the HNQ, and the current consensus of the moderators is that it is more important to keep questions which we do not want to represent our site off this list.

With that in mind, note that sometimes good questions have bad titles. I still hope that people will push to edit and improve titles of questions just as well as their bodies.

One final clarification. There will be a zero tolerance policy towards people who make titles worse just to get a question on or off the HNQ. People who abuse this list will be punished.

Status of this thread: Discussion.

This thread is aimed to have a discussion phase (until April 30) $\to$ escalation phase $\to$ implementation stage.


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    $\begingroup$ I notice there are currently no math questions on the hot network questions list. Why are we trying so hard to keep them off? $\endgroup$ – Matt Samuel Apr 2 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ @MattSamuel Probably because it tends to attract rather low-quality popular questions, usually made more popular by folks not terribly interested in math, but more interested in quizzes or puzzles posted on Facebook, and such. With such added attention, poor answers tend to come flooding in. (@Asaf could probably give exemplars of this phenomenon. Plus, on SE, the network, anything with mathjax in the title, is filtered out from the HotNetwork Question list. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Apr 2 at 19:48
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy off topic. If you a native English speaker or if you have excellent English, is it possible to answer me with a little comment? What is the difference between the words Tricky and difficult? I "discovered" the word Tricky using this site. I didn't know before. For example, which one is used for an IMO question? IMO problems are difficult or IMO problems are tricky. Or what is the difference tricky proof between difficult proof? I see the word tricky a lot on this site. But google translate both translates the same to my mother tongue.. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – lone student Apr 2 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: Let's not be overdramatic, yes? We are not talking about blacklisting these questions. Just removing them from the HNQ. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 2 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf Please remember, this site is not meant just for us mathematicians. It's purpose it so serve the entire (SE) world. While we may not like some of these elementary questions some of them play a key role in educating the general population. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Apr 2 at 20:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf One of the major goals of the HNQ is to expose general-interest topics to a wider audience. Among other things, this may spark students to study mathematics by exposing them to various beautiful elementary topics. Think back to the days of your youth when you encountered various popularizations etc that sparked your interest in math. Without such where would you be now? $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Apr 2 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf Of course the point was not just about you. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Apr 2 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: You asked me where I would have been. I answered that. Let me clarify how it currently works. I check the HNQ list every few hours or so, and remove most, if not all, of what I find there. I explained my process before. The proposed list grew out of this experience. This site has a problem with the HNQ, since MathJax rules out participation there, so questions that get selected often end up to be lower effort, or more specialised and specific topic that are not useful in your imaginary scenario. I am just trying to cut those out of the equation. [...] $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 2 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: Can we please stop using dramatic terms like "censorship"? This is not censorship. Nobody is deleting anything. Nobody is censoring anybody. I know that I'm not a native speaker, but you might want to look up the definition of the term "censorship". It is absolutely impossible to have a mature discussion with someone who from their first post reverts to dramatic tones and extreme imaginary cases. And let's not get into personal attack (what does my specialty have to do with this?) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 2 at 22:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: No, Matt disagreed without being confrontational. Your first comment started by claiming this is censorship. Once you've climbed on that tree, you refused to come down. I don't know how to help you to do that. This is not censorship. Stop making it sound like we're trying to hide content from the world. While you're at it, it's good to not talk about hypothetical. You can look up the questions I've removed from the HNQ (some only after the fact, by the way, when they are closed or edited out), and I am by no means perfect, but many of those are not representatives of high quality. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 2 at 22:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf This question is not about what you have personally removed. Rather it is about what would be removed by the proposed naive keyword filtering. The effects of such most certainly do "hide content from the (SE) world". Whether or not this meets your understanding (as a non-native English speaker) of the meaning of "censorship" has little to do with the topic so please stop diverting the discussion with such tangents. Please do explain what you think is "confrontational". I see no such thing. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Apr 2 at 22:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: Let me just briefly remark, that exactly because set theory is "further away", it forces set theorists to know more about general mathematics than people in more "common fields". But yes, I agree that in an ideal situation, we would have a large quorum that decides what goes on the HNQ. Unfortunately, it is an algorithm that picks based on quick answers and high votes. In addition, questions with proper titles tend to be excluded based on MathJax. The result is that most of the picks are decidedly low quality, that were answered by FGIW type of users. This is how things are. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 2 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ I hope that here we can work to increase these great interdisciplinary applications of math by using this platform to better expose mathematics. The HNQ list is the primary means of doing such in the SE model. We should strive to use it in the best way possible, not to smother it because some users are angry at cheap rep gained from such questions. That matters very little in the grand scheme of things. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Apr 3 at 0:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf So in the past week you allowed to stay on HNQ two questions that are so non-elementary that they are likely incomprehensible to most of the general public. Do you seriously think this is good use of the HNQ? This reeks of extreme bias. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Apr 3 at 18:49
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: I am motivated by this thread to thank you for the energy and time you put into being a mod here. I don't think I could do it and I appreciate your work. $\endgroup$ – JonathanZ supports MonicaC Apr 4 at 2:49

10 Answers 10

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This request is, specifically, declined but we have added a subset of words to the HNQ filter just now.

Using the responses to the question asked by quid: Which words (if any) in the title of a question should prevent inclusion in the HNQ list? I've requested the top upvoted answers there to be added to the HNQ block and I've marked those words .

The filter regex looks like this:

(\W|^)(?i)(urgent|ASAP|please|pls|help)(\W|$)

Some things to note

  • Unlike a moderator removal, editing the title will make a question eligible for the HNQ list the next time it compiles.
  • Based on the excellent analysis by Ilmari Karonen, I'm not sure how impactful the filters we did add will be. There don't seem to be any super common words in titles that indicate problems.

Neither of these things are particularly surprising. The first is by design and the second... is designed less to prevent low-quality content getting in - which is what y'all are trying to do - and more to prevent abusive or offensive content from getting in.

If y'all have thoughts on better ways we could help address this issue, please let me know.

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For what it's worth, I took the SEDE query posted earlier in the comments and tweaked it to generate some statistics on the historical effectiveness of the proposed autofilter.

Specifically, my query returns a monthly count of:

  • the total number of questions selected for HNQ in that month,
  • the number of those questions that were either closed or manually removed from HNQ by a moderator, and
  • both of the above, but limited only to questions whose title (at the time they were picked for HNQ) would pass the proposed autofilter.

Anyway, looking at the results, I'm not too hopeful about the effectiveness of this proposed filter in keeping bad questions out of HNQ:

Graph

As you can see from the graph, the autofilter only matches about 10% of all HNQs on math.SE. Furthermore, it appears to be matching roughly the same fraction of both good and bad questions (or, at least, of questions that were and weren't closed or manually removed from HNQ in the past).

