23

I have asked this question: Standing desk with ability to raise/lower?

It is receiving a few close votes for "not about computing hardware."

A key thing this site will need to determine is what the scope of "hardware" is, right now there are questions about:

I am probably missing some of them. Right now many questions do not fall under "computing hardware" too and according to the close reasons, should also be closed. And I am sure there will be more than that list.

What is considered "hardware" for purposes of this site's scope?

16

When I first heard of this site, my thought was that it would cover "Electronics" (to use a term you'd see in many retail stores). To me this means it would cover:

  • Computers and the peripherals
  • Small gadgets (for example the baby monitor question I asked, or the internet controlled power outlet )
  • Smaller electrical "toys" / hobbyist "things" (like the drone or VR Headset questions)
  • Professional hardware questions (like the PLC question).
  • Computer components. I like the answer Gilles provides, in that this particular area should be prebuilt components that require a screw driver to install and not much more.
  • Electronically controlled "stuff", but it has to be more than a simple on/off switch. For example, the standing desk would be on topic, because many have the ability to remember heights and raise lower automatically to those heights.
  • Hardware that helps automate tasks (ie. home automation hardware)
  • 1
    Do we need change name of this site to Electronic Recommendation ? – Septian Primadewa Sep 17 '15 at 0:29
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    I don't think so. – Andy Sep 17 '15 at 0:31
  • @Andy, So according to your view hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/72/140 is off-topic? – Pacerier Nov 8 '15 at 2:58
  • @Pacerier, I explicitly mention that question in my answer. I think it is on topic. – Andy Nov 8 '15 at 3:17
9

That's a tough one.

Clearly allowed: computers (PC, tablet, smartphone, single-board computer, …), computer parts that non-professionals can assemble, devices made to be accessed via a computer (printers, monitors, routers, etc.)

Probably out of scope: electronic parts that could go into the making of a computer but require anything more advanced than a screwdriver and just possibly maybe the occasional soldering iron.

Clearly out of scope: anything that isn't related to computers, or where the only relationship is that someone might be standing or sitting next to one while working on a computer. Examples: chairs, desks, T-shirts, boats, …

The gray area that remains to explore: devices that can be controlled from a computer or vice versa, but that are not primarily operated via a computer. Examples: connected refrigerators, cars, …

  • 1
    This is the clearest proposal for a scope I've seen yet for this site. – Undo Sep 11 '15 at 15:11
  • 2
    If something that "isn't related to computers" can be objectively asked and answered in the same manner as something "clearly allowed", what's the harm in allowing it on this site? – JohnB Sep 11 '15 at 17:04
  • 1
    Would you consider a question about personal drones in scope? – Andy Sep 11 '15 at 19:24
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    @JohnB By this reasoning, we'd have a single site about everything. What's the harm of allowing boating questions on Stack Overflow? The problem is expertise. By allowing everything, you remove the expertise which fuels good answers and meaningful votes. – Gilles Sep 11 '15 at 20:13
  • @Andy That's one of those vaguely related topics that could go either way. Please start a meta thread. – Gilles Sep 11 '15 at 20:14
  • The expertise argument doesn't convince me. I'm not an expert in desks, yet I feel confident enough to answer that question. It's something I've researched extensively sure, but in no way am I an expert. No, I do not think this site should just be "Product Recommendations" and there's no obvious place to draw the line. But the lines you've drawn seem arbitrary to me – JohnB Sep 11 '15 at 20:31
  • @JohnB That's irrelevant. I feel confident to answer questions about French grammar, but that doesn't make them on-topic on Unix & Linux. – Gilles Sep 11 '15 at 20:39
  • The French analogy and your boating analogy doesn't make sense. Stack Overflow, as per the help center, is a Q&A site about programming. In my experience, boating is not a part of programming. But if someone comes to this site and follows the format to ask about buying hardware for their boat (an engine?), I don't really see the downside. If eventually nobody actually answers that question for a lack of expertise...so what? It eventually gets deleted for a lack of activity? – JohnB Sep 11 '15 at 20:40
  • Just to clarify: I'm not trying to push the scope so far that we would consider boat engines within our scope. Rather, it's an example to try and consider what the negative outcomes may be of allowing some of the things you consider clearly out of scope. – JohnB Sep 11 '15 at 20:45
  • @JohnB Why are you assuming a positive outcome? More likely outcome: we get bad answers, which no one is around to vet them properly. (Example: sysadmin and CS questions on Stack Overflow — sure, some of them get good answers, but an awful lot of them get bad answers.) Also: we lose hardware experts because they're fed up with questions they can't classify by tags, which happens when a site's topic is too broad (example: I stopped using Super User because there was no way to filter Unix questions). – Gilles Sep 11 '15 at 20:51
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    That's a solid argument for limiting the scope to "computer hardware, peripherals, and associated devices" as Robert put it, and I totally agree with you. But I'm still not convinced that a computer desk is too far outside that realm. – JohnB Sep 11 '15 at 20:58
  • I added a few links of recent questions which "push" the scope here. – enderland Sep 12 '15 at 14:39
  • 1
    I don't see that desks and chairs should be out of scope. They're clearly something that an IT professional uses as part of their job, everyday. – dwjohnston Sep 14 '15 at 1:22
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    @Gilles That's facetious. A desk and chair are directly used in an IT professionals productive output. If you wanted a more borderline example, I'd suggest a coffee maker. – dwjohnston Sep 14 '15 at 8:58
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    @dwjohnston A desk is hardly “directly used in an IT professionals productive output” any more than food is, and more to the point, 1. IT professionals are not experts in desks and 2. “computer-related hardware and desks” is an oddly complex scope which we would spend a lot of time explaining, all for that one bikeshed question. – Gilles Sep 14 '15 at 19:04
7

