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Earlier today, the question Taking college classes to avoid student loan payments indefinitely was manually removed from the Hot Network Questions list by a mod.

Why was this done?

What criteria do our mods use when deciding to manually remove questions from the HNQ?

How often is this done to questions on our site?

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Because not all questions are good. When the OP first posted

My sister-in-law is an idiot and has decided she wants to take part time college classes so she doesn't have to make payments on her private student loan

I resisted the impulse to close the question. Even after the kind edits, I took a moment to find -

From ConsumerFinance.gov

When do I need to start paying my private student loans? Unlike federal student loans, each private loan has its own repayment process.

Some private loans require payments while you are in school. Other private loans let you delay your first payment for a period of time – called a “grace period” – similar to the feature offered by most federal student loans. Contact your loan servicer for more information or refer to your original loan documents.

which ultimately became a case of "You should speak to the lender." You answered it basically that way. We still disagree about the value of HNQ, and I still maintain that some questions are best not promoted.

The other tool mods use is to protect a question when the attention from HNQ is welcome but it invites a flurry of comments and/or unhelpful answers. That was not the case here of course. This question was simply unanswerable as asked, and again, in my view, the right thing to do was leave it open, but not invite more attention to it.

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  • Thank you for responding to what probably seems like an insignificant, nit-picky question. I really do appreciate your explanation of the thought process. And I am grateful that you were able to resist the urge to close the question. :) As you can probably imagine, I do disagree with some of what you have written. I will be posting a response as an answer shortly. Jul 30 at 16:49
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This answer is a response to JTP's answer.

First, I agree that the question should not be closed or protected. The question is undoubtedly on-topic. And anything that could be construed as unkind was edited out of the question (not by a mod) less than 5 minutes from posting. So there really isn't a problem there, either.

I disagree with your assertion that this is not a good question. You insinuate that the question was too easy, that it only took you a moment to find the answer, but in fact, it is not obvious to everyone, and this is evidenced by the fact that an incorrect answer was posted before mine. You also call the question "unanswerable," which is also not true. Informing the OP that private loans do not have standard terms is indeed exactly the answer she needed. Remember that people post questions that they don't know the answer to. When a question is asked with a mistaken premise, that does not make it a bad question, and it does not make it unanswerable. The correct answer is to correct the premise and teach the OP something new. The OP apparently found my answer helpful, because she accepted it.

Now, let's talk about the HNQ. The HNQ is a way for our site to be promoted across the Stack Exchange network. Our site is not the most popular site on Stack Exchange, and by having links to questions on the HNQ, it brings new attention and participation to our site. Isn't that a good thing? It doesn't really even matter what the question is that is being linked. A user on Stack Overflow will read the title and find it interesting, and click on it, bringing them to our site. Then they read the question and perhaps learn something new, and perhaps see what else is on our site.

That is exactly the kind of free publicity we need. We should celebrate every time one of our questions trends, and it doesn't really matter what the question is. It costs us nothing.

When you manually remove a question from the HNQ, it does absolutely nothing positive for our site. You say you don't want to promote that question, but it's not like that means that another one of our questions that you do like will automatically appear. Trending happens organically and is out of our control. If you remove us from the HNQ, a question from a different site will appear in its place.

I can imagine a scenario where a particular question might need to be removed from the HNQ, but it would be very rare. We've talked about potentially removing "sugar daddy" questions from the HNQ as those could be seen as inappropriate when seen out of context on other sites. Maybe there would be some question in the future that would be an embarrassment to our site for some reason, and for whatever reason it could not be closed. But just you not liking a question is not enough, in my opinion, to sabotage this avenue of promotion of our site as a whole.

In my opinion, mods should not be attempting to use their power to remove questions from the HNQ to try to manipulate what gets promoted on the site. It is not possible; a mod cannot choose what will be popular, and removing something from the HNQ that is not causing a legitimate problem hurts the site.

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  • For the record, I am the up-vote. Not that I agree, but I respect your view. 38 views so far and zero votes on the question itself tells me that there’s little interest in this issue. I’d actually be happier to have seen a quick dozen upvotes, agreeing with the concern. “Wow, if members feel strongly about this, I’ll change my ways.” Now, it’s more “no one cares either way.” Asking you - is it possible there’s a question that’s in the gray area, where a member is conflicted about voting to close, but there’s the action of removing from HNQ that is warranted? Jul 30 at 19:53
  • @JTP I'm not just saying this to be difficult: I truly don't understand the concept of why we would want to take any question out of the HNQ, whether or not it is a "good" question. If we don't want people to visit our site, why are we doing this at all? I want people to visit our site, read our questions and answers, and upvote things to show that they are learning and finding interesting writing. Are people envious when they see other users' questions and answers get upvotes? I can't think of another reason why people would be upset to see something become popular on our site. Jul 30 at 22:17
  • You did not answer my question? Is there a question that’s just on-topic enough to stay, but bad enough to just remove from HNQ (but leave open)? Shall we remove a question from HNQ when the question itself has been closed as duplicate? (I don’t even know if this is automatic, it may be). Jul 30 at 22:51
  • @JTP A question that is closed will disappear from the HNQ; there is no need to manually remove it. And if a question is good enough to leave open, I don't understand why anyone would want it to be removed from the HNQ. What problems are solved by doing that? To explicitly answer your question, I have listed possible exceptions in my answer above: Something with a title that might be inappropriate appearing on another site (i.e. sugar daddy) or maybe something that is showing our site in a negative light. This question is neither of those. Jul 30 at 23:05
  • Ok. I pledge to no longer do this. I no longer kill off old closed questions. I will refrain from this particular action as well. I will treat you with the same deference as a fellow mod, given your 100k rep. Jul 30 at 23:12
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    Potential downsides of having things on HNQ have been extensively discussed on other SE sites and on meta.stackexchange - for example it skews voting and hence which questions/answers seem "good", and HNQs are often not representative of the site as a whole so it's not necessarily helpful that it draws other people in. For example see this opinion here. Jul 31 at 10:07
  • @GS Thank you for pointing me to that answer. I can understand it, but I don’t agree. It sounds very elitist to me: that the HNQ brings undesirables to our site who don’t like the same things that we like, and they vote on the wrong questions. Instead, I see it like this: The HNQ brings people who aren’t normally on our site here, and they can learn something new, and we get to see it happen. I like seeing that. The high vote counts then show us which questions were found to be the most interesting by the most people, which is not bad. Jul 31 at 10:40
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    As a site, we want both high quality and lots of users, and sometimes there are trade-offs between the two. Personally I don't have a problem with being elitist if the focus is on content rather than people. I certainly wouldn't want to even mentally classify people who come via HNQ as "undesirables". Jul 31 at 11:38
  • @GS Having high vote counts on any question that some of us might see as “not the best” does not mean that the quality of our site is suffering. If you let go of the idea that the vote counts rank our posts from best to worst (which is not true anyway) and instead see vote counts as an indication of how many people have enjoyed and learned from the post (which is much closer to the truth), then it won’t bother you as much when a post you personally don’t like gets high votes. I like to see what the larger SE public finds interesting, and I don’t like seeing it get squashed. Jul 31 at 22:28

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