185

I asked a question on meta about hiding the "hot network questions" element on stackoverflow.com. One of the comment replies was that the "hot network questions" is basically a way for Stack Overflow to keep me on the site longer even to the point of distracting me from why I originally came here (to get an answer to a technical question/to answer technical questions and raise my stack score).

It is always in your eyeline, except on certain pages like settings/question formatting page with no way to disable it/modify it.

So if you think about it in that context, is it a dark pattern? In my opinion this is similar to a persuasive pattern that becomes a dark pattern when you take away user choice... similar to how Quora shows you other questions in the middle of reading answers to a question.

Edit(March 16th, 2019)Stack ended up adding the ability to remove HNQ- https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/325060/updating-the-hot-network-questions-list-now-with-a-bit-more-network-and-a-litt?cb=1

  • 271
    Hey, you are distracting me by posting a question listed in the HNQ! – Jost Feb 11 at 11:36
  • 46
    If you have an adblocker and you want to hide the HNQ, you can filter out id hot-network-questions. – Chris Cirefice Feb 11 at 12:17
  • 35
    HNQs often feels like clickbait to me since the questions often have weird titles if you don't know their context (especially questions from world building or about games), though I'm not sure if it counts as dark pattern to intentionally leave out the context. – kapex Feb 11 at 12:54
  • 8
    You distracted me from my work with this question trough the HNQ Section... I'll now go back and read the answers for my problem I currently have at work. :D – Mischa Feb 11 at 13:11
  • 42
    I've literally seen this as a Hot Network Question. Personally, I honestly appreciate how they feed intellectual curiosity. – AJFaraday Feb 11 at 15:30
80

No, it's not a dark pattern at all. Neither by definition, nor by interaction. As JonW clearly said, no one is cheating on you to do something that will affect your intention.

However...

At UX, we work with data to create and improve user engagement. To do this, we use placements, colors, content hierarchies and other "tricks" if you want to call them that. These tricks are based on cognitive and behavioral psychology and a deep understanding of the behaviors of users.

So it's easy to see why you think you're being cheated: because they're using tricks to keep you engaged. And it seems to work, but at the same time you can say that you are being manipulated by the site (and yes, you are, like everyone else, that's the idea)

But saying all of the above, this is not a dark pattern, because you are not being forced and there is nothing hidden. You are presented with a set of options with which you can choose to participate. Or not.

It's like presenting a table full of tasty food, and they tell you that you're free to eat whatever you want. It is up to you whether to do it or not, there is no dark pattern at all, but it is a little worrisome that you (and others) find this as a dark pattern, because that implies one of the most important factors in measuring the effectiveness of a site: trust.

Finally, going to the HNQ

They are doing this for you to get involved with other sites on the network. This way, visitors are "cloned", and SE can show engagement values that are real and important to advertisers and investors. The same unique user becomes a different user when interacting with different sub-sites, and the retargeting can be made depending on the different sub-sites and interests for that unique user. We're talking traction and engagement here, and that defines the value of Stack Exchange as a business

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    i like this answer because it actually explains why it isn't a dark pattern vs pointing to a list of examples and saying it doesn't fit or that no one is holding a gun to my head to click HNQs – kkarakk Feb 12 at 5:17
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    Interesting. Your answer explains why it is a dark pattern but concludes that it's not. You acknowledge that the box is a distraction but defend that as some sort of clever idea. Any UX element which tricks the user into doing something that they're not intending to do is a negative thing. I generally add a custom CSS sheet to hide the HNQ box but it sometimes gets deleted during upgrades, which ironically, is how I spotted this question in the HNQ box. And true to the dark pattern aspect, I've now wasted 10 minutes on this. – Nagora Feb 12 at 9:38
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    @Nagora I really don't see where did I say it's a dark pattern. I actually said the exact opposite! – Devin Feb 12 at 18:00
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    @Devin I'd argue that "using tricks to keep you engaged" often falls under the definition of dark pattern if in that particular situation "keeping engaged" is not in the best interests of the user but is implemented to further the behavior desired by the site owner. Even if they weren't forced but just smartly, efficiently nudged to choose that option, it's still manipulation. Intent matters, as does the expected desireability (from user perspective) of the resulting behavior - if the users prefer "being engaged" that way, it's a good thing, and if they resent afterwards, then it's not okay. – Peteris Feb 12 at 21:35
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    It's a bit insane that some people here are equating simple appeal with dark patterns. By that metric, all engaging UX is a dark pattern. – Matthew Read Feb 13 at 22:22
128

