In the What makes my Pathfinder question off-topic, while the same 3.5e question is allowed to stay? discussion the problem turned out to be that some members treat my question as a shopping question. It is also too broad, but I can narrow it down to my specific situation.
But reading the policies, I did not actually find a clear definition of a shopping question, and this is the point of the discussion I am starting now. There just is no exact wording of what constitutes for one. For example, here is the definition of list questions on Meta.SE, and we also have one on Meta.RPG.SE.
But there is no such a thing for shopping requests. Neither does the Q&A is hard, let's go shopping! give an exact definition of a shopping question, only listing some of the properties. It seems like the article assumes those questions to be about actual shopping, as defined by Wikipedia:
Shopping is an activity in which a customer browses the available goods or services presented by one or more retailers with the intent to purchase a suitable selection of them.
E.g. visiting an actual retail store or choosing and buying something in an online one. It also lists some problems related to "shopping questions" that are definitely relevant to actual shopping, but not always relevant for game recs or tool recs (even though the latter two also do have some other shopping-related problems, not those mentioned in the blog post, though):
- The price is usually low enough for all of the products to be affordable. There is usually no such a difference as with computers or photo cameras, and RPGs that can still be legally bought typically cannot wipe one's budget if you just buy a few books.
- RPGs typically can be accessed by everyone from anywhere, PDFs and SRDs can be read by anyone who has Internet access, while a smartphone or a computer has to actually be available in a store nearby, or you would have to pay big shipping costs.
- The information is unlikely to become obsolete in a reasonable period of time, because RPGs don't really go outdated. Computers and computer programs do, though.
Again -- I am not implying that shopping questions have no problems at all, I am saying that
there is no definition given
the real problems are not mentioned in the blog post.
Gaming.SE has a question asking for a definition of game recs, but it is not really given, it just states a couple of problems related to them (being list questions, being primarily opinion-based). Plus computer games actually do have the problems listed in the blog post, as they go outdated pretty fast, very few of old unsupported games actually getting new players, are subject to regional restrictions, price does matter, etc.
So what actually is a "shopping" question? How do we define it in an RPG context and how do we identify such questions?
This Meta discussion is not to argue whether recommendation questions are good, it is to find a definition of shopping requests, which seems to be a bit broader than simply "game recs are off-topic".