Reading this question got me to thinking... why do we so readily downvote these types of questions? It's apparent that the user doesn't even really have knowledge of whether or not these modules exist... and he's looking to potentially head in a small scale production run.

To me, these are some of the things related to shopping that we, as a community, are more than qualified to answer. Something that would otherwise be extremely hard to find on your own. Things like volume pricing for custom modules, etc... that's hard to find information. We have people here who design devices that get mass produced... these guys have sometimes intimate knowledge in purchasing, etc.

Can we re-quantify the true meaning of a "shopping" question and maybe show a little more love, and spread a little more knowledge, to dudes like this?

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3 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

That of shopping questions is often a grey area, because they often are too localized to the situation, and are unlikely to be valid for other users. There are also many (and I think this one falls in this cathegory) that apply also in other cases, and can provide useful information.

The problem is that we require a clear policy to avoid having to deal with too localized questions all the time, and to create a clear distinction between "good" and "bad" questions.

Regarding the specific case, the question you take as example is about finding a specific type of component and price-constrained design. As far as I know, these are both accepted topics, but it must be specified clearly that the OP is not looking for a specific part, but wants to understand if he's looking in the right direction. Therefore I'd leave the question open.

Anyway, sometimes we downvote or flag low-ish quality questions, with rude comments like "Read the FAQ" or "Not related!" and we forget another important point of our FAQ: "BE NICE". This is luckily a unique kind of site, and many people may not be aware of all the rules and guidelines. We want to instruct them, not to scare them off!

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Agreed: "Does it exist?" is a reasonable question. "Can I get it for USD 4 or less?" is not helpful for future readers. I wanted to answer, "it depends how well you speak Chinese." –  The Photon Nov 26 '12 at 4:26
    
@ThePhoton I think that the point about the price is just to say that the OP wants the simplest display, to specify better the requirements. I think also that having a price target for a certain project is a good idea. –  clabacchio Nov 26 '12 at 8:47
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Price depends strongly on volume. A part that costs $10 in a one-off project might cost $6 when buying 100 pieces, or $4.50 when scheduling 10,000 per year for production. That makes price questions very specific to a particular situation and "too localized" to be much use to other readers. –  The Photon Nov 26 '12 at 16:41
    
Would a question like, "what transistors can be switched at > 250kHz?" be an acceptable question? –  Garrett Fogerlie Nov 27 '12 at 10:13
    
@GarrettFogerlie I don't think so: it's likely to become a list of answers, and they may become outdated soon. It's better to ask something like "Are there transistors specially made for high-frequency switching"? But probably it's easier to directly look at suppliers first. –  clabacchio Nov 27 '12 at 10:16
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@GarrettFogerlie more acceptable - "What parameters are required/desired for a transistor, which works as a switch at \$f_{SW} > \$250kHz?" This question would enable educated search. –  Nick Alexeev Nov 27 '12 at 18:11
    
@NickAlexeev: And including an actual specific answer along with it should not be prohibited. –  endolith Nov 28 '12 at 18:19
    
I agree on price, but you can give a general suggestion (using this will in general be less expensive). Most are not asking here for a quote, just a rough idea. –  Gustavo Litovsky Nov 30 '12 at 22:45
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I think that one should research on his own for 2 days and walk 10 miles before posing a sourcing question. Crowdsourcing should be the last resort, not the first. If a sourcing question is posted, it should contain much information useful in a long term.

Sourcing questions can be very valuable. It's also difficult to write a good sourcing question. Sourcing questions should be a kind of a privilege.

