We sometimes get questions related to cost; some remain open and some are closed. But especially the ones that are closed lead to arguments in the comments because there is a gray area where cost isn't well defined as to whether it's an on-topic subject. This question is an attempt to elicit community input to provide more clarification on the context in which cost is an on-topic subject.
There has been Meta discussion on "cost", and variants of it, as a tag. That has consistently been treated as not a tag topic. The gist of the logic is that the site focuses on technical issues. If someone has a technical problem to solve and cost is a constraint or criterion, they can add that to the description in the question. Our subject matter experts are experts on the technical topic, not experts primarily in cost. So cost, as a consideration in a technical issue, isn't excluded if the subject of the question is the technical issue.
But what if cost is the technical issue? That's where the grey area comes in.
- We have occasionally had questions like this one from five years ago (recently reactivated with additional answers), that asked why a CPU costs more than RAM. Our subject matter experts know that the explanation is entirely in the technical realm, and within their area of expertise. It attracted several downvotes but was never closed.
- This Meta question almost five years ago asked about the closure of a question concerning the relative costs of workstation graphics cards vs. consumer graphics cards. The question focused on, and speculated about, technical reasons. That one was closed by a moderator and reopened by the community. The rationale for reopening was that it could be answered by the community.
- This recent question asks why DVI KVM's are 10x more expensive than VGA KVMs. The question, itself, implies that the reason is likely not mostly technical factors. That one is currently closed.
These questions are all similar in that they ask about the relative costs of computer hardware, but they received different receptions. The primary difference I can see is the degree to which the community viewed them as having answers that were technical and within the community's expertise.
Can we provide some guidance for questions where cost is the subject?
- Is it the case that it is generally off-topic unless the community makes an exception (I couldn't find anything in the Help guidance that specifically excludes cost)?
- Is the on-topic criterion the degree to which the answer (not the question) is within the purview of the community (which drives the community's judgement regarding closure)?
- Is it a case where "we know it when we see it", and the community needs to decide on a case-by-case basis?
- Is it that cost isn't really the topicality issue at all. The question just needs to not violate any of the other rules (opinion-based, too broad, etc.)?