No, it's not a dark pattern. You're not being tricked or forced into doing something that prevents your intended action.

Dark Patterns are about being tricked into doing something you otherwise don't want to do. Such as not unticking a checkbox that's hidden away and inadvertently signing up for a newsletter, or interrupting your current action to present an alternative, non-desired action (such as popping up a video you have to watch to continue reading the article). At no point on Stack Exchange are you prevented from continuing your task, nor are you forced into navigating somewhere by accident without knowing where you're going to end up.

The 'hot questions' section is just more content across the network and presented as a way of increasing your awareness of those other content areas. No different from Amazon doing a 'often purchased together' suggestion of product, or a news page suggesting other articles.

You could potentially make the argument that they count as clutter or a distraction, but that's not a dark pattern.

Basically, Hot Network Questions are no more a dark-pattern than banner adverts.

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    @kkarakk You aren't being tricked into clicking them though. Being mildly distracting isn't a dark pattern. You know what's going to happen if you click on those links. You aren't forced to click one in order to continue reading the current page, they don't suddenly appear just as you're about to click elsewhere. As I say, they might be considered clutter or just visual noise, but that is a different issue to dark patterns. See these examples: darkpatterns.org/types-of-dark-pattern. Side bar content doesn't constitute any of these. – JonW Feb 11 at 13:23
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    @kkarakk It seems that your question was not looking for an actual answer, but more validation as to your definition of what Dark Pattern is. I have provided description as well as links that cover off what Dark Patterns are, but I cannot force you to accept them. – JonW Feb 11 at 13:58
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    @kkarakk by that argument the entirety of TV Tropes is a Dark Pattern. – aslum Feb 11 at 13:58
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    @kkarakk First, you're assuming your opinion on the HNQ is the same for everyone. I, for one, enjoy clicking through the different networks and reading interesting Q&As so to me it's not something I "don't want to do", I SEEK this out. Second, if distracting you from the single "main purpose" (whatever that may be, apparently ask/answer QA) then practically everything is a dark pattern; creating accounts, commenting, upvotes, privacy policies, etc. All of which are something I didn't "seek out" but cetainly aren't dark patterns. – DasBeasto Feb 11 at 15:27
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    If HNQ are a dark pattern, then literally all of Wikipedia is, too. So many rabbit holes. – Ian MacDonald Feb 12 at 1:34
44

I would say yes. If the only intention of the HNQ area was to advertise other StackExchange sites, they could have used neutral links, such as "Learning Japanese? Visit this site" "Love math? Visit this other site".

However, by displaying questions designed to pique one's curiosity (answers hidden behind a click, like a cliffhanger), the user is guided towards a stream of pointless dopamine shots. For every answer they read, they are presented with five new questions.

When I google a question, I arrive at StackExchange sites with a very specific purpose. The makers of this site know this and try to redirect me. If the intentionally addictive UX of social media and mobile games (arguably) counts as a dark pattern, then why not this?

Exploiting the curiosity of users to serve more ads is relatively harmless, but I'm not the first person to consider this kind of engagement hacking a dark pattern. It also reminds me of the concept of "nerd sniping", coined by xkcd.

Edit: To be clear, I wouldn't consider the HNQ area on the front page a dark pattern. The purpose of the front page is to let users explore the site/network. I only object to placement and design of the HNQ block next to actual answers, especially on sites focused on professional knowledge, like StackOverflow.

