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I would like to know why What is the origin of "playing into someone's hands"? was removed from the HNQ1 list. According to the guidance given in this post

In general, we recommend that you exclude questions that attract negative attention to your sites, that is, questions that are controversial, start large amounts of debate or arguments or even edit wars. Removing a question should not be a substitute for fixing it! Remember that it may take several hours for a moderator to respond to a flag so do what you can, first:

  • If the title seems click-baity or doesn't adequately describe the question, edit it!
  • If the body is full of spelling or grammatical errors, fix them!
  • If the body contains unnecessary detail or salacious content, see if it can be removed without impacting the question.
  • If the question is unclear or broad, vote to close it. In most cases it will be better to close a question and wait for it to be improved rather than asking for it to be removed.

This tool is a big gun and should be used sparingly. Don't reach for it if you think the question can be fixed.

this question did not attract negative attention: it was not controversial, did not start large amounts of debates and there were no edit wars. The question was closed once, but it was edited (and really well too) and reopened (after which it became a hot network question). The and tagged question surely "made the site look good to visitors" and even attracted an answer from an expert.

P.S. It was a Hot Network Question for almost two days, just about one day short of being automatically removed from the list.


1 For new users visiting this site, HNQ stands for Hot Network Questions.

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    Maybe removing a question that gratuitously used a political quote to ask about the origin of a phrase headed a lot of that negative attention off at the pass.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 3 at 17:13
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    @ColleenV: Most of the posters on ELU ask questions on stuff they come across. I don't think OP specifically picked a political quote; I've come across a lot of new phrases when reading news articles. Plus, there wasn't any visible negative attention anywhere, and there still isn't. I'm quite sure the question would at least have downvotes if viewers had a problem with the quote.
    – Justin
    Apr 3 at 17:50
  • It’s not that the quote was a problem for ELU. The question was well-received here. You’re asking why it’s not a good HNQ question.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 3 at 18:03
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    @ColleenV: The question was well-received network-wide (no negative attention at all, even if the question included a political quote), not just ELU.
    – Justin
    Apr 3 at 18:37
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    Probably because it was taken off the HNQ before it attracted negative attention. Regardless, the mods decoded that was not the sort of question we wanted to advertise ELU to the rest of the network with, for whatever reason.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 3 at 19:20
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    @ColleenV: 21 upvotes and 0 downvotes (in 1586 views) does not indicate any negative attention even after being on the list for almost 2 days. So I don't see how the question could've attracted any negative attention after that at all.
    – Justin
    Apr 3 at 19:31
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    Politics? Offensive? Vulgar? Low quality? There's no real reason for having it removed from the HNQ, unless the Q received two or more flags and the mod who undertook the decision prefers not to provoke a diatribe. I will say this, removing attention from Sven Yarg's answer, which was posted a few days later, was detrimental.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 4 at 10:27
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    One tip, avoid asking questions on meta about posts where you have posted an answer yourself. Sometimes it can be interpreted as sour grapes. I'm not saying this is the case here because your good answer was responsible for making it in the HNQ in the first place. The rules of HNQ are unknown to mortals but someone can create one of the most interesting questions ever on EL&U but without an answer it will never be a "hit".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 4 at 10:37
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    Related: When is it appropriate to manually remove a question from the list of Hot Network Questions? which was closed as a duplicate of Does SE have some general, non-website-specific guidelines of removing questions from the HNQ network? We're putting the power in the hands of our moderators to remove questions that don't set a good example for their sites. I recommend each site have a meta discussion with guidance for moderators about when - if ever - a question should be removed.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 4 at 10:51
  • @Mari-LouA: Yup, that's the post where I found the guidance from (quoted in my question above). I happened to revisit the question and realized that it doesn't have a reason (that I know of) to be removed from the HNQ list. I saw a few Meta SE posts saying that it's okay to raise a question on the site-meta regarding the removal of a question from the HNQ list. Regarding Sven Yargs' answer, I put up a bounty hoping to attract more attention to their answer, but I guess it didn't work too well.
    – Justin
    Apr 4 at 10:57
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    Bounties don't work any more. When I first became a member they did succeed in attracting answers and votes but when hi-rep users began abandoning the site (for whatever reason) bounties have been a waste of rep if the reason is to attract answers. Today the best way to attract attention to a question and its answer(s) is for it to hit HNQ
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 4 at 11:01
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    This is an interesting query. Only one EL&U question has been removed from the HNQ in the last 60 days, guess which one?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 4 at 11:04
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    1) The mod who removed it should answer (Andrew Leach), only they know why. 2) I don't see why this meta question was asked...it's nice to a question you answered on HNQ but that's just icing...you're not entitled to anything here. 3) the quote was political (and then possible tendentious) -and- not essential to the language question... so easy to see why Andrew removed it from HNQ and why closed initially, but also it wasn't -that- bad so easy to see it reopened.
    – Mitch
    Apr 4 at 15:49
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    @Mitch: Just because I wrote an answer doesn't mean I shouldn't ask anything about the question (someone had to ask...). Until now, no one even knew it was removed from the HNQ list. Considering very few questions get removed from the HNQ list, it seemed quite appropriate to ask why the question mentioned above was. If the political quote was a problem (which it clearly wasn't during it's time in the HNQ list), I think it could have been truncated or replaced with a different quote. I don't mind the question being removed from the HNQ list, but there should be a good reason to do so.
    – Justin
    Apr 4 at 16:28
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    A question is not entitled to be on the HNQ. That list has only a few spots open for each site, and there are better questions than one saved by the intervention of users other than the author. I'm glad it was saved and got good answers, but the question shouldn't be advertised to the rest of the network. Now, if there were such a thing as a "you should read this answer" list, I think the answers would be contenders. Not causing controversy is too low a bar for a question intended to represent what's interesting about ELU.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 4 at 17:01

