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According to the help topic "What topics can I ask about here?", it is not allowed to be "asking for a product, service or learning material recommendation". It seems like this is a general theme across all StackExchange sites. I have read some explanations on why this isn't allowed and I understand the reasoning, but there still seems to be a very real need that isn't being met and I'm not sure how it can get met.

Consider, for instance, that there is a certain specification of computer hardware that I have identified as solving a problem. I recall seeing this type of hardware at some point in the past, but all my searches turn up empty. Maybe the actual product is called something completely different that I wouldn't think to call it. Or maybe when I do find the product there are various examples but none of them are exactly what I am looking for and I wonder if I am missing something.

It would be nice to be able to tapped into the collective knowledge of others in a case where a search engine isn't suitable. In this case, I'm not looking to ask for a specific product to buy, although ultimately that may be what I want to do, but rather to find instances of a certain product which meet certain requirements, even though they may or may not be currently manufactured, as a baseline to determine whether or not what I am looking for is or has been out there. It could even be something as simple as somebody saying, "I have the knowledge of this sort of thing [expounding on that], and it has not been done [except for these related things which aren't quite what you are looking for]" which is not something that can be determined easily just through a review of what one can find.

Could such a question be on-topic here, and if not, what is a person expected to do who has already tried to do their homework (searches and whatnot) which have not turned up what they were looking for?

Or from a slightly different perspective, is it alright to ask for product recommendations from a historical perspective, i.e. has there ever been a product made that does "this"?

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    The way you describe it, I would see it as a gray zone. The biggest problem regarding this is that it is nothing more than a guessing game, which is one of the reasons why recommendation questions are closed. A reasoning similar to Arqade's stance on recommendation questions could be applied: to recap, if you have an artifact (a picture or a list of specs, for instance) of said hardware, it would allow for people to actually find the specific device. – Doktoro Reichard Oct 5 '14 at 20:52
  • Not all problems are something that for within a community like Stackexchange websites hardware recommendations are one of them, doesn't mean, hardware problems are – Ramhound Oct 6 '14 at 0:39
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The safest way to do this without completely leaving the StackExchange network is to ask on chat. I say safest because, if the question and answer quality of your actual question turns out to be really good, it might not get closed even if you ask it on the main site.

It depends on the details of the question, really. If it's too vague, it could easily be closed as "Unclear what you're asking".

What I find is that the best metric to judge a question when asked on Super User is, "how is the answer to this question going to be useful?" If the only reason you want to know the answer to this question is so that you can stop feeling like you forgot something about the past, that's not a really practical or useful or applicable effort.

If, however, you are trying to solve some problem, and you think that hardware might exist to solve that problem, you don't need to even include the whole back story of "I used to know about this type of hardware, but I forgot, and now I need to know; here's what I remember of it...". Just ask us what your actual problem is that you're trying to solve, and we'll give you ways to solve it. That type of thing is always on topic.

Go for the throat. Find a problem you genuinely have in real life with your computer, ask us how to solve the problem, and let the answers come how ever they may, whether it be with software recommendations, hardware, or just a configuration setting.

  • Thanks, the latter approach of describing the problem to be solved is helpful, along with some various things that have been considered or tried. Still getting votes to close on my question though... :-( – Michael Oct 10 '14 at 16:54
  • and... my question has been marked offtopic, even though I explicitly tried to follow the approach you recommended! – Michael Oct 10 '14 at 20:25

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