One more analogy: Placing candy at supermarket checkouts, where customers will get bored, was/is very effective. Nobody wants to stop supermarkets from selling sweets altogether, but the intentional placement makes it a dark pattern in context.

(Ironically, I was demonstrating how to hide the HNQ after a friend brought up the issue of being distracted by it. Then I saw this very question in the HNQ.)

  • 27
    > the makers of this site know this -- not necessarily. I, for one, don't mind and quite like HNQ and I do sometimes come to the site explicitly to read them for entertainment and curiosity. So I view them as valid and occasionally useful tidbits. Why would the makers of SE prioritize your view over mine and should they? – Gnudiff Feb 11 at 14:22
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    Fair enough. I can only extrapolate from my own experience, but when I search for a specific question and end up on StackOverflow, I never benefit from the HNQ. When I want to be entertained, I go to the front page, where I don't mind the large HNQ area at all because they support me in what I'm trying to do. – jlnr Feb 11 at 15:16
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    @JonH I actually used AdBlock to block the HNQ, precisely for the reason not to be distracted. – justhalf Feb 11 at 17:09
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    My point is we cannot blame that specific implementation to a bad pattern, you let yourself be distracted with wandering eyes. This happens in the real world outside of computers as well. – JonH Feb 11 at 17:12
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    I explicitly come to stackoverflow for the HNQ – SztupY Feb 11 at 17:35
19

In my opinion no. However, I do feel that the design is flawed due to lacking an option to quickly toggle its visibility.

As mentioned by @JonW, by my understanding of the definition merely distracting you doesn't make something a Dark Pattern. If you examine the provided examples, you will notice that each one actively attempts to decieve you.

In contrast, while the HNQ bar succeds in distracting many users including myself, it isn't in any way deceptive. If you choose to click on it, there's no mystery about where it will take you. Furthermore, it also has merits.

  • It serves the interests of the StackExchange community by increasing engagement.
  • It serves the interests of the StackExchange company by advertising other network sites to you and presumably increasing time spent interacting with the network as a whole.

If anything, I would classify the current form of the HNQ bar as clickbait. And similar to other clickbait advertisements, I typically choose to hide it by employing filtering rules similar to those mentioned in one of the answers to the previously linked question.

stackoverflow.com###hot-network-questions
stackexchange.com###hot-network-questions

As far as UX goes though, I'll note that in my view if the user feels compelled to filter first party content then the design has serious flaws. It's just that in this case, it doesn't happen to be flawed in the specific way you were asking about.

  • 1
    This answer is exactly what I came here to say. I did the developer survey today and one thing that I mentioned was that it would be nice to have an option to tun off HNQ sidebar. – Quentin Skousen Feb 12 at 0:16
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    "It serves the interests of the StackExchange community by increasing engagement." Measuring user good via engagement is a bit like measuring the good of restaurant customers by how much they eat. At some point, more engagement is to their detriment. If users' interests were put first, every tool that encourages engagement (movie suggestions, "follow this person", "see this hot question", etc) would have an off switch. Just like you can tell the waiter "no thanks" and they don't keep begging you to buy desert. – Nathan Long Feb 14 at 19:26
12

As someone who has been drawn into spending more time than anticipated in the wormhole of the various stack exchange sites, I would argue that it does seem to be a way to get users drawn further into the site, but probably not explicitly a dark pattern. A dark pattern generally seems to describe an effort to take things other than the user's time, more like a website that tricks you into signing up for emails or paid subscriptions against your will. It is something of a gray area, perhaps.


This is admittedly not a direct answer to the OP's question, but it would be nice to be able to "turn off" the Hot Network Questions, an option which the site does not provide. A simple way to eliminate them is using a greasemonkey/tampermonkey script.