In other words, at least based on this historical data, the proposed filter — regardless of its other merits, or lack thereof — would appear to have no significant effect on the fraction of HNQs that are closed or manually removed.

(Of course, the query can't tell us what other questions might have been selected to replace the 10% that would've been filtered out, had the autofilter been in place when they were hot. However, it seems reasonable to assume that those questions would not have been statistically too dissimilar from the ones that were actually selected.)


Ps. If you'd like to examine the underlying data in more detail, here's a version of the query that returns the raw list of past HNQs and whether or not they match the filter.


Pps. Here's a version of the query the returns percentage statistics on the fraction of questions closed or removed from HNQ among those that either pass or match the proposed autofilter:

Graph

Of course, there's no actual new data here — you could easily generate these percentages just by dropping the raw question counts from the first query above into a spreadsheet — but this might provide a useful alternative visualization.

As this graph shows, the questions that match the proposed filter aren't historically any more likely to get closed or removed from HNQ than those that don't, at least not until the last couple of months. Since February 2020, questions matching the filter do seem to get removed from HNQ a bit more often than those that don't, but this could be just a statistical coincidence. (It also seems to correlate with an uptick in the number of questions removed from HNQ in general.)

Even within the last few months, however, automatically applying the autofilter would not have made much difference to the overall removal rate: the yellow and blue lines track each other very closely over the whole period for which data is available. At best, in March 2020, having the autofilter in place would've reduced the manual HNQ removal rate from 87% to 85%.

(Again, this is assuming that the questions that pass the filter and did get selected as HNQs are also statistically representative of the questions that would've been picked to replace the ones filtered out, which cannot be proven but seems like a reasonable assumption.)


Ppps. Just for the sake of curiosity, prompted by Paul Plummer's comment below, I did a little bit of exploratory data analysis using the data from the detailed query above. In particular, I tried looking for words* that have occurred only in the titles of removed (or closed) HNQs, and which have occurred in more than two such titles. Here they are, grouped by the number of such titles they occur in:

  • 7: delta
  • 5: h, l, students, let
  • 4: rolls, whole, distributing, separable, extended, trace, start, reciprocal, letter, hold
  • 3: finish, proposition, require, i'm, seeking, negation, morphism, add, puzzle, cut, entries, direction, associative, roll, symmetry, eight, variation, symbol, moves, average, english, squeeze, clear, cancellation, uncountably, hypothesis, physics, towards

So, what does that list tell us? I'd say not much, except that it's kind of hard to reliably detect bad HNQs using word filters.

Would we want to add an autofilter for "delta"? Maybe. Doing so would've saved us from a whole seven (presumably) low-quality HNQs over the past year or so. Adding in "let" and "students" would increase that to 17, assuming that none of those three words have occurred in the same title (which I haven't checked).

On the other hand, I'd assume we probably don't want to autofilter "separable", "extended" or "trace" (or the letters "h" and "l"), even though statistically those all seem to be better indicators for bad HNQs than any of the proposed filter keywords above.

*) For the purposes of this exploratory study, I'm defining a word as a sequence of the letters A–Z, digits 0–9 and apostrophes. All titles were converted to lower case before analysis.


FWIW, I also looked at which words would appear to be the best overall predictors of a HNQ getting removed or closed, using add-one additive smoothing to discount infrequently occurring words. (In other words, I ranked the words based on the score $(1 + n_b) \mathbin/ (2 + n_b + n_g)$, where $n_b$ and $n_g$ are the number of "bad" and "good" titles the word occurs in.) Here are all the words with score > 0.75:

  • delta: 0.89 (7 bad, 0 good)
  • h, l, students, let: 0.86 (5 bad, 0 good)
  • rolls, whole, distributing, separable, extended, trace, start, reciprocal, letter, hold: 0.83 (4 bad, 0 good)
  • expectation, properties, 20: 0.82 (8 bad, 1 good)
  • finish, proposition, require, i'm, seeking, negation, morphism, add, puzzle, cut, entries, direction, associative, roll, symmetry, eight, variation, symbol, moves, average, english, squeeze, clear, cancellation, uncountably, hypothesis, physics, towards: 0.8 (3 bad, 0 good)
  • verify, column, school: 0.78 (6 bad, 1 good)

(The reason for setting the cutoff at > 0.75 is that after that comes a long list of words that each appear in exactly two "bad" HNQ titles and no "good" titles. Most of those look even more like just random coincidences than the words already listed above.)

Not too surprisingly, this looks very similar to the previous list. The only difference is the addition of the words "expectation", "properties", "verify", "column", "school" and the number "20", all of which appear in the titles of sufficiently many HNQs that were removed or closed to counterbalance their appearance in the title of one HNQ that wasn't as well.

FWIW, trying add-two additive smoothing instead (to favor common words over rare ones even more) still gives the same old list of usual suspects as before, but also brings up a few more words that occur notably more often in the titles of HNQs that get removed or closed than of those that don't, such as "true" (17 bad, 5 good), "countable" (14 bad, 4 good), "contains" (8 bad, 2 good), "three" (22 bad, 8 good), "up" (10 bad, 3 good) and "determinant" (19 bad, 7 good), as well as "maximal", "rotation", "gives", "epsilon", "black" and "sine" (5 bad, 1 good each).

I'll leave it up to the reader to decide whether any of those words would actually make good autofilter entries.

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  • $\begingroup$ It should be added that if a question is filtered out, another one takes its place. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 20 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: Thanks, noted. $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Apr 20 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I think one of the queries mentioned in other threads and by Martin on the chat show how many questions were removed from the HNQ by adding MathJax to the title, so I suppose that you can in fact test to see what was the title at the time of the HNQ status being given, as well as the title once the question was removed or closed. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 20 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: Any questions that were selected for HNQ, but now have MathJax in the title, clearly were edited at some point (and would've been removed from HNQ by the edit, if they were still there when edited). That much is easy to tell. I just edited the "raw" query to include (and mark) those questions, and I could easily add a count of them to the stats query, but I don't see what insight that would give on the effectiveness of the proposed filter. Actually pulling the old titles from the edit history, on the other hand, is possible but awkward. I'm too tired to even try it right now. $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Apr 20 at 21:09
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    $\begingroup$ If a question is "This limit is hard", and it is edited to "How do I prove that $\lim_{x\to 0}x=0$?", then the original title would be caught by the filter, whereas the edited title is removed by MathJax. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 20 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: I went and implemented the edit history digging after all. The updated graphs above are now based on the original title at the time the question was picked for HNQ. The differences appear to be minimal — if anything, looking at the original titles seems to make the performance of the autofilter look slightly worse. $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Apr 20 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ What I truly wonder is whether or not this means that the idea of an autofilter is silly, or that the community's response is exaggerated. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 21 at 9:14
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    $\begingroup$ Very cool. Not saying you should do this, but maybe data people would be interested in this: are there commonalities in the titles of removed questions which are far less likely to occure in questions which are never removed?(and maybe we should take into account some "false positive/negative statistics" to decide whether or not it is worth it) $\endgroup$ – user29123 Apr 21 at 10:55
  • $\begingroup$ I suspect that there probably isn't anything to meaningful, maybe if expanded to phrases, or someone did some crazy machine learning which was fed "bad questions" and "good questions." Would the machine be able to tell the difference? $\endgroup$ – user29123 Apr 21 at 11:03
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    $\begingroup$ @PaulPlummer: See edit above. TBH, my personal conclusion is that single-word filters, at least, are not very good at telling bad HNQs from good ones. Maybe something like a (naïve) Bayesian classifier that considered all the words in the title together could do better; but unfortunately all we have is a regexp filter. $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Apr 21 at 23:19
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    $\begingroup$ @IlmariKaronen This is a very insightful and well-written analysis, the kind of objective thing that is needed in contentious issues. Thanks for taking your time to do this. $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Apr 22 at 9:35
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I haven't logged into this site for some time, but I felt I needed to to register my displeasure if our community indeed marches further down this route. This might not come as a surprise, given my last meta question: Under what criteria should we remove questions from the HNQ list?

