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A question, asked years ago, was voted closed as off topic by the community. It is a shopping question, and all shopping questions no matter how good or bad were deemed off-topic.

It was reopened by the moderator who deemed all shopping questions off topic.

What gives?

I genuinely want to know the difference between an acceptable shopping question and an unacceptable one; given the foreknowledge that there is an 'acceptable' shopping question, I still would have voted to close that one. I am rather confused.

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Mxy explains in a comment on that question quite clearly what the distinction is:

[...] it asks for a method [...], as opposed to asking for a specific product.

This makes it not a shopping question. It's not an "acceptable shopping question," it's "the 'good form' of what would otherwise be a shopping question." (emphasis mine)

It's as simple as that, and a basic premise of good Stack questions everywhere: we should describe the problem and ask how to solve it; we shouldn't decide ahead of time the kind of thing (like a system or app) we expect will solve the problem and ask what within that category we should use.

For more specific guidance on how to ask for help with a problem in a non-shopping way, check out last year's "I want to ask for recommendations, but that's off topic. Is there any way to ask my question?".

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not saying whether it's a good question or not, or if it should be closed for some other reason. Just that it's not a shopping question and is a useful example of how something that could easily be a shopping question can instead be asked in a way better suited to the Stack format. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Oct 20 '16 at 6:52

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