I have one that consists of just the following:

// ==UserScript==
// @name        hide-stackexchange-hot
// @include     *.stackexchange.com/*
// @include     https://stackoverflow.com/*
// @description Hides the hot network questions on Stack Exchange sites
// @require     http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/2.1.0/jquery.min.js
// @grant       GM_addStyle
// ==/UserScript==

$('#hot-network-questions').remove();

It is effectively just a single useful line of code, which finds div tags with an ID of "hot-network-questions" and removes them from the page. Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension, and Tampermonkey is the chrome equivalent; both allow the source code of pages to be edited automatically by some prescribed code.

PS: I would have submitted this as a comment, but lack seniority to do so and would not be able to format my reply.

  • 1
    You may want to add, that you can add the ID to your adblocker, if you do not want to install Greasemonkey/Tampermonkey just for one short script. – allo Feb 12 at 9:32
5

The answers to your question all seem to hinge on where the answerer draws the line for calling something a dark pattern. So let's sidestep terminology, and get to the underlying questions. 'Dark patterns' are unethical patterns, so that makes the underlying questions: Is an always-on HNQ sidebar an ethical choice? Who benefits, who suffers, and is this balance fair? Are there other, fairer, choices available?

In other words: let's consider the ethics of the decision to have an always-on HNQ element!


Up-front disclosure: I myself suffer from attention dysregulation. I found that I consistently fell for certain links in the sidebar, lost time, and came away unhappy that I had fallen for attractive links. My current solution is that I have blocked the SX's for Workplace, Interpersonal, RPG, Worldbuilding, and Scifi in my /etc/hosts. This works about 90% of the time. The saved attention literally makes a material difference in my day-to-day happiness.

Anyway, to get back to the point: this means that the viewpoint of distractible users (including people with ADD, ADHD, autism) is definitely represented below, because I am familiar with our problems. Contrariwise, I may have underrepresented the viewpoints of others. For the latter, I apologise in advance. For the former, I make no apologies.

Ethical analysis

So the framework below is not, in any way, official. It is based on a half-remembered ethics lecture -- I think the thingy discussed was called 'moral claims framework', but Googling doesn't turn up any ringing bells. As I was summarizing each question I saw the words formed a sentence, so let's call this system Who needs what consequences justified?

  1. Who? Identify the parties involved. This is every party that can be affected by the decision: from individual users to society-at-large.
  2. Needs? Identify the moral claims of each party: interests that are important to them, they are reasonably entitled to, and which should be respected if possible
  3. What? Lay out the alternative courses of action.
  4. Consequences? For each course of action, how does it distribute the benefits (respect moral claims) and burdens over the parties?
  5. Justified? Here is where we compare the courses of action, using standard questions like
    • Does it achieve the desired purpose?
    • Do the benefits outweight the harm?
    • Is the action the least restrictive and the least intrusive?
    • Can the action be justified to an outside audience?

Who are the parties involved?

  • Stack Overflow (SO), the company behind the Stack Exchange network.
  • SO's investors
  • Users who use the Stack Exchange network (SX), and I'd like to pick out three important (intersecting) subgroups:
  • Users who use SX for entertainment (let's say fun-users)
  • Users who use SX for help (let's say help-users)
  • Users who find it hard to regulate their attention (distractible users)

Needs: what needs, or moral claims, does each party have?

  • The Stack Overflow company:
  • SO's investors:
    • to make a profit on their investment without hurting others
  • All users in general:
    • the continued existence of the SX site and community
    • the opportunity to contribute (knowledge or fun) to SX
    • a site that is pleasant to use
  • Fun-users:
    • to find fun questions and answers
    • to be able to step away when they need to
  • Help-users:
    • to find answers to questions
    • to be able to post new questions and get answers
  • Distractible users:
    • the ability to use the site as they intend to, rather than as the site intends them to.

What: are the alternative courses of action available?

(This could also be a good place to list each action's likely consequences; right now, the secondary effects are kind of smooshed in with the 'benefits and burdens' analysis of effects, below.)

