(QUICK NOTE/UPDATE: As Rumi pointed out below, that these questions happen to be about 'real world' objects is a red herring. That's not the issue at all. The issue is that they simply aren't UX questions--they just happen to often be about real world objects. I do think that they are real-world objects is perhaps why they tend to become hot-topics, though...people outside of UX are simply drawn to the triviality aspects of these questions in my opinion)
There's seems to be a trend on UX as of late where someone pops in and ask a question about some physical object and then it gets put on the 'hot topic' list on the right of all the SE sites.
Here's a recent example: Why do speedometers (in the US, at least) go so high?
I don't find these to be very good questions most of the time. But what's a bigger issue is that when they become hot questions, they start attracting a lot of non-UX folks. I get the argument for this (get other eyeballs here) but then what happens is that the answers that start getting the most up-votes tend to veer the question even FURTHER away from the field of UX.
As such, we end up with these highly rated questions that a) aren't really UX focused and b) often have a very non-UX answer. (The top-voted answer often has 5+ times the normal up votes, as well as 5+ times normal comments as the answer is often quite inappropriate from a UX standpoint. Not necessarily the case with the above example question, but in general.)
We're often left with a questionable bit of trivia rather than a truly useful question that applies to the UX field.
Do others share this concern? Is it even something to be concerned about? Maybe it's harmless link-bait to get more eyeballs here?
To be clear, I'm not against 'real world' objects being a topic here. Of course, real world objects should be designed with UX in mind as much as virtual ones.
What bothers me is the questions that are about 'real world' objects that simply aren't framed as UX questions. They're usually along the lines of:
Why is object x designed this way?
But the answer is often "well, because it wasn't really designed" as much as "marketing, engineering, sales, historical anomaly etc." is the reason.
- Why do people mount TVs so high on the wall in their homes?
- Why do manufacturers of most small/medium refrigerators default the door to swing counter-clockwise?
- Why is a manual transmission so complicated?
- Why do showers have "hot" and "cold" knobs rather than "temperature" and "quantity" knobs?
- Why is the 0 next to 9, not next to 1?
- Do signs printed on the road offer a significant advantage for the user over signs on a post?
- Why do stairs have overhangs?
- Why is there no standard layout for computer keyboards?
- Undo History - Why limit it?
- Why is sugar not in a shaker?
- Why are most pens (that we use to write) blue in color?
These become really popular questions but really don't fit the topic of UX as much as "trivia about the manufacturing and sales behind various consumer products."