Let me start by stating that the goal is to filter out bad titles. If it happens that some good questions get filtered out, it is unfortunate, but the default state of a question is off the HNQ, and the current consensus of the moderators is that it is more important to keep questions which we do not want to represent our site off this list.

I wholeheartedly disagree with the conclusion here, as well as the reasoning leading to it. The default state of a question is not necessarily on or off the HNQ, and liable to be placed on the HNQ list should whatever algorithms in place decide that it should be there. The moderators (typically Asaf, but others as well) have taken a heavily interventionalist approach to removing questions from the HNQ list, which strikes me as the opposite of the "natural state".

In the actual natural state, we see the questions that our readers wish to see are promoted visibly, bringing people to our site, and promoting mathematics in the community. It gives people in the network of sites, including people who don't frequent MSE, an opportunity to see digestible nuggets of mathematics that's of interest to them.

Clearly, this will bias towards the elementary questions. I understand that we might see fewer, original, deep questions with meaty, informative answers in the HNQ if we have a flood of elementary questions in the HNQ. But, and let me highlight this, having questions on the HNQ is not to benefit our regular contributors.

We have bounties for this; if you think a question is particularly interesting, or has a particularly nice answer that you wish others to see, you can leave a bounty on the question and/or answer. This will bump the question to the list of bountied questions for enthusiasts to peruse.

I still think we should leave the HNQ alone, in a vast majority of situations. None of us have to actually like the questions on there, since we are not the target audience. It feels like our moderation team is attempting to reduce our site's relevance to the community.


So, as you'd imagine, I'm fairly against this proposal of blacklisting certain words, and some of these words more than others. Some words, like "solve" and (to a lesser extent) "simplify", strike me as extremely prejudicial. There are plenty of extremely interesting equations and algebraic expressions that can make for interesting questions.

It also heavily biases against elementary questions, which frequently involve "solving" and "simplifying". This smacks of that icky feeling that we are profiling people, not questions. It feels like we are implicitly taking the position that certain levels of maths are too basic to be sufficiently interesting (a certain comment on my previous question springs to mind).

I understand that we don't wish to publicise the questions we don't want on MSE, but I just don't think that the HNQ questions are any significant causal agent here. Just look at the number of new contributors, asking low quality questions, with less than 15 reputation. I don't think that any of them read the guidelines, thought that they shouldn't post their question as it was, then saw a low quality HNQ and decided that it was actually fine. I just don't think that happens. I'm just not sure what we're getting in exchange for all the babies we're prepared to flush with the bath water.

If we do implement such a blacklist, I think we should restrict ourselves to things like "plz", "urgent", "help", and other things that shouldn't be in the title of any question, and can be edited out/replaced without damaging the question. This way, it doesn't feel like we are censoring content and dictating what people should be interested in, merely helping ensure that whatever is published on the HNQ is well-presented.

I know that this opinion is somewhat unpopular in a certain sector of MSE, and unfortunately, this sector of MSE encompasses all the moderators, but I needed to say my piece.

