I'm coming here following this question on Meta Stack Exchange.
In that post, a user highlighted this question on the main site, which shows a timeline entry for removing the question from Hot Network Questions, but doesn't show an entry for the question becoming a Hot Network Question. Also, the removal event took place before the question became eight hours old, which is a requirement to be selected for the list.
Per the original announcement of the HNQ removal feature:
At this point in time, mods can only use this tool on a post currently in the HNQ list - they can't use it preemptively to prevent a question from being added to it.
A moderator on many network sites (including Meta.SE) answered the question there that this is still not possible, but only disabled client-side and not server-side, meaning it's possible to manually execute the same call that clicking the (disabled) button would and preemptively remove questions from Hot Network Questions, even though this isn't per the design.
I've read this answer that explains the moderator's reasons for removing questions from Hot Network Questions. As far as I can best tell, this would fall under reason number 2, as it has a genuine title. However, I can't really tell what's lazy or badly phrased in the question. Also, the moderator who performed the removal themselves answered the question, which means they believe it's a good question for the site.
However, as the feature announcement points out, the feature is meant as a reactionary measure in case a question that a site doesn't want featured ends up getting featured anyway. In my view, there's no reason to stop a question that may not end up featured from appearing there in the first place.
There may also be a chance that the moderator simply clicked the button and wasn't aware that it wasn't featured, i.e. they saw the question, figured it shouldn't be on the list, and didn't check to see if it was on the list in the first place. Perhaps they installed a user script that re-enables the button a long time ago, which makes sense given that this bug existed for a short while.
So my questions here can be split into two families:
- Why was the question removed from Hot Network Questions? Again, I don't really understand how it falls into the bucket of lazy or badly-phrased questions with genuine titles, or if it's in a different bucket instead.
- Why was it deemed necessary to pre-emptively remove the question from the list, even though it never appeared on it in the first place? Was the moderator aware that it wasn't on the list and wasn't yet eligible to appear on it? Would they have any opinion on the design restriction being enforced server-side?