Why does the "Hot" tab have not "Hot" questions?


Mathematics SE has its Top Questions laid out on its home page. On the top right we have 5 buttons to sort: Interesting (Default), Bountied, Hot, Week, Month.

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From what I've figured out, interesting applies to most questions, bountied applies to questions that are, well, bountied, hot applies to good and popular questions, week applies to questions with the most views in a week, etc.


I took a visit to the Hot tab a today and was greeted by the following:

Hot Tab not so Hot

If you haven't already spotted it, here's my concern:

(1) Of the 48 Questions on the Hot tab, only 22 have a score of 1 or more.

Why do I care? Well, if there's anything my advanced calculus class taught me, it's that 22/48 is less than 50% :) - that is, over 50% of the questions on the hot tab have a score of 0 or lower (in fact the first 7 questions (which are the first to appear when you click the tab) are all 0 or lower, as shown in my screenshot.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see why MSE should classify questions with scores of 0 or under as "Hot", much less 50% of the category. Considering the fact that scores of less than -1 are usually reserved for spam, having a question with a score of -2 as the first question on the hot tab doesn't seem right.

(2) If the "Hot" category is sorted based on the number of views it has (which I feel is the reasoning behind the "Week" and "Month" categories, then why are some of the questions in there possessing less than 15 views?

For reference, from my personal experience, that's about the amount of views my questions have seem to have gotten in the first 10 minutes of going up; not exactly "hot", if I do say so myself.


Maybe I've simply come on a bad day, maybe it isn't usually like this. But is there some improvement that can be made?

  • 19
    $\begingroup$ Ahh, the subtle hit of irony - this question is currently appearing on the side of MSE under "Hot Meta Posts" 🤣 $\endgroup$
    – global05
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 8:39
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ The question is, does this prove or disprove my point? 🤔 $\endgroup$
    – global05
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 8:42
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You learned that 22/48<50% in Advanced Calculus class??? $\endgroup$
    – Taladris
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 4:25
  • $\begingroup$ Mmhmm! Advanced Calculus class, really tested my knowledge didn't it? 🤣 $\endgroup$
    – global05
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 5:08

1 Answer 1


The formula for the Hottest Questions tab is here on Meta Stack Exchange:

$$\frac{4\log(\text{number of views}) + \frac{\text{number of answers} + \text{question score}}{5} + \sum_\text{answers}\text{answer score}} {\left(1+\text{question age in hours} - \frac{\text{question age in hours} - \text{last question update age in hours}}{2}\right)^{1.5}}$$

The source doesn't tell which base the logarithm is in ...

It seems to favour questions which were posted very recently and have a decent number of views above those which have been on the site for a bit longer. The formula hasn't been changed much since 2009(!) so perhaps it's time for an update. Or maybe it still works decently for Stack Overflow but not for other sites in the network?

  • 17
    $\begingroup$ But thanks for digging this up. The issue I have with this formula is that the age is counted in hours. Oversimplifying it a bit: given that my timezone is 8 hours ahead of a representative US timezone, my question may not be seen by "the masses" until it is 8 hours old. Meaning that my questions is "born" with a handicap factor of $5^{3/2}\approx 11$ in comparison to a question posted in US "prime time". It is not easy to come up with a formula that would take this into account, and admittedly that figure is exaggerated, but timezone effects have been a pet peeve of mine. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 7:58
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ On the other hand, not that many people use the Hot Questions tab [citation needed] ... $\endgroup$
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 8:00
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ LOL ${}{}{}{}{}$ $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 8:06
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Ahh, the subtle hit of irony - this question is currently appearing on the side of MSE under "Hot Meta Posts" 🤣 $\endgroup$
    – global05
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Glorfindel Presumably the "Hot Network Questions" are computed using this formula (as they use the word "hot"), and I guess it also affects the twitter feed? So although the tab itself may not be used, the formula has an impact beyond it. $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 13:46
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @user1729 no, that's another formula: meta.stackexchange.com/a/61343/295232 $\endgroup$
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 13:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Oh, interesting! However, the formula still has the same flaw which Jyrki illustrated. $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 14:20
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ it'd be fun if you wrote $2009!$ on math.metaSE :P $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen I guess some sort of userscript that could time when a question is posted could partially address this. $\endgroup$
    – Tyberius
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 17:04

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