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    $\begingroup$ I think "we see the questions that our readers wish to see are promoted visibly" is not really to the point. We see the questions that an algorithm selects based on actions taken by users collectively and mostly for a different purpose. That's really not the same thing. $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 3 at 11:10
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila OK, so I think I'm starting to get it. This is my best guess; please correct me if I'm wrong. You want to do this thing to to the HNQ, not to get interesting questions into it, but to remove some of the incentive to post low quality questions, or to damage one's own posts in favour making it onto the HNQ? $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 3 at 11:59
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila It's not about wanting the title "Solve my problem", it's about not wanting to automatically exclude titles along the lines of "How could we solve ______?" The title can be perfectly informative in that syntax, and questions with that title are not necessarily uninteresting $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 3 at 12:01
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila I was confused by your comment; I thought it wasn't about promoting what is interesting. Now that I'm clearer on this, it does again feel like you are projecting your own tastes onto both the HNQ and the site in general. I feel more comfortable with you doing that with the site as the whole (you are an elected moderator, after all), but I feel less comfortable regarding the HNQ, because again, it's not really for you. It's OK if it's not to your tastes. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 3 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ @quid Well no, that's more or less what I've said. I've observed that the HNQ has been successful in drawing me into other sites, broadening my horizons. I'd like the reciprocal force to pull others into mathematics, even if it's only temporary. I've observed that the HNQ does this for me, and I've assumed I'm not special in any way, so I think it'll happen for plenty of other people too. I certainly admit, I haven't done the studies or the statistics, so feel free to share your data. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 3 at 12:19
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila "Theo, I have to leave for a bit, but let me comment shortly about 'my taste of things'. It is not about that." I just don't think it's true though. You've talked about your disgust over gamification as justification, as well as now a desire to clear what is "bad" in favour of what is "good". As I said before, it's clearly more than just site guidelines. These are all subjective judgements, informed by your own tastes in questions. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 3 at 12:23
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    $\begingroup$ @quid I do respect this opinion, even if I do mostly disagree with the last two sentences. I think fun is actually really important, and something that people perceive is missing in maths. I was happy enough (sort of) with the arrangement before, even though I really do think it biases against the core audience of the HNQ, but it was a fine enough compromise. I really dislike this idea of blacklisting common words, especially if it means effectively blacklisiting entire classes of elementary questions. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 3 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila I'm not going to reply again about the examples. Read my comment, then read the penultimate paragraph from my answer. You don't fill the HNQ with set theory, that's true, but you still make judgements about what people should see and find interesting on the site. It doesn't have to pique your research-based interests, but it does seem to have to meet your criteria about being "good", which as I've pointed out, is a standard above and beyond the standards of the site, as judged by you and your fellow mods. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 3 at 12:48
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila I would rather change "Help me solve this equation" to a more informative title, and if it stays in the HNQ, then good for it. The consequences of this blacklist are, to me, more chilling. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 3 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila If I it's one of the uncommon cases where a more informative title cannot be thought of, then I'd be in favour of letting it slide. It's not a big deal. And while equation is not blacklisted, "solve" and "simplify" currently are. These are probably the biggest verbs in elementary mathematics, and even when an equation is not involved, low-level students will use "solve" more generally (e.g. "How do I solve this proof?"). Blocking these does not mean blocking poorly-worded titles, it means blocking elementary students and their questions. That's not right, and it damages the HNQ. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 3 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila It partially prevents the HNQ from fulfilling its purpose: for our site to reach out to the wider community, and pull in other people through questions and answers they find interesting. As we bias away from what attracts people, and towards the less elementary and more esoteric questions, we alienate these people. If you really wanted to prevent low quality, uninformative, and ambiguous titles in the HNQ, we could always set our number of questions to 0. Sure we'd lose some good questions, but the important thing is, we don't encourage gamification... $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 3 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Theo I may have missed the point I am about to make, if it was already made in this thread. I see the HNQ as reflection to other users of what our site is about. Historically, the questions chosen by the algorithms have favored showing poor posts, because it can't even include mathjax. This is my point: I also see the HNQ as exhibiting what many others on the SE network think "must be okay because, heck, it's on the HNQ", some are, more are not. So if they then decide to come check us out, at math.se, they're impression of "what's welcome" on this site may in fact be erroneous. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Apr 3 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ @AmWhy I'm sure that plenty of PSQs do make it onto the HNQ list, and while I don't see them much, I guess that's because mods remove them. However, I doubt that the HNQ has much, if any, influence on the behaviour of users (outside of what's mentioned here). Most of the regular users on Stack Exchange sites know that the sites have their own standards, and the HNQ is not a badge of approval. I also think most of our problematic new recruits just don't bother reading anything. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 4 at 4:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Theo Here's a list of a few thousand HNQs. Most all recent posts were removed by Asaf (likely many hundreds if not thousands if the recent pattern of removing all of them persists). I'm confident that almost everyone browsing them will find many Q&As that they believe would be educational to the general public. I'm perplexed as to why most of them were censored.There seems to be no rhyme or reason. It's quite sad and disturbing that the general public was denied the chance to learn from us for this very long period. Read it & weep. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Apr 5 at 2:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: Nobody in the moderator team thinks they are above the community. Not since 2012, anyway. We didn't see the HNQ as an important policy, we foresaw that you will go crazy with terms like "extreme censorship" (again, I am not a native speaker, but that sounds like a wild exaggeration to me) or "global damage" (which is definitely speculative). The HNQ topic came up six months ago, we discussed it, there seemed to be no significant problems raised there, and we carried on. Now, we really are at an impasse, so I will stop here, and flag your future replies to me as unnecessary. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 6 at 8:17
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My intention is that an upvote of this answer indicates agreement with the following statement:

I am in favor of creating a blacklist of terms which will prevent a post from appearing on the HNQ. The precise composition of that list be determined once we have agreed that such a list should exist in the first place.


Pontification

What follows are an expression of my opinion, intended to justify my support for the existence of a blacklist, and to elicit comments and engender discussion. Please not that my intention is that an upvote to this answer should indicate agreement with the statement above. One needn't agree with the following in order to agree with the above statement—comments would be an appropriate place (I think) to continue the discussion and voice disagreement with my reasoning. I considered placing the following in the comments directly after this answer, but, as the writer of the answer, I get the privilege of using my answer to kick of discussion in manner that is less ephemeral than comments.

In general, I am in favor of any proposal which cuts down on the amount of low-quality posts which end up on the HNQ. My understanding is as follows.

  1. Each sub-site is allotted only a finite number of slots on the HNQ (five, with the possibility of reducing that number if the community agrees).

  2. We have no lack of active questions which can be promoted to the HNQ. Hence removing a question from the HNQ does not greatly alter the amount of MSE content that is on the HNQ; it only change what content is on the HNQ.

  3. The HNQ should be a showcase for the best that MSE has to offer. However, for various technical and cultural reasons, posts which are not a good reflection of MSE often end up on the HNQ. For example, no post with MathJax in the title can appear on the HNQ; homework dumps often become quite active because they are easy to understand and easy to answer, even if such questions do not put forward the very best of MSE.

Assuming that the above is true (and that there is general consensus about point 3—perhaps some people have no problem with MSE being (or being portrayed to the wider community as) a site for dumping homework problems), then it makes sense to filter and prune the HNQ somewhat actively. A list of verboten terms is a step in that direction, and is, perhaps, more transparent than the current status quo. However, it seems that we don't yet have consensus even on the idea that there should or could be a blacklist of terms which should be barred from the HNQ (note: such a list only keeps bad titles off the HNQ; a good question with a bad title can be fixed).

