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https://music.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic states that the following is off-topic:

  • shopping help — including product or music search, or buying/selling advice or recommendations

I don't think this is particularly clear, because there are plenty of perfectly on-topic questions that someone could ask here that could help them with shopping, buying, or selling, and could even include general recommendations on what to look for in an instrument or piece of equipment.

Might it be significantly clearer if we were to say that the following were off-topic? (Edited with suggestions from Dom)

  • asking for recommendations for specific products, advice on where they can be purchased, or product valuations

The first phrase there matches the current wording of the relevant close reason.

Update Jan 2019 - I want to tell the new user who posted Is MPS-850 a good module just for triggering VSTs? that questions looking for recommendations for specific equipment are off-topic. But there's still the same problem - our on-topic page doesn't state this in so many words, so it's rather hard to say so in a straightforward way.

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    I personally think the FAQ states the real case better. We don't do product or music searches (What products do X?) or give buying/selling advice (What is my guitar worth? How much should a(n) X type of guitar cost?) or any kind of recommendations (What X should I get?). The close reason just reflects a specific case of this. The only exception as you say is what to look for in equipment. To make it clearer, it might be better to appended the one exception to the off-topic section. – Dom Dec 31 '17 at 2:22
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    @Dom I think the issue I'm trying to highlight is the level of ambiguity / specificity of the language. In your comment here, you've felt the need to further clarify what's intended by each of those phrases, so it seems that you to some extent agree with me that the current language on its own isn't all that clear. – topo Reinstate Monica Dec 31 '17 at 7:27
  • For example, you've qualified 'product or music searches' by saying "What products do X?", but we do allow "What products do X?' when 'what' means 'what kinds of' - we just don't allow it when 'what' means 'what specific models or brands'. – topo Reinstate Monica Dec 31 '17 at 7:29
  • Likewise, you've given valuation of specific equipment as examples of questions we don't allow, but there are still lots of buying/selling questions we do allow, e.g. music.stackexchange.com/questions/6061/…, music.stackexchange.com/questions/62314/…, music.stackexchange.com/questions/2611/…, music.stackexchange.com/questions/43687/… – topo Reinstate Monica Dec 31 '17 at 7:38
  • music.stackexchange.com/questions/43207/…, music.stackexchange.com/questions/51457/…, music.stackexchange.com/questions/23035/…, music.stackexchange.com/questions/52104/… ... that's a range of questions from various years - we seem to quite consistently allow many types of buying/selling advice. – topo Reinstate Monica Dec 31 '17 at 7:40
  • And it's not true that we don't do 'any kind of recommendations'. We DO make some kinds of recommendations - those relating to what to look for to achieve a given goal, given the "required function and setting in which the equipment will be used" (as per the close reason). – topo Reinstate Monica Dec 31 '17 at 7:44
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    Some of the questions listed aren't shopping questions(Like the question about moving the piano and is a cheap cello acceptable for a beginner) and the others are the general "what to look for" questions. The what to look for aren't recommending products just objective criteara to evaluate a product which I wouldn't lump together with a recommendation question as the approach answering is much different. – Dom Dec 31 '17 at 14:42
  • @Dom Sure... so... what I'm saying the issue is what language to use to make this as unambiguously clear as we practically can (while staying reasonably concise). – topo Reinstate Monica Dec 31 '17 at 15:15
  • To say that "is a cheap cello acceptable for a beginner" isn't a shopping question is a good illustration. To you, that's not a shopping question. To another person, it would be a shopping question. That's why 'shopping question' or 'shopping help' isn't a very clear phrasing. – topo Reinstate Monica Dec 31 '17 at 15:19
  • Likewise with 'recommendations' - I agree that recommending criteria isn't something we regard in the same way as recommending products. That's why simply talking about recommendations as being off-topic is unclear. – topo Reinstate Monica Dec 31 '17 at 15:21
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    the problem is the simplification cuts out things that are supposed to be there like I said in my first comment. – Dom Dec 31 '17 at 15:26
  • @Dom If we separately said that "seeking recommendations for specific equipment" and "product valuations" were off-topic, what other specific types of questions that the community currently feels are off-topic do you think would be being left out compared to the current wording? – topo Reinstate Monica Dec 31 '17 at 15:35
  • "where can I buy X" questions, "product searches", product reviews, ect. Most questions about shopping will be too option based here which is why it was worded that way. – Dom Dec 31 '17 at 15:42
  • @Dom, 'Where can I buy X' is another one - I've edited my question including that and your other suggestion, thanks. Do you think the new wording still means that there are any off-topic "product searches" questions we're missing out? – topo Reinstate Monica Dec 31 '17 at 15:59
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    @Dom You commented, "I personally think the FAQ states the real case better." Do you mean the help center? Where's the FAQ? I can't find it. – Todd Wilcox Jan 2 '18 at 16:07
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Since the shopping bullet point is valuable as is, I've added a new item to the off-topic section:

recommendations for specific hardware or software (software recommendations may be suitable on SoftwareRecs.SE)

  • That will head off the frustration I had with this particular category of obviously off-topic q's. Thanks Dom. – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 4 at 17:04

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