I think people have been overzealous lately in closing as a shopping question any question one might ask while considering what to buy. Robert Cartaino, Director of Community Development here at Stack Exchange even expressed concern about this recently:
Oh goodness, folks. I'm not sure asking very specific questions about the capabilities of an outdoor product is anything like the "shopping recommendation" concerns discussed in this post: Q&A is hard. Let's go shopping. It's your call, but this seems like a very unfortunate turn for this site. This is exactly the type of question I might have asked about my gear, and the type of deeper gear discussions that would be the mainstay of any decent "Outdoors" site.
The reasons that shopping recommendations (note, recommendations, not everything to do with shopping) were barred on the Trilogy in the first place boil down to the following
- They are open-ended
- They invite spam
- They will be "utterly obsolete within a year."
A question about specific features on specific equipment is generally not (excessively) open-ended and certainly does not invite spam. And outdoors gear has a much, much longer useful life than the computer hardware this policy was aimed at, which will be halfway to obsolescence by the time it arrives at your door.
In fact, the blog post announcing shopping recommendations as off-topic goes on to explain that not all shopping questions are bad, and suggests instead of directly asking "what should I buy," one should ask more along the lines of "what features should I pay attention to." Asking this question gives enough objective information to make a decision oneself.
I think Kate Gregory sums it up nicely on a related MSE post:
The key to a shopping question is that it asks others "please make a subjective decision for me and explain it" or "please list all my possibilities with their strengths and weaknesses".
So unless someone is asking for us to make a decision for them, or are otherwise excessively list-eliciting or opinion based, "shopping questions" should not just be reflexively closed.
Why are shopping list questions bad?
Q&A is Hard, Let’s Go Shopping!