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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Yes, more or less. I am in favor of a list. I think that the list compiled in the original post is a reasonable start (though I might remove common verbs such as "simplify" and "solve", but my goal was not to quibble about this yet.). I tried to make that clear in the quote block was what one might agree to, while the rest was my own personal opinion, which goes to explain why I am in favor of a list. $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson Apr 9 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ +1. I guess this very recent HNQ can serve as an example for your point 3. (fortunately in this case we don't need moderator removal) $\endgroup$ – YuiTo Cheng Apr 9 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ It might be better to separate into another answer your reasons for being in favour of the proposal. That way one can vote on and discuss your reasons separately from voting on the proposal itself (should people desire to do so). $\endgroup$ – user279515 Apr 9 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ This is a dupe of the prior attempt at a poll (with some opinions appended). Duplication in general is bad, even more so when polling. Not to mention polls with opinions added automatically invalidate the poll since they may unfairly influence voting, and further some readers will end up voting on the opinions rather than the question in the poll. It is essential to keep the two separate. Besides the time for a poll is long past - the thread is now dormant. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Apr 9 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ @asaf It seems more like: I don't like the votes on the other poll, so let's try again with some opinions appended to help sway others to my viewpoint. Whether or not that was intended, it may be the effect - which invalidates it. I don't find your attempted joke to be humorous. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Apr 9 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ @asaf Please refrain from making false and misleading accusations. In particular please stop unfoundedly denigrating users whose meta views differ from yours. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Apr 9 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson I've just finished reading your personal opinion. It influenced me, now I don't want the filter anymore. It seems to me that one should vote on 'pairs' (filter and list altogether). Because what if we "all" agree with the filter. fine. but then when voting for which lists yes and which not, I think we're going to disagree a lot, maybe to the point of not wanting the filter at all and hence regreting for voting in favour of the filter. $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 9 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila There's a part of me that feels like you're being very disrespectful. And mean because you're just saying mean things without further foundation. $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 9 at 23:20
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson Thanks for clarifying. I think this question puts the cart before the horse. It presumes the community agrees that this is the best way to handle our HNQ but, alas, the community was never asked about such. I think there are much more intelligent ways that we can leverage our diverse knowledge to optimally moderate HNQs. We should go back to square one and solicit ideas on the best way to do such rather than settle for such a primitive solution ... $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Apr 10 at 2:55
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    $\begingroup$ ... I suspect we could devise a much better solution that would satisfy most everyone. At the least, we should take a shot at it before settling on something so suboptimal. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Apr 10 at 2:55
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila I'd like to see the proof of your previous claim to me. Otherwise, you should apologize. $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 10 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ I am in favor of having a blacklist if and only if you tell me explicitly its consistency, otherwise, simply no. $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 10 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Magic_Isa Using your analogy, I say to my office mates "I'm going to get coffee. Does anyone else want some?" They all chime in and say "Sure! I could use a cuppa!" Then I say, okay, I'm going to the hippy vegan place which only serves coffee with kombucha and soy milk. At that point, you can still say no---no one is going to force you to drink kombucha-soy-coffee. Similarly, I get the impression that MSE will not move forward on an HNQ filter without seeking further advice from the community. The question, in principle, are you in favor of (or opposed to) a filter for the HNQ? $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson Apr 11 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ If the answer is "I would be in favor of a filter, but only if it is the right filter", then it seems to me that you are in principle in favor of a filter. Your objection does not make sense to me. I am utterly confused by it. It is a simple yes/no question, and you can't seem to give a straight answer. $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson Apr 11 at 16:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Magic_Isa Again, if someone asks "You wanna cuppa?" and I say "Yes", I am not committing myself to drinking whatever drek that person brings me. I am saying that, in principle, I would enjoy some coffee, though I might still refuse a cup if it isn't to my liking. On the other hand, if I say "No," no further follow-up is needed. In the actual conversation that we are having, you seem to be saying "No, I don't want a list at all!" but also saying "I want a specific list." By analogy, you don't want any coffee, but you want a latte. Your position is incoherent. $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson Apr 15 at 16:21
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I'll try to address some issues I see here.

First, there is an underlying tone of this being an interventionist approach and that opposition is out of principle against interventionism.

That is fair, but if you are against interventionism out of principle and you think that such a list is an intervention, then you should be against the HNQ too. (A disclaimer: I am not against the HNQ.)

Why? The HNQ involves an algorithm with some parameters that displays questions which satisfy those parameters with more prominence.

This list involves an algorithm with some parameters that avoids displaying some questions which satisfy those parameters with more prominence.

The actions are the same in nature, the intention is different, but interventionism is defined by the actions (or perhaps absence thereof or not) and objects, not the intentions, regardless if they are understood as positive or negative. A political analogy is that if someone is against interventionism out of principle, then they ought to be against both government helping companies which are well-established and/or companies which are in bankruptcy. They should not help big businesses, nor small ones.

One can say that they are against manual intervention, which is what Asaf is/has been doing, and that is fine, but:

  1. This is not what this topic is about.
  2. If anything, this topic is precisely a way to avoid or lessen the manual intervention which you oppose.

It is somewhat frustrating that people are conflating Asaf's actions with the maintenance of such a list and lumping all kinds of things together. It looks like a knee-jerk reaction and it is adding a lot of noise to the discussion.

There are now two possible branches of reply which I can see:

  1. "Well, you see, the HNQ has always been here, so it is natural to me. Such a list is new, so it is an intervention."
  2. "OK, but that is a bad intervention, whereas the HNQ is a good one because it helps displaying what our community thinks is best."

Branch 1 is just silly. To elaborate more: if you follow branch 1, you are not against interventionism, you are against changing the status quo, which is entirely different and not that much helpful when we are discussing... changes. Regarding 2, do you honestly think that adding things such as "urgent" or "ASAP" is bad intervention? I mean, honestly? If yes, then fine... but please understand and acknowledge that this is not out of principle in the sense mentioned previously. It is for some reason that I don't understand, and I am still waiting for a sensible explanation.

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    $\begingroup$ It seems that people are also deluding themselves in how useful/good the algorithm is. It is just as, if not more, biased (the inherent trust people seem to put in it makes it all the more worse). I would trust basically anyone that that has the ability to recognize high quality good questions, which you can recognize even if a particular question isn't your cup of tea, than some stupid algorithm―which is an auto filter btw. If there are not enough good questions which have a certain amount of quality what does that say about the site? $\endgroup$ – user29123 Apr 18 at 16:01
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Although this would require more work to implement, consider that instead of posts being excluded based on the autofilters just not appearing on the HNQ list, they are also placed in a separate list. Then somebody (at least the moderators, but perhaps it can also be accessed by certain other members, e.g., ones with particularly high reputations) can occasionally, if and when they wish to, check these items to see if any should actually be considered for the HNQ. If so, then perhaps the easiest way to have them be reconsidered is just for the person to edit the title in such a way that it's no longer excluded from the HNQ.

To avoid having too many items in this list, especially ones which no longer would reasonably be considered for the HNQ anyway, perhaps have them age off after some period of time, e.g., a few hours or perhaps a day or so.

Note if nobody ever looks at this list, then with all else being equal (e.g., the list of terms for the autofilter is not different based on this feature being available) the behavior would be effectively the same as without this feature, so there's not much downside in that respect. However, having this extra list does help to address certain concerns, such as mentioned in the question comments, about otherwise good questions not being included just due to their titles containing one or more words that are being filtered out.

Note I don't have, or claim to, enough knowledge and experience with the questions involved which should, or should not, reasonably be on the HNQ to state whether or not this additional option would be worth the implementation effort and considering how often it's expected anybody will check this list. I'm just proposing it here so other members, especially ones who are more knowledgeable about this than me, can give their feedback and opinions.

Update: I believe a fairly reasonable option to consider for anybody other than moderators to see the list is for other members to see only the questions with tags where they have a gold tag badge (i.e., as described in Badges, "You must have a total score of $1000$ in at least $200$ non-community wiki answers to achieve this badge."). As they already are believed to be quite expert in this area, so they can for example single-handedly mark these questions as duplicates and reopen as needed, they should also be able to tell, better than most other members (including moderators), which questions are quite good & how to best possibly change the titles so the questions may appear on the HNQ.