  • HNQs between the questions
  • always-on Hot Network Questions (HNQ) sidebar
  • togglable HNQ (on by default)
  • togglable HNQ (off by default)
  • no HNQ available at all.

Effects: how do the various courses of action affect the needs of the various parties?

Because I don't want to write a wall of semi-repetitive text, I'm going to evaluate the current situation (always-on HNQ) in detail as the baseline case, and then describe the other courses of action relative to always-on HNQ.

The always-on HNQ:

  • For SO:
    • Allows SO to make as much profits as they like, by making attention capture more likely, and thus advertisements more expensive. Whether this doesn't hurt others will come out in the rest of this analysis.
    • Is not necessary for SO's need to earn enough money to exist. AFAIK they had no (ad) traffic complaints before the HNQ was introduced.
    • Is good for the continued existence of the SX communities: introduces people to new communities, and lets them regularly encounter 'busy places' which reinforce the sense of community.
    • Is neutral to SO's 'we serve our community' need: that is mostly fulfilled by the core Q&A activity.
    • Is neutral to SO's brand identity
    • Is indifferent to SO's 'we serve our community' need; is meh for their brand identity (and kind of hurts the 'we are not Quora') need; and the extra clicks are not needed for them to break even, AFAIK.
    • Helps SO be profitable to its investors.
  • For SO's investors:
    • this satisfies their claim on profits.
    • It has no downsides that affect them, AFAICT.
  • For general users:
    • Would benefit their need for lively SX communities: see the 'new communities & busy places' point for SO, above.
    • Would not really give them opportunities to contribute: adding more eyeballs to the same few already-hot questions means the questions have mostly already been answered.
    • Does not make the site much more or less pleasant to use.
  • Fun-users:
    • Benefit from this smörgåsbord of 'hot' questions.
    • Can't turn it off when they need a break, though.
  • Help-users:
    • Are only very slightly burdened by the presence of a sidebar they don't need. (They get much more use out of the 'similar questions' sidebar.)
  • Distractible users:
    • Makes it far more difficult to stick to using the site as they intended when they loaded it.
    • Burdened by constant presence of questions that were selected for their ability to attract people.
    • Even the best-case outcome is a burden: more energy spent on continuous self-policing. Worst-case: when your defences/self-awareness are low, you can lose hours in a click-what-looks-fun cycle.
    • Still benefit from the lively community / busy places.

HNQs between the questions (this is not currently the case):

Points relative to the baseline 'HNQ always on', above.

  • SO:
    • Hurts the 'we are not Quora' aspect of their brand identity.
    • Hurts the 'we are a useful service' aspect of the site
    • Benefit from extra profits.
    • Generates more money for its investors.
  • SO's investors benefit from more profits.
  • For users in general, the site would become less pleasant to use, because both pleasure-reading and help-reading would be regularly interrupted.
  • Help-users are burdened by visual clutter in the same space as the answers
  • For distractible users, this would have been the very worst action possible. The bad outcomes above, made more likely by the intrusive placement of distractions between the answers.

Togglable HNQ (on by default)

Again, points relative to the baseline 'HNQ always on', above.

  • For SO:
    • Unknown difference in profits. Not sure how many people would feel the need to turn this sidebar off.
    • Still able to turn a profit and pay their investors.
    • Unknown effect on community liveliness; but again, not sure that this was a problem before HNQ was introduced.
    • Good for the 'we serve our community' feeling, as people can add 'we respect the needs of individuals' to their feelings.
  • For fun-users: still exposed to fun stuff, but able to turn it off now if needed.
  • For help-users: hardly any difference, unless they were bothered by the sidebar.
  • For distractible users: huge benefits from being able to manage your environment, and remove sidebars from it. Makes them able to use the site as they intend to.