I think Andy's answer covers the majority of what should clearly be on topic, but there are still many possible fringe questions that I think should still be within our scope. The most recent example is this question.

I think this type of question should be at home on our site and that distinction that a monitor stand isn't "electronic" therefore is off topic is a weird one to make. Monitors are on topic, monitors come with monitor stands, but alternative monitor stands are off topic? That's a tough pill to swallow for me.

Of course we have to draw the line somewhere. For these fringe questions, I think the important question to consider is the following: Is the recommendation seeking a product that would be used primarily in tangent with something that's clearly in scope?

Monitor stands are a definite yes to that question. To pick another example out of thin air: I'd assume the majority of "hardware users" to have a coffee mug, but a coffee mug is not primarily used in tangent with computer hardware. Using Gilles' example, food is used directly by IT professionals, but food is not primarily used exclusively by IT profressionals.

  • I see this leading down a slippery slope though. How do we define "primarily in tangent with..."? I'd argue that monitor stands aren't used exclusively by IT professionals either. I have business users that have multiple monitors, many of which could benefit from better monitor placement but they don't have much knowledge of anything hardware related. – Andy Sep 23 '15 at 14:58
  • @Andy I see no reason to allow keyboards to be on topic and monitor stands to be off topic. Both are computer accessories, neither have processors/CPUs/etc, and I'd imagine that a much higher percentage of monitor stands are used by IT professionals than keyboards (if that's the metric you want to use). – enderland Sep 23 '15 at 15:00
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    Keyboard are a peripheral to a computer. It plugs directly into the hardware and is used for input. It contains electronic components. A monitor stand is a piece of furniture that holds monitors (again, a peripheral). (As a side note, I really don't want to use the IT professional metric, but it was mentioned in the answer) – Andy Sep 23 '15 at 15:03
  • @Andy I'm not arguing for exclusivity to IT professionals, I was using Gille's phrasing there. My argument is to include things that are primarily in tangent with something that's clearly in scope. Monitors are used primarily in tangent with monitors, and monitors are on topic. – JohnB Sep 23 '15 at 15:53
  • @JohnB, are wrist rests on topic then? They are used primarily with keyboards and keyboards are on topic. Or what about mouse pads? Those are used with mice and those are on topic. – Andy Sep 23 '15 at 15:58
  • @Andy yes, and I voted to leave that open. – JohnB Sep 23 '15 at 16:00
4

Very interesting. I would say your question is fine.

I'd define every hardware that is somehow connected (not necessarily physically) with a computing device. So, additionally to your list, I'd also include peripherals, such as printers, mouses, keyboards, etc.. But I have to admit: I wasn't very active in the meta until now and I haven't seen a detailed scope of this site, yet. So I may be missing something.

BUT: Let's say sometime in the future there will be a site "Furniture". Where would you ask a question about desks? Rather on Furniture, right? Because, even in this time we're living in, not every desk is used to work digitally.