You may also consider adding other restrictions, e.g., requiring a reputation of at least $20000$ so they're considered a "trusted user". However, I suspect the large majority of gold tag badge holders would already meet any requirement like that.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, in an ideal world, we would have curators voting for HNQ posts. This is not the case. This is a fairly fast-paced automatic process. I am very much in favour of an actual quorum that selects good posts from a variety of topics from the last X days/weeks/months and publishes it somewhere. But this is a whole other thing. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 2 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila I agree that, in an ideal world, the implementation for the HNQ would be quite different, such as your suggestion of using a quorum to select among recent good posts. Nonetheless, I made my suggestion as I believe it can be implemented more quickly & easily than making other more significant changes, and it would help to mitigate some of the concerns about having just a group of autofilters to decide on being on the HNQ list. $\endgroup$ – John Omielan Apr 3 at 0:05
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    $\begingroup$ I think that the idea is to somehow give a picture of what is "trending", and in that sense, trending means topics that have a lot of positive activity. But positive activity can be generated by a small number of users working in unison (not necessarily in a malicious way). Mathematics is different this way, as a science too, it is slower, more thought out, and requires more attention. Usually, anyway. This is one of the reasons I feel that HNQ is usually not helpful to our community. Most questions caught by the algorithm are either just bad, or shouldn't be representatives of this site. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 3 at 0:11
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    $\begingroup$ The autofilters are just what I can tell would be helpful from my experience monitoring this in the last months (year?) since the manual removal feature was introduced. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 3 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila I've not been a member as long, or been as involved as you, but I get the impression an important reason for the HNQ is to help show, and promote to, the members that there are wide variety of other sites on the SE network than just programming ones, especially Stack Overflow. To help do this, they're trying to show a wide variety of possible interesting questions but, unfortunately, their selection mechanism is based mainly, as you state, on a lot of positive activity. Nonetheless, I believe the issue is not the HNQ is not useful for this community, but just there are ... $\endgroup$ – John Omielan Apr 3 at 0:23
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila (cont.) unfortunately too many relatively poor questions from math which make it to the HNQ. I suspect this is a similar issue, to varying degrees, with many other sites, and not just ones which are science based. I believe it's helpful to have math questions on the HNQ, but ideally better quality ones, so in that respect, I believe my suggestion would be helpful as an adjunct to using various autofilters as you suggest. $\endgroup$ – John Omielan Apr 3 at 0:25
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    $\begingroup$ I've downvoted this answer because, as it stands, it doesn't seem to be useful. I think it may be a good idea which I'd like to be true/tested out, but it seems to me that there is very little chance that this could be implemented in the foreseeable future. (I believe "very little" is an understatement.) $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Apr 4 at 15:04
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Proposal: MSE should have an auto-filter. That filter should consist of the string *.

(Look! I've answered the question. This answer is therefore technically on-topic. And as we all know, that is the best kind of on-topic. Having technically answered the question, I'm going to go off the rails a little.)

enter image description here

In other words, remove Mathematics StackExchange from the HNQ.

The majority of the best questions on MSE are already ineligible for the HNQ because they contain MathJax in the title. The StackExchange network is unwilling to implement any kind of technical fix for this (and there is a quite reasonable argument that technical fix is more complicated than it is worth). As such, the HNQ already fails to be a showcase for the best of what MSE has to offer.

Indeed, my rough impression is that the HNQ is primarily driven by routine homework exercises. A common path to the HNQ is that a mathematically immature or unsophisticated[1] user will post a verbatim question from some homework assignment. Several FGITW users will very quickly provide answers to the question, while a few other users use the comments to elicit improvement from the original asker. The answers, being correct solutions to the stated problem, are upvoted, and the question appears on the HNQ a few hours later.

I do not believe that MSE should be (or be known as) a homework dump. As such, homework problems rarely belong on the HNQ[2]. Unfortunately, the HNQ broadcasts to the rest of SE community that MSE is exactly that: a dumping ground for homework problems.

Moreover, I don't really see an upside to participating in the HNQ. We don't need the traffic (MSE is already one of the most active SEs, and students taking classes is a huge driver of traffic). What benefit does MSE gain from participation?

Perhaps it is time to abandon the HNQ altogether?


[1] Note that "mathematically immature and unsophisticated" is not a critique of the level of the question being asked. I have had precalculus students who show tremendous maturity in their write-ups of homework problems, and have read draft Ph.D. theses which look like they were written by a third-grader. Rather, it is a critique of the quality of the presentation.

[2] It should be noted that Physics SE has an explicit "No Homework" policy. I have often wondered by MSE does not have a similar policy, but it seems like the ship sailed on that one long before I got an account.