Togglable HNQ (off by default)

  • SO: a rather larger hit to community engagement, and to profits. People are unlikely to turn this on, or even know about it.
  • Investors: less profit.
  • Users in general:
    • still get to choose whether to opt in to the HNQ sidebar, but less likely to discover it.
    • to the extent that HNQ contributes to liveliness, probably consider that effect gone when so many less people see HNQ.
    • ... but liveliness might still be OK: there's chatrooms, and meta, and comments under questions...
  • Distractible users: this would be absolutely wonderful, pretty much no downsides.

Having no HNQ available:

  • Burdens SO by reducing profits
  • Burdens SO by reducing community liveliness
  • Slight-to-no benefit to brand identity
  • Burdens SO by making it less attractive to its investors
  • Burdens SO's investors by giving them less money than otherwise
  • Users in general benefit from a site that is pleasant to use
  • Users in general are burdened by a less obviously active site?
  • Distractible users get both previous points, but also large benefits from an environment with less distractions.

Justification: which of the options has the most justifiable tradeoff?

This piece has gone on for far too long; also, this is the most subjective bit. So instead, I'll just note my own opinion and then give you some questions to form your own opinion.

My opinion is that between the always-on HNQ and the togglable HNQ, togglable HNQ would probably achieve much the same benefits to SO & the community, while making a significant quality-of-life difference to people with attention regulation issues. Like myself.

For your own opinion, I'll just repeat the questions here.

  • Does it achieve the desired purpose?
  • Do the benefits outweigh the harm?
  • Is the action the least restrictive and the least intrusive?
  • Can the action be justified to an outside audience?
  • 1
    Thanks for the formatting edit, @V2Blast, it improved the post. Thanks! – Esteis Feb 15 at 8:44
  • No problem, glad to help! :) – V2Blast Feb 16 at 0:32
  • 1
    define [at] appropriately and import jquery and this userscript will take your HNQ troubles away gist.github.com/amaramth/4943348464ff61739481c7c23d7cb495 – amara Feb 17 at 8:23
  • @amara That is such a movingly thoughtful thing to give me... I'm getting a bit emotional here. You really live up to your bio. Thank you! 💜 – Esteis Feb 17 at 23:19
3

Other answers discuss if it can be classified as a dark pattern or not. Regardless of that, one could argue that this isn't a user-friendly practice (despite benefits such as boosting user engagement). From another Meta.SE thread discussing the hot network questions:

I think some of the answers here that suggest "Have some self control!" miss the point.

  • Given: Seeing an interesting question automatically makes some brains trigger "work on that question" (umm, citation - you know if this describes you)
  • Given: Intentionally avoiding looking at that area, or even harder, stopping the "work on that question" process, once started, requires some quantity of mental resources
  • Given: mental resources are limited (for all of us) and very valuable (for many of us)

"Have more self control" is another way of saying "use some of your limited and valuable mental resources to do X".

3

Yes, it is somewhat of dark pattern IMO. It distracted me so much I added a CSS rule to my ad blocker to block it across sites. Fortunately Stack Exchange doesn't make up random CSS ids to try to defeat ad blockers so these rules covers most of the sites

 stackexchange.com###hot-network-questions
 stackexchange.com##.community-bulletin.module

Replace stackexchange with stackoverflow for that site.

I saw this "hot question" because I was browsing in another browser for which I don't have the ad blocker rule setup and now here I am wasting 20-30 minutes of my life falling down the rabbit hole that is "hot network questions"

I've also added a rule to hide my points because IMO that's a dark pattern as well. I see my points go up, I get my dopamine shot, I get more addicted to the site. It's not just an addiction for points. I end up wasting time because I click the little indicator to see which questions got voted up and then often I end up clicking one of them to see what I wrote so 1-3 minutes of time lost and lots of chances for further distractions.

stackexchange.com##._positive.js-unread-count.indicator-badge
stackexchange.com## .reputation-score
stackexchange.com##.js-header-rep.-rep
stackexchange.com##.topbar-icon-on.js-achievements-button.-link

These rules are for uBlock Origin

There is certainly a spectrum of patterns from dark to light. Consider that Google's goal on google.com is to get you off google.com as soon as possible. The sooner they find your answer and send you send you somewhere else the happier you are.