  • My main concern with the desk is that it is primarily a computer desk and has automated components (ideally, though it might be possible for a non-mechanized desk). Your answer though also makes headphones/audio equipment off topic as it isn't connected directly with computers (though it might have computer components inside them? I guess?). – enderland Sep 10 '15 at 13:34
  • @enderland I tried to phrase generally. Headphones are usually (or can be) used with a computer or smart phone, so I'd suppose they count as peripherals -> on-topic. Audio equipment (like microphones) are connected with a computing device. Even if you're really old-school and got a piece of hardware for every effect (instead of a DAW) I'd say those components also count as computing device. Maybe, with the possible Furniture site I mentioned, a computer desk (with cableguides, possibility to attach tower) may fall between the cracks. – Alex Sep 10 '15 at 13:43
  • how about audio equipment for audio mastering? or soundboards? or cameras? or smartphones? None of that seems to fall into that category either. And if it's "anything that can connect to a computer" I'd be concerned that it'd expand the site scope to be huge. What about things like fridges/stoves/etc that now can be connected through wifi - are these on topic too? – enderland Sep 10 '15 at 13:52
  • @enderland Oh well, you got a good point there. Surely, that would be a too broad scope. Though I'd say the soundboards should also be on-topic, because you can't really ask hardware questions on Music: Practice & Theory but questions about camera recommendations seem to be accepted on Photography. So if it's too broad we''l get into a conflict with other SE-sites. But let's here some other opinions. – Alex Sep 10 '15 at 14:02
  • Whether there currently exists a site about furniture or not is irrelevant. Furniture is not by any stretch connected with a computing device. – Gilles Sep 11 '15 at 1:33
1

I would like to propose that hardware be considered in scope, examples:

  • Adjustable/motorized chairs (Gaming chairs too)
  • Trackballs, trackpads and other mice alternatives
  • Split keyboards, different key types, alternate key layouts
  • Supports, rests, stands

I'd rather see broader questions to engage more people to start with. Asking about how to solve wrist pain or lower back pain rather than a run down of available wrist supports might be better to start with.

I think generally it is the type of recommendation that plenty of people will have opinions on across tech preferences and lots of people would like first-hand opinions on.

0

I think a big part of the problem we're having with deciding on the scope is what hardware is in the first place — the definition of it.

Oxford has a great starting definition of hardware we can use:

The machines, wiring, and other physical components of a computer or other electronic system.

Firstly, this definition of course won't fix everything. It needs to be improved. But I think that's an easy process if we do it carefully. Second, we have the obviously broad term "physical components" being used that will require alteration and improvement.

So how do we improve this?
First, we need to take this definition and pair it with problem questions to see how or if it fits (e.g., compare the definition with the monitor stand question).

Second, if it doesn't fit or fits only because meaning is stretched, we alter the definition to account for just that piece of hardware without being specific in any way.
Example: the monitor stand could change the definition to include "anything directly involved in the usage of a computer."

Third, take this new definition and apply it to other things such as the wrist rest question. Based on what we just changed, wrist rests are now in scope because they are also directly involved in the usage of a computer. The same would go for desks, computer chairs, etc.


Overall I just think we need a set process here rather than spitballing left and right. As someone who is very organized, I try to find ways to do things that don't involve randomness or disorder, and I think getting rid of these two things in this decision process would benefit us greatly.

  • My only problem with having office chairs on-topic here is that they are only going to be useful if they are comfortable to the OP of the question. Shopping for sofas with my wife has proven to me (many times) that what is comfortable to one person may not be comfortable to another. – Cfinley Sep 23 '15 at 17:19
  • @Cfinley I can agree with that. This is exactly why we need a process though, to decide this sort of thing. – Adam Sep 23 '15 at 17:42
  • I think plucking a definition from a dictionary and using it as a strict basis for the scope will only lead to frustration and "getting rid of the other two things" is logically unfounded. Note that Bitcoin includes many currencies beyond the site's namesake. I mentioned in in chat as a joke, but Newegg categorizes wrist rests and monitor arms as "Computer Hardware". They're part of the ecosystem we've established and I argue strongly for their inclusion. – JohnB Sep 24 '15 at 18:05
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    @JohnB Good point. I threw this idea out there more or less to express that I think we need more structure in deciding the scope. Right now, it's way too unorganized. – Adam Sep 24 '15 at 18:09
  • Structure is definitely needed, but clearly not an easy thing to define. Nor something we'll all agree on :) – JohnB Sep 24 '15 at 18:27
-3

For me it would be interesting to divide HW recs into personal and professional.

Professional

  1. Single-board computers
  2. Industrial actuators and sensors
  3. Network hardware
  4. Electronics components

Personal

  1. Peripherals
  2. PC components, laptops
  3. Smartphones
  4. Gadgets
  5. Cameras
  • 1
    Are you proposing have a [professional] tag and a [personal] tag, or are you proposing that we only allow questions from one of those categories? – Undo Sep 11 '15 at 15:11
  • Personal: peripherals? What about this: "I want good quality speakers for a club, or an office." does that make it personal? He needs hardware recommendations for professional use. – Adrian Pop Sep 11 '15 at 16:00
  • I don't know how Stackexchange usually handles this kind of divides. Two separate sites? The problem is that most of the questions would probably be related to computer/phone hardware once the site grows. It's not very interesting to me but probably easy to filter out. – lahjaton_j Sep 14 '15 at 4:44

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