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    $\begingroup$ "In other words, remove Mathematics StackExchange from the HNQ." due to "my rough impression is that the HNQ is primarily driven by routine homework exercises." ? $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 16 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ Let's suppose it's 100% true. So would be better to not to show a part of what math.stack consists just because the best of the best from math.stack cannot be shown on the HNQ? // Could not be that, a person, picked on the 'homework and unsophisticated and mathematically immature title' and then decide to give a try, to check what's else is on math.stack? $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 16 at 18:39
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    $\begingroup$ It seems to me that there'll be lower chances for people to discover the best of the best from math.stack when removing math.stack from the HNQ. And higher chances for people to discover the best of the best from math.stack when not removing math.stack from the HNQ; just my thought tho. $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 16 at 18:48
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    $\begingroup$ That being said, I don't intend to reply to you any more. You have made your opinions quite clear over several threads, and I am tired of your attempts to dominate the conversation. $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson Apr 16 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson "You claim if MSE departs the HNQ, then the best of what MSE will no longer be visible to the rest of the SE community." No. I never claimed this. I said "It seems to me that there'll be lower chances.." lower chances $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 16 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ I think I've already countered all of these points in my answer. First, the HNQ is not for users like you or I, so you don't have to see the upside for you. Second, the homework dumpers read nothing, including site guidelines, all the warnings when you post a question, etc. Third, nobody on the network thinks the HNQ is a badge of approval! I get why you wouldn't want to engage with homework dumpers, but I don't really understand the need to eliminate them at all costs (particularly to 99.9% of our first year or lower students). Can't you just focus on the questions/tags you'd rather answer? $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 17 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf I very recently told the senior academic in charge of tutorial allocations that I used to be a regular contributor to MSE. The context was, he was training me in using Piazza, some software for answering questions online. His first response: "Uh-oh". I had to quickly divorce myself from the anti-PSQ mindset, at which point he relaxed. My point is, I don't think this anti-PSQ stance, when it alienates elmentary students, is actually putting this site in a positive light. I really hesitate to recommend it to anyone these days. It feels like a wannabe MO, which is not really a good look. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 17 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf Despite this, I did try recommending MSE to my students before my uni closed. My students all seemed to be under the impression that MSE punishes "dumbass questions". That is, if the question was too simple, you'd be abused by the users. I tried correcting them, but honestly, I couldn't even properly convince myself that this wasn't the case. I know it's not the way the guidelines are designed, but it is the reality of the situation. MSE's reputation seems to be suffering, not just in the eyes of academics, but the eyes of students. We seem hellbent on becoming totally irrelevant. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 17 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf Finally, is the average quality of questions going down because we get fewer "good" questions, or because we get more "bad" questions? We are getting more popular (especially now, during the pandemic), which, on average, brings far more elementary students without the mathematical maturity to ask questions we like. If you're picking at random, of course you're more likely to find a "bad" question. If you're filtering based on tags, are "good" questions actually harder to find? $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 17 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Xander It's funny, because I see an entirely different kind of selfishness. I see a potentially enormous resource for mathematical help held hostage by snobbery; the personal tastes of a few thousand preventing this site from helping millions. I see people saying we should junk the HNQ just because they don't see how it helps them personally. What I don't see is a crisis of "site health". The site seems relatively healthy to me, full of people seeking and finding the maths they need. The biggest threat to our site's health is irrelevancy. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 17 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson Sure. It's a kinda neat problem that anybody on just about any level could get into. Once you stop judging a question primarily by its format (which can be changed), things don't tend to look so bleak. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 18 at 5:55
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    $\begingroup$ The difference is here, @Asaf, is that you've appointed yourself as judge. This is not a grant that you've funded, and you are protecting your investment by weeding out lesser penmanship. This is a feature of the SE network, in which you've repeatedly admitted to not seeing the value (Xander too), and now you are trying to mold according to your wishes (at great expense). I'm not compromising anything, except your own, largely unsolicited, self-imposed standards. Leave it alone. It functions better without you. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 18 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ @TheoBendit "which can be changed" How about you do such things with some frequency? Talk is cheap. $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 18 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Theo: How is it my own if Xander and others are supportive of this approach? How come for years now people (including Bill, I might add) complained about the undeserved votes HNQ posts receive, which then lead people to argue "it's highly voted, therefore it is good and on topic" (you can see this approach used in this very discussion to justify "advice", even though advice as a whole is not even on topic anymore). I don't know what is the great expense, other than some people having higher scores, I honestly think you're exaggerating. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 18 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ @quid I did, when I was regularly contributing to the site. I paid little attention to the maths HNQ specifically (again, it wasn't for me), but I would fix up poorly-formatted posts all the time, and would regularly try to solicit context from elementary askers as gently as I could. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendit Apr 19 at 0:01
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I support the proposal.

  • Please consider upvoting this post if you agree with the proposal of the question & the current proposed list. Else downvote.
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    $\begingroup$ If one agree with this, then one also agree with the current proposal list? Or is it just an agreement with the 'pure new change' and the list thing will be discussed in another time? $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 6 at 16:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Magic_Isa: Answer to the first question: both. $\endgroup$ – user170039 Apr 7 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ This is ultimately unhelpful. We can change the list, it's not a one-off request. So the question should first be, is there a community support for a list. Then we start weeding things out of the proposed list in the post itself. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 7 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Magic_Isa: I think that we can partition the list into chunks and vote on the chunks. Some words seem to be agreed by most (e.g. "urgent") and others are more controversial (e.g. "puzzle"). $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 7 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ @lonestudent: Without going into politics too much, referendums tend to be terrible when there's a binary choice about a broad subject. Just look at the mess created by Brexit. Not to mention that with a small sample size you can't say a lot if you have very close equilibrium (e.g. less than a 10% difference in votes) which tends to happen on meta (with its limited active voters), and that arguably changes to the status quo requires more than a simple majority. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 7 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ @lonestudent yes. It's like in the elections. So this should work too. $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 7 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila I tried to understand your comment as much as my English allowed. What I meant was to provide everyone to see this post and to prevent "theft of votes"..Upvote/Downvote with fake accounts and etc. $\endgroup$ – lone student Apr 7 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ @lonestudent I see. Even if that happens, I'd assume would be minority, I mean who would spend a lot of time in "theft voting"? a little minority, in general people have millions of thing to do $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 7 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ @lonestudent: No, there is no such option. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 7 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: Indeed. That's why a rewording is necessary. Otherwise, I don't see much value in this post. $\endgroup$ – user170039 Apr 8 at 7:38
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila +9 users support the filter, and only the filter, and -9 don't support the filter, this is according to the aclaration in the comments by user 170039. $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 8 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila, Irrespective of the outcome of this meta post, will the fate of this meta post (and outcomes thereof) be determined according to what is written, i.e., "discussion phase (until April 30) → escalation phase → implementation stage"? Also I am wondering what do you mean by "wanted outcome". Can you elaborate? $\endgroup$ – user170039 Apr 8 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: Definition of "very clear"? $\endgroup$ – user170039 Apr 8 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: Interesting response indeed. It would also be enlightening to know the definition of "feedback that is useful to the moderators" (at least for this specific meta post). $\endgroup$ – user170039 Apr 8 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ I am a bit puzzled by the idea of changing what is voted on after the vote started: Of course in theory users can change the vote, but they might not realize. In any case if one would want to organize a vote a dedicated thread would be the way to go. $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 8 at 18:57
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I don't know how many people share my view, but I think if it is a minority it is certainly not a small one based on the vote counts of the answers to this question at this time.

I don't think there should be any autofilters to remove hot network questions, and I also don't think any moderators should be tampering with the hot network questions manually. In practice, what ends up remaining are what the moderators think are good questions, and this is not what moderators are for. Moderators are not supposed to impose their views, they are there to handle exceptional problems that regular users cannot deal with. I don't count certain types of questions being on the list of hot network questions as being exceptional problems.

The terms to filter out that have been proposed are, in my opinion, ludicrously general. I'd be happy to review examples provided by the moderators that they think warranted removal, but the probability that I'll disagree is very close to $1$, especially considering this list.

On prompting by a moderator I will note that I disagree with having a list at all since I don't think hot network questions should be filtered out, period. I think the algorithm should be allowed to select the questions.

