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I was just checking on whether a user I sent to this site ended up finding an answer over here. I noticed that the question was quite quickly closed though. Although, that user ended up changing the question entirely from what was posted on hardwarerecs. (Would that question have been on-topic here?)

The exact policy on shopping questions for this site is not easy to determine without having to dig through your help center and various meta questions. If it was succinctly written in the Help Center, I would never have suggested this site for that user's question.

Whenever I am about to leave a comment that a question may be more appropriate for another stack exchange site, I try to confirm whether the question would be on-topic for that site first. I also go as far clicking the "Ask Question" button on that site to see what the user experience would be like for them. I understand that these off-topic sort of shopping questions are asked often here, and in this case, I failed to find your policy on shopping questions like many other new users.

Here are some of the things that I think could be improved to help clear up confusion, and prevent those types of questions if a user does attempt to check first:

  • When I go to ask a question on this site, this meta post which explains the policy is at least 3 clicks away from the "Ask a Question" page. Meanwhile, Stack Overflow has a nice obvious side panel that says "Have a non-programming question?" with links to more relevant stack exchange sites. That could be valuable here, as Hardware Recommendations would accept many of the shopping questions you close here.

  • I think the text in the What topics can I ask about here? section of the Help Center could be improved to be more specific about the distinction between shopping questions that are on-topic and off-topic. The linked meta question gives a fairly good explanation of why that post got closed but I think those reasons deserve to be summarized and put in the Help Center page itself.

  • Lastly, the options to flag/close posts could include Hardware Recommendations under "This question belongs on another site in the Stack Exchange network". This would mean that users could have their question migrated instead of just closing it. Of course, people flagging posts this way should be informed about what is on-topic or off-topic for that site too.

I think that these three changes could make a significantly better experience for new users coming to this site to specifically ask shopping questions.

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  • You're right — these questions would generally not be on topic here. It's kind of an overall conundrum, because there's very valid reasons to filter them out, but of course on the other hand they're gateway questions which could bring in future photographers with the photography-oriented questions we're really interested in. See this for more, and my answer below on why we're pretty much stuck with what we've got. – Please Read My Profile Dec 18 '19 at 3:24
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I don't think I disagree with any of this. However, please see this very recent post from Stack Exchange staff on the chances of ever getting any improvements to this site implemented — the odds are very low. We may get some cross-network improvements that benefit everyone, but not the kind of site-specific configuration you are suggesting.

On your third suggestion, just for example, see Can we have a migration path → superuser, graphicdesign, and video, please?, which has been open since January, 2011 without any official response. This is not a typo — it's been 3,246 days with no action on that front, so I definitely would not hold my breath for any further update.

Again, I think all of these are perfectly reasonable suggestions. There's not anyone who could do anything about it. Sorry.

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  • I'm surprised to hear that only Stack Exchange developers can change the text in the Help Center. I thought this would be a privilege at least granted to each site's moderators so that they could update rules for the site they're responsible for! – Romen Dec 18 '19 at 3:59
  • We also don't have any active moderators. Fun times! – Please Read My Profile Dec 18 '19 at 4:01
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    Sites like ours need point privileges for everything, sans mods. Like anyone over 5k can suggest help center changes. Anyone over 10k can vote to approve. Anyone over 50k can automatically approve. Something like that anyway. – OnBreak. Dec 20 '19 at 4:36
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I feel it would greatly improve things if the Help Center was simply more visible. In fact, I've been a member of the community for 8 months now and only today learnt that there is a Help Center. Would it not be possible to include a link to the "What's on topic here?" page in the sidebar, or something like this? Or is this something the moderators have no control over?

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