Would welcome any comments on category placement within a hour. Do's and don'ts for top/bottom of the hour, quarter hours, outta news, spot sets, etc.
Great questions, however if you're playing the right music, where a category falls isn't as important as what's in that category. It all comes down to philosophy, and the great thing about philosophy is that there's no right or wrong. There's a lot of psychology in it, too. If you feel what you're doing is best, you'll yield that result (MOST of the time).
Proof is in the answers to your questions:
Some programmers say come out of a stopset with a Power to payoff those who sat through commercials. Others say don't waste a power out of a stopset because your audience is slightly reduced after spots (10-20%), so wait for your power to be heard by the largest audience possible.
Some programmers say sweep the quarter hour with a Power to carry someone into the new quarter hour. Others say to drop in a secondary/novelty record there to keep your P1s intrigued into a new quarter hour since P1s are the majority of your AQH ratings.
If you're in diary, sweeping quarter hours sounds great in theory, but is someone really going to remember they listened until 8:20 instead of 8:15? I'm sure that can go either way.
If you're in PPM, quarter hour sweeps are looked at as bad. Instead, you should bowtie your stopsets around quarter hours (break from 11-17, or 26-32, etc.). Again, is that right or wrong?
A safe general rule that most will agree with is to of course follow a secondary song with a power as to not lose the mass cume potential.
At the end of the day, I'd focus more on song selection
in your categories than where the categories fall. With a gold-based format I'd even consider a flow clock as opposed to a fixed position clock. This prevents your hyper P1s from learning that "they always play 80s music after the news" or whatever.
Lastly... don't be afraid to take risks. Try something, then change it up, then change it up again. Expose your creativity; don't just follow what a bunch of radio geeks say on a radio board.
AND, on all of this, it's just MY opinion. Programming is just that, which is why this creative medium is so fun!