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The number of HNQ posts removed by Moderators is trivial, really trivial.
In 365 days it was just six out of a total of 499 questions.

Moderators are trusted to know what they are doing and to make informed unbiased choices. Only in cases where a user asks the moderator team about an early removal from the HNQ list should that team offer some sort of explanation. It will be too late for the question and for the answers posted but at least the community would not be constrained to guesswork.

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I think this was a preemptive removal, due to the political nature of the quote.

While a HNQ removal cannot be reversed, I encourage you to voice your opinion on this type of removal here: What should ELU's criteria be for removing a question from the HNQ list?

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  • Thanks. I did post something there, although it wasn't received well (maybe I didn't put it across properly). The point is, if moderators find content that could potentially bring negative attention to EL&U, they should either remove that content or replace it with something from a different context. If something can be easily fixed, there's no need to remove it from the HNQ. The context wasn't important, it's just that the OP came across that phrase in that context. Since OP's question was already (substantially) edited once, I'm quite sure they'd be fine if the quote was replaced too.
    – Justin
    Apr 12 at 3:15
  • You "think" it was because of the topical (and utterly innocuous) quote but you were not the one who removed the post. And there were no comments by users that mentioned the war, Putin or Biden. And there were no downvotes either. I have had HNQ questions that attracted negative attention and/or were downvoted despite the topics being neither apolitical or non-religious. They still survived the journey intact.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 12 at 7:41
  • @Justin remove the context and that question would have been closed for lack of research within hours. It would never have touched HNQ list either. It is the original source that made it interesting in the first place. The episode was mentioned and critcised worldwide and it is very likely that many non-native speakers had not heard of the idiom before. However, between removing the quote or removing the post from HNQ I much prefer the latter.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 12 at 7:58
  • @Mari-LouA: Why would it have been closed for lack of research? By context, I'm referring to the political context in which the phrase was used. This context could easily be replaced with something less controversial(?) (maybe something interesting if go look for it). The question was already in the HNQ list; replacing the quote, IMO, doesn't mean people will stop viewing the question because it's not interesting anymore. Besides, the question was already closed once for lack of research and was reopened because research was added.
    – Justin
    Apr 12 at 8:13
  • Imagine seeing the Q for the first time without the context. The OP asking what the idiom (playing into someone's hands) meant. Just the bare phrase. No context. It would have been closed for lack of research and in fact it was. I would not have blinked an eye on its closure and left it as was. When the Q was edited the meaning was included and the editor asked what was the idiom's origin and which game was being referred to. Qs that were not readily answerable. The improved Q was "interesting" with the context. Would it have hit HNQ without mentioning anything about Biden and Putin?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 12 at 8:32
  • @Mari-LouA: I understand. But Biden and Putin are not the only interesting things out there. If you really look into it, you could find many interesting quotes out there that are not political. If the moderator thought there would be negative reaction later, they could have replaced the quote with something as interesting (I know I would have), not remove the question from the list when the quote was completely irrelevant to the topic in question.
    – Justin
    Apr 12 at 8:46
  • Also, note that there are people out there who don't have an interest in politics. Heck, I didn't even read the quote before answering. The question was interesting anyway and was worth looking into.
    – Justin
    Apr 12 at 8:47
  • Anyway, you only know when a question should be taken off the list when you see the negative reaction to the post. The only comments there are, are between you and Laurel, and an on-topic, not-related-to-the-political-quote, comment by Henry.
    – Justin
    Apr 12 at 8:49
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    @Justin without the edit it would have long ago been deleted by the system. I still fail to see what was controversial about the question that quoted a piece by The Telegraph.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 12 at 8:54
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    @Mari-LouA I agree that this particular quote didn’t rise to the level of controversy where intervention was required, but these days quotes from the media can absolutely be too controversial for an HNQ question (even if they aren’t too controversial for this community), so that’s not a good yardstick. It’s hard to tell what will upset people or trigger a flood of off-topic discussion. We need to give the mod team more guidance about how we want HNQs handled, even if that guidance is “Don’t remove them unless they pose an existential threat to ELU”.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 12 at 11:54

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