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Well said. Sign of significant research, and not just statement like "I've been looking for 2 weeks now...", and efforts in generalization, should be helped/aided by community, by editing questions. Blatant down vote, signaling every sourcing or identification question, as shopping question, is counter productive. However, I think answers should not give out supplier names, unless they are a global (or have very wide geographic coverage), and best to provide list of as many competing suppliers. Never a local supplier. –  icarus74 Nov 26 '12 at 4:12
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I agree that crowdsourcing shouldn't be the first option here on the forums (chat is good for something like that)... I still think it's a bit brutish to say they have to go out and search forever and can only come to us when they've pulled all their hair out, etc. Maybe they didn't do the research, but their question spurs the answers, so if it's a bad question, kill it... if it's a good one where we can contribute a ton of information, why not? I feel like the general behavior should be to make the best of a non-optimal question, and not the other way around. –  Toby Lawrence Nov 26 '12 at 13:50
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@TobyLawrence Maybe focus on if the question will be useful to future site users, if the chance we never ever see someone with the exact same question then it is far too localized to be useful. –  Kortuk Nov 26 '12 at 21:16
    
So hundreds of people looking for a part for a specific task should individually spend a week searching, instead of just one person spending a week searching and then telling the rest what they found? –  endolith Nov 28 '12 at 18:21
    
@endolith It an issue of "what you don't see". Hundreds of people are indeed spending time on educated searches, find what they need in half a day or so, and don't post sourcing questions. So, you don't see them. On the other hand, the lazier ones go straight to crowdsourcing. –  Nick Alexeev Nov 28 '12 at 20:08
    
@NickAlexeev: My point is that your solution is inefficient and wastes a lot of man-hours. Cooperation is not inherently a bad thing. –  endolith Nov 28 '12 at 21:45
    
@endolith You didn't get my point. Oh well. –  Nick Alexeev Nov 28 '12 at 23:10
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This should be changed in the FAQ section, under What kind of questions can I ask here, in the NOT to ask part, it says "a shopping or buying recommendation."

Because there are plenty of EE questions about components that are valid and it seems like they get down-voted fast, I think it should be reworded to something like, "no vague/effortless shopping questions." Over time this will help reduce inappropriate down votes.

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I think this is unworkable because its very vague what vague is. –  Olin Lathrop Nov 27 '12 at 16:18
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@OlinLathrop my phrasing isn't good, but the spirit of what I mean is that as it stands now a question like the one linked it not acceptable. Just my 2 cents –  Garrett Fogerlie Nov 27 '12 at 22:32
    
@GarrettFogerlie If your shopping question does not violate any of the close reasons it stays, which is why there is not a specific mention. Too Localized is very common. Subjective is very common. Not a real question is very common. Off topic is very common, if you avoid those then the question will stay. It is something our members just need to share and certain people need to be kinder about. –  Kortuk Nov 28 '12 at 16:47
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The reference to "shopping or buying recommendations" should be removed entirely from the FAQ. Bad shopping questions are already prohibited by the "too localized" and "too subjective" rules. Good shopping questions are not prohibited at all. –  endolith Nov 28 '12 at 18:23
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Alas, people almost never read FAQs (myself included). –  Igor Skochinsky Nov 29 '12 at 12:45
    
I agree. There is a big gray area for purchasing. Remember that the idea here is to provide information people would look for. And getting advice from knowledgable people on how to solve a problem, selecting a component is just as necessary as selecting an algorithm. But immediate downvoting is not good. Give a chance and even recommend that the person delete the post if it's not good. Downvoting should be last resort. Not all shopping questions are localized. –  Gustavo Litovsky Nov 30 '12 at 22:43
    
@endolith The reference is there as it is on many other sites purely for clarity. You are correct, it is already covered but many users reading the faq the first time will not understand the implications of the other rules. –  Kortuk Dec 2 '12 at 4:48
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@Kortuk: With it in the FAQ, questions get closed that shouldn't be. It would be better without. –  endolith Dec 2 '12 at 18:04
    
@endolith Examples? –  Kortuk Dec 2 '12 at 18:43
    
@Kortuk: meta.electronics.stackexchange.com/q/516/142 –  endolith Dec 2 '12 at 19:03
    
@endolith That looks like discussion of how to make the FAQ better, not cases where a question that was of high quality was closed because of an association with shopping. –  Kortuk Dec 2 '12 at 19:41
    
This is right on - there are folks around here who will use the fact that a question even incidentally involves sourcing to knee-jerk close vote it with utter disregard for the validity of the question itself, citing that language from the FAQ. –  Chris Stratton Dec 21 '12 at 17:09
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