As discussed several times, shopping questions are off-topic on Super User.

They are too specific, related to a particular time, a particular place, and are also open to subjectivity (advising "which is best" is likely to gather mostly personal opinions).

It is widely accepted amongst people moderating that SU is not the shopping channel, and questions are being closed. However, we face often misunderstanding from people whose question has been closed, because it's not clearly explained why.

Should we include a new "exception" line, to the SU FAQ? (with the risk of making it even more crowded):

and it is not about …

  • videogames or consoles
  • websites or web services like Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress
  • electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer
  • shopping recommendation

(we could add this example from Jeff, also: "what {hardware class} should I buy now with a budget of ${dollars}?")

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migrated from meta.stackoverflow.com Jul 22 '10 at 18:03

This question came from our discussion, support, and feature requests site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

4 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

ok, the "it is not about" section now reads:

  • videogames or consoles
  • websites or web services like Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress
  • electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer
  • a shopping or buying recommendation
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Questions regarding this policy: can I ask about a particular piece of hardware before purchase, or only if I'm having problems with it? Can I, as quack quixote linked below, ask and get recommendations about internally mountable USB equipment? How about what kind of RAM-timing I need? I guess recommendations for a quiet graphic card is not allowed? If these types of questions is not allowed, is there another SE site where I can ask about this (ref. the camera purchase you wrote about in the blog)? I understand the reason for banning X vs Y questions from the OP, but it excludes a lot. –  Eikern Nov 23 '10 at 14:41
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I'd like to reiterate my basic acid-test for what-constitutes-an-offtopic-shopping-question:

  • Does the question ask where can I buy or how much do I spend? Offtopic.
    (The example Gnoupi quotes in this post fails this test.)

  • I'm still stuck on what to do with all the questions that ask for full-fledged systems or the best laptops to do web developing (or whatever) on. Unless they fail the first test by asking where to buy or including budgetary constraints, the only reason I can give for closing these is "not a discussion forum".

    (So I usually pretend I didn't see them and leave them for @random to close...)

  • Does the question ask what {hardware component, class of product, peripheral} meets this technical requirement? Ontopic.

    Especially for uncommon things. It might be useful to restrict this to individual components, not full systems.

    Some of these can be especially enlightening for computer builders or similar. Asking about what adapter cables to use for a job, or what case mounting brackets to fit a 2.5" SSD into a MiniXYZ case, seems to me to be an integral part of what Super User is for: educating computer enthusiasts about pimping their PC.

    Answers to such questions shouldn't point out where to buy, but should educate the asker about what kinds of products are out there, and what terms to look for when they do go shopping. Listing manufacturers and model names and including product pictures is important.

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Yes, it should be added. It's hard to offer recommendations and it's almost always subjective.

They are also incredibly limited in scope, because most people just want to find out if [insert obscure product A] is better than [insert never-before-heard-of product B]. These shopping questions simply clutter up the site. I'm not sure such a topic would fit even a Stack Exchange website...

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I do not agree with excluding all buying recommendations from this site. If you have a specific problem that need to be solved with special kind of hardware (be it the whole system or just the component), wouldn't you want to ask experts what they think is best. I am not talking about providing exact models or prices or links to product pages. I am talking about giving users general suggestions.

The buying recommendation questions will age, as pointed out by the post above, but so will any question about any hardware.

I think certain types of question that ask for advice of what type of hardware to buy should be allowed. I recently asked a question that apparently fell into this category and was closed, but thanks to the users of this site I got very valuable responses.

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Unfortunatly this is one of those cases where we allow one, a whole army of users follow saying the questions they posted can't be closed because we allowed that one. Super User has had a strict closing policy due to it's audience, and to avoid tension and frustration with having to justify every close. Just don't ask where to buy it, rather ask what would be recommended for a particular purpose. Finding a place to buy it is generally a Google search away. (I can't believe I said that last part) –  Diago Nov 11 '10 at 7:39
    
Here is a question that I phrased to understand the tech behind a purchase that I was making. If you follow the guidelines of asking "good" subjective questions then you can in a round about way ask about purchases, without using the words "buy, purchase, etc;". Ask about the tech behind it and you'll do fine. Ask "which is better?" and that's not a good question. This is good to read when formulating a subjective question. –  KronoS Nov 11 '10 at 15:41
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