How to obtain a Laptop without hidden surprises was closed within minutes of posting with the stated reason:

Questions seeking for hardware shopping recommendations are off-topic because they are often relevant only to the question author at the time the question was asked and tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead of asking what to buy, try asking how to find out what suits your needs.

"Instead of asking what to buy, try asking how to find out what suits your needs." - That is exactly what I did!?

Yet within the few minutes it was open, two users commented, who had - in different ways even - completely misread that intention and a third user was at least unsure about it.

So, quite evidently, I have posed that question exceptionally badly: It cannot be understood.
... But... I have no clue what might make it so hard to parse.

Please provide guidance on how to render it comprehensible.

Changes I have thought of so far:

  • reword "candidate" for the third example Laptop to avoid association with "finding candidates"
    (as opposed to "learning how to find")
    • I cannot think of a similarly concise term
    • finding candidates is my end goal - just not what the question is to solve directly
  • remove prices to avoid association with "pick one of those"
    • I quite clearly state that those are devices I already possess, not
    • the intention here was to contrast increasing issue count with increasing price - demonstrating that my naive approach becomes worse... mayhap that is irrelevant though

... Neither seems to be a particularly convincing change.

2 Answers 2


Community Bot bumped this one today since there is no answer with a positive score or that is accepted. So here goes ...

There might, in this case, be three possible reasons that your question could have been closed. Two of these I absolutely disagree with, personally. The third is borderline.

  1. Shopping recommendation

    No, as @Ramhound agreed, your question was not about a Shopping Recommendation. It did, IMHO, follow the exact guidance of how to ask a good shopping question in Jeff Atwood's blog post from 12 years ago.

    Your question should, IMHO, have not been closed as "seeking for [a] Hardware shopping recommendation" based on the guidance of the Super User co-founder.

  1. Opinion based

    But @Ramhound says in the previous answer that your question was still requesting "opinion" and should be left closed for that reason. I disagree with that reasoning as well. Jeff's example "good" question is:

    How do I tell which point-and-shoot cameras take good low light photos?

    Jeff makes the point that shopping questions here that are asking about how to shop help us all learn useful skills that have long-term value, vs. the short-term "laundry lists" of "what to buy".

    when it comes to shopping questions, don’t ask us what you should buy — ask us what you need to learn to tell what you should buy.

    Which, I agree, is exactly what you did.

    Does answering this require opinion? Yes. But that's not disallowed! The Help Center says:

    Some subjective questions are allowed .... Constructive subjective questions .... inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.

    Which I think yours did.

    Jeff's example answer to the "good" shopping question even starts out with:

    I strongly recommend looking for ...

    Yup! That's a recommendation -- Opinion. And that's completely (according to the co-founder of the service) perfectly acceptable and encouraged!

  1. Needs details or clarity

    So reading your question (now deleted), a case might be made that "hidden surprises" is just too vague. As you said:

    I am not precognitive and cannot possibly know what feature will be cut or crippled next

    And, well, neither are we.

    But that's borderline as well, IMHO. A reasonable answer to your question (in the spirit of Jeff Atwood's recommendation) might be something like:

    While it's impossible, of course, to "checklist" in advance features that we don't (or can't) anticipate will be done away with in a new model, these types of "regressions" are often noticed and mentioned by professional reviewers. I can only recommend researching thoroughly by reading as many reviews (not checklists/comparisons) as you can before buying. If a respected reviewer or review publication spent significant time with the laptop (as they should) then they will hopefully notice these. Most reviewers will have used and reviewed previous models as well, so missing features will often be noticed and pointed out in the review.

    That's not a perfect answer by any means, but there's most likely no "perfect laptop" either. And clearly what's important to you is not always going to be important to each reviewer, since you mention that you read multiple articles anyway.

    But even with the uncertainty of not knowing what the next "hidden surprise" will be, I think there are still reasonable answers that can be proposed to your (very valid, IMHO) question.

That said, if there was any valid reason to close, I think "clarity" might be the closest. I honesty might have voted-to-close based on this if I didn't spend a few minutes thinking about it in more depth.

There are a few additional recommendations I might make on your original question:

  • You clarified that the models you listed were examples of ones where you had issues in the past, not candidates that you were considering. However, that edit came late (after the close), so I can understand a little of the initial kneejerk reaction to closing. Still, this is one of the reasons why I think moderators should only wield the "Mod-close hammer" in the cases of obvious (not borderline) issues, and instead let the community reach 5 votes to close in most cases. I've chatted with Mods on multiple SE sites, and that tends to be the favored Mod approach on the other sites I frequent.

  • I might still have done away with model names, etc. And there was really no reason to mention the baseline, since it didn't have any (to you) critical issues. It makes it sound more like a comparison to one particular model.

  • Yes, I would have gotten rid of the word "candidate" -- Probably "most recent laptop". You didn't even have to mention that it was the one you were about to return.

  • And yes, I would have done away with the prices.

  • There's clearly a tone of frustration in your original main-site (not Meta) question, which people sometimes react to negatively (leading to hasty closures). Try to keep the emotion to a minimum, IMHO. I don't think that had anything to do with the original Mod-closure here, but it might have impacted other votes had it stayed open longer.

Regardless, I do hope you eventually ended up with a laptop that has served you well for the last two years since you asked the question.


"Instead of asking what to buy, try asking how to find out what suits your needs." - That is exactly what I did!?

You actually just described all the difficulty you had configuring your current hardware and the defects your current hardware has from your perspective.

Yet within the few minutes it was open, two users commented, who had - in different ways even - completely misread that intention and a third user was at least unsure about it.

So, quite evidently, I have posed that question exceptionally badly: It cannot be understood.

I would agree you didn't ask for a hardware recommendation. However, you did ask for our opinion, which is still out of scope.

Please provide guidance on how to render it comprehensible.

I don't see a way to reconcile your desire to determine, how to purchase a laptop that meets your requirements, but also fits within our requirements for questions on our website. The edits the question have received at this point have not resolved that particular conflict.

  • 3
    ... Is this a language problem? I am not interested in opinions nor have I asked for any opinions nor was the question closed for being opinion-based. Valid answers to the question are "follow <directed graph of steps> to be reasonable sure you know what you buy" or "it cannot be done, here are pointers towards a frame change". Certainly not different from questions like "how can I buy clothes that fit" (try them on before you buy), "how can I fly" (board a plane), "how can I stop breathing" (you might not want to do that), etc. With this kind of reasoning you can close anything!?
    – Zsar
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 21:51
  • 1
    Should I remove the "difficulty [I] had configuring"? I consider context important... past questions have solicited unwanted "why don't you do something else entirely" answers which did not apply due to context - but that was largely on StackOverflow, mayhap here a different conduct is approprate. I can certainly cut out all the details - I do not care for them, nor do I care how to resolve them - I care about avoiding them in the first place. ... But is this in any way conductive?
    – Zsar
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 21:53

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