People come to stack exchange sites generally to either ask questions or answer questions. It's arguable whether people come to browse what's hot across multiple categories (I'm sure a few do). Assuming most don't though so for those it's arguably not helping them, only a distraction. Note, you can manually browse "hot" questions on any site and for any tag so we're talking about the hot network questions, question unrelated to the site you're currently on.

This might also be a cultural norm type of issue. Where else in the world do you get 25 unrelated links shoved in your face? I'm sure people will come up with examples in the comments but at least off the top of my head it feels fairly exceptional. Walking through a store to get item A and having to pass isles of items on the way there doesn't fit since item A has a physical location so you had to pass the other items. The annoying clickbat ads by Taboola at the bottom of slashdot.org and many many other sites that are completely unrelated to the topic at hand seem like a dark pattern to me. How is this any different?

I feel like distractions in general are a dark pattern and I'm hopeful but not optimistic that there will be a "don't distract me" movement and some kind of thing like a "no unwanted distractions pledge" that companies will start following.

Maybe because I am easily distracted but it's getting to the point that all distractions to me are a dark pattern. So much of my day is responding to these distractions. Even if I manage not to follow them they still take time to clear. As one example several dating sites I'm on I need to leave notifications on since I might get a message from a prospective new friend but the app itself sends me 1 or 2 "come to the site today and search for people" notifications every day and there is no way to turn that off. So I get distracted by that 3 to 4 times day by that. In other words, 3 or 4 times a day my phone dings and I have to get it out of my pocket to check what needs my attention only to find out it's something I didn't want to be distracted by. Add up all the distractions, plus the number of times I actually follow a distraction where it leads and my life is much worse off than it would be without them.

To give another example of life in 2019, how many of you have had the experience of thinking of something you need to do on the computer/phone (check an appointment, look up something specific, add to a todo list), you look at the screen and something catches your eye, you end up following the distraction for 5 to 30 minutes. You then stop using the device only a moment later to realize you never actually did the thing you started to use the device for in the first place. This is so bad with me I've done it 3 times in a row trying to achieve the same goal and each time getting distracted into something else, spending 10-30 minutes, going away from the screen and realizing I still hadn't done the thing I set out to do.

The last 2 paragraphs are a way of trying to suggest that in 2019 "distractions" themselves are a dark pattern. For me, if look at the screen and see the points on an SE site I'd click the see where they came from. While there if I saw an interesting "hot" question I might follow. These features are not enriching my life they are taking away from it.

IMO every good site and good app should provide a way to opt-out (or better opt-in, default out) to minimize all distractions because many people are getting buried by an avalanche of distractions. In that light, that in 2019 there are too many distractions, this "hot network questions" list of 25 distractions is a dark pattern.

Note: I easily spent more than 1 hour writing and editing this answer, looking up definitions, referencing other sites, thinking and revising my answer, all because I made the mistake of using the site on a browser that didn't have "hot network quesitons" blocked. One hour of my day gone I didn not intend to spend here. If your anti-distraction skills are top notch good for you but apparently mine aren't. For those like me "hot network questions" is a dark dark pattern.

2

This is going to be buried at the bottom but it needs to be said:

If the users on here are classifying a UX elements as "not dark", when it is clearly trying to encourage a behaviour which is not intentioned by the user, then there is something deeply wrong with the underlying IDEOLOGY which is pervasive to the UX designer culture.

UX should be about facilitating the enaction of the will of the user.

When UX becomes about guiding, or altering the path of the will of the user, it no longer serves the user. It serves the designer.

This is something very important to the Philosophy of UX and it needs to be discussed more.

  • Technology is becoming a distraction rather than enabling productivity nowadays. every tech creator tries to monopolise and thereby monetize your shrinking attention span – kkarakk Feb 20 at 9:29

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