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    $\begingroup$ There is a filter already, called MathJax. It was used, repeatedly, before the existence of the current moderator tool. I will provide you a small sample of examples tomorrow morning, if you'd like. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 11 at 21:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf Abused you mean. And sure, you can provide a list of examples that I'll probably disagree with. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Matt Samuel Apr 11 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ @MattSamuel that's however not at all what they do. Further, On your other remark of 'I concede' that misses the point. The point was that as a matter of fact since many years questions actively are removed from the HNQ via title edits. This undermines "Until recently moderators had no power to remove questions from the list and no one was harmed." since as a matter of fact everybody in the know had the power to remove and users (including mods) did make use of this when they thought it useful. $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 11 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ Matt, abusing the MathJax "hack" would be just adding ${}$ to remove a question from the HNQ. Calling a systematic improvement and clarification of the titles an abuse is ridiculous. Nobody was abusing the MathJax hack. You are free to peruse the Data Explorer lists of questions removed from the HNQ. Yes, I am quite aggressive in my use of this feature, and you may not agree with all of it. But there are plenty of questions that were closed or edited (to have MathJax in the title) by the time I see them (at which point I normally remove from HNQ to ensure nobody reverses the edits). $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 12 at 0:30
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    $\begingroup$ Half your answer is off-topic, even though as I mentioned in another comment can contain valid points. More precisely, this bit: "and I also don't think any moderators should be tampering with the hot network questions manually." up to "(...) exceptional problems." The autofilter would, as I mentioned elsewhere, do the opposite of what you mention there. The rest of the answer seems to read as "I disagree. Well, maybe on a case by case basis there could be something, but I would disagree too probably." $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Apr 12 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ You never justify why you disagree with a list. You only justify why moderators shouldn't handle it manually, which is again not the topic in question. In fact, saying that moderators shouldn't handle it manually is arguably a point in favor to the idea of a blacklist. $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Apr 12 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ You insist that "the algorithm" must be allowed to decide, an algorithm that was devised by humans (by the way, do you know what it does?). These humans decided at some points that this algorithme will filter out every question from our site whose title contains the symbol $. Now, we are discussing whether we might ask those same humans to modify the algorithm to filter out based on something else. Why is it better that we do not participate in the fine tuning of the algorithm? $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 12 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ @MattSamuel Thanks. So you think that the algorithm does a fine job by itself? More precisely, you think that (with probability close to one) there are no filters that the community could do that would improve the algorithm's selections? That seems a bold claim, since the algorithm is devised for use in a wide array of different sites with different needs. I find it realistic for someone to defend few or very specific words. But no words seems quite unrealistic and an ideological standpoint with no pragmatic basis. $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Apr 12 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ @MattSamuel The algorithm was done by people. Its selection criteria devised by people at some point, it is not god sent. People which, most likely, have far lesser insight in to what might be mathematically positive or not to be displayed than the community of a mathematics website. And the best course of action is to leave it as is? $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Apr 12 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ @quid I personally don't think MathJax should be filtered out, but as far as I know we have no control over that, so I don't argue with that. I can't reasonably get behind there being a list of regular expressions to filter out when these suggestions are the ones that are given. I can't think of anything that actually should be filtered out, including, in my opinion, MathJax, which I think was filtered out due to reluctance to have MathJax rendered in the list of links. $\endgroup$ – Matt Samuel Apr 12 at 17:18
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Let's say I agree there should be filters. What should be filtered out? Something that would identify the question as spam or something to that effect. Your list of words excludes mostly elementary questions which could be perfectly good. And I don't intend to focus on them being elementary either; even if they aren't, titles of perfectly good questions could contain those words. Continued... $\endgroup$ – Matt Samuel Apr 12 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Your insistence that the titles should contain MathJax instead of these words is heavily biased in that you have a strong preference for most questions not to be on the hot network questions list, given your aggressive use of the removal feature. $\endgroup$ – Matt Samuel Apr 12 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ @quid I'm looking mostly at Theo Bendit's answer, which is +23/-14 (by your measure). I suppose though that it is mostly against the proposed list, as I am. I think though that if we think some terms should be filtered out of hot network questions, then they should be bad enough to filter out of all questions, and we might as well put them on the blacklist. Given that we don't actually have a blacklist and just have warnings, it seems that we don't think anything is quite that bad. $\endgroup$ – Matt Samuel Apr 12 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila You said there were no abuses of MathJax to remove questions from the HNQ list. That example there is one. There's absolutely no need to use MathJax when the only math in the title is numbers, and the only possible reason is to remove it from the HNQ list. $\endgroup$ – Matt Samuel Apr 12 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf The tour of the site says high quality answers are upvoted and rise to the top. If you don't trust the voting habits of the community and think you always know better, you're being a dictator of content, not a moderator. $\endgroup$ – Matt Samuel Apr 13 at 0:04
-13
$\begingroup$

Please consider upvoting this post if you agree with having the filter for the HNQ & by removing only the following words in list. Else downvote.

  • question

  • the following

  • urgent

  • opinion

  • please

  • help

(Feel free to suggest more words to be removed from the HNQ, they might be taking into consideration for the creation of a new list (new poll post)).

| |
$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ See, now this is a problem with your comment. Suppose that I vote this up now, yes? And tomorrow someone suggests that "the following" should stay in the filtered list, and you agree and amend this list. Now I voted on removing "the following", but now it seems that I voted to keep it. So what's the alternative, then? We start a new poll on each amendment? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 10 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ @lonestudent ?. $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 10 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ So the plan is to essentially fill this page with answers to the point where any reasonable discussion is impossible instead of first seeing if there is a support of a list? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 10 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila how would be difficult to see which one has more upvotes? $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 10 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ @lonestudent then why would they downvote :), that's not nice. $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 10 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Magic_Isa: Because if I upvote your answer, but then tomorrow I realise that "opinion" should be filtered out, then we either need to edit your post, which we agreed is a bad thing; or post a new one, but then my vote is still counted on your post, so what is it really? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 10 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila ah. you're right. You could tell me then, and I edit so you can change your vote $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 10 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know now, what's best? idk what's more practical idk $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 10 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ And what about people who voted your answer, but didn't bother to check again, or came back three days later and found 10 more optional lists? No, I don't think they are going to sit through them and vote on them. If anything, it is better to have a separate answer for each word, and another answer for "No autofilters, thank you". Again, this is why I didn't want to rush into polling before ironing out the details. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 10 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila oh ok, so now voting on words.. no chunks nor lists, words. ok. $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 10 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ Chunks are similar to words, voting on a chunk (say, 3-4 words) you can then have comments that let you vote on individual words below it. With a list of 17 words, that would amount to 4-5 chunks, and will ultimately be more orderly. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 10 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila I think the 'votes on the comments for the words' it's not a good idea. Just look, how many comments are all around all the posts.. no way it's gonna be clear, the opposite, confusing $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 10 at 17:33
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If only there was some policy of comment removal below these polling answers... huh. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 10 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ Also: pls, plz and their uppercase of all of them $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 11 at 2:17
  • $\begingroup$ I've to say that this answer, mine:), has $-12$ very well deserved downvotes. I regret including some words. $\endgroup$ – allesia_b Apr 14 at 20:27

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