I find it impossible for myself to ask an engineering question. Any question that I can frame to meet the rules, I could more quickly answer with 5 minutes of internet research.
Yep - I find myself in that position on Stack Overflow a lot of the time.
The primary goal of any SE site is to improve upon the existing aggregated Internet resource for questions in a certain problem domain. There are gaps in what engineering problems are easily solved via Google. There are questions that have only subpar answers on other sites, or decent but incomplete answers, where we can create something better.
It can be hard to ask a good question on SE when you:
- Are a pretty skilled and dedicated researcher; you tend to either find what you need just as quickly on your own, or else never get to the point of feeling like you're "done" researching.
- Have access to a lot of expertise in the form of coworkers, instructors, mentors, etc. Why take the time to do a write-up and wait for volunteers to post answers that you don't know if you can even trust, when Bob has 45 years in the industry and his cube is two aisles down?
- Work on projects that are well-documented, that have an established procedure, that have training materials, that are running smoothly. When you have to do something you haven't done before and your attempts fail outright, but someone has probably done it before, Stack Exchange wants to close the gap between you and that someone. If you don't have that sort of problem - let's be honest, that's a good thing.
That's not even a remotely exhaustive list. I'm trying to illustrate the particular niche that this site wants to fit into and that it's designed around, by examples of situations that don't necessarily call for the particular solution we're offering. We're not a Swiss Army knife, we don't do it all.
If you prohibit all questions that could infer discussion, all you end up with is a bunch of people that know nothing about engineering either asking for homework help or miss worded questions that require discussion/sourcing anyway.
We don't prohibit questions based on whether answers could infer discussion. There is actually a post notice that moderators can place on answers that don't go into enough detail, which says that good answers explain and provide context. That kind of answer often leads to some amount of discussion in comments, which is fine. Sometimes the comment constitutes a valuable addition; sometimes it adds to the site indirectly, by prompting a user to improve their answer.
What we do not want is content that is dominated by conversation. We need to be able to go through after the fact and separate the wheat from the chaff. When I say "we," I don't just mean moderators deleting comments—I also mean regular users voting and flagging.
There are lots of sites on the internet where you can wade through pages and pages of threaded conversation to get a rich, nuanced view of a complex problem. Though if we're being honest, 90% of the time what you're actually getting is a rich, nuanced view of how to have petty arguments, go off on tangents, not support arguments with evidence and get people to read something for twenty minutes that ends up not solving their problem at all.
Needless to say, we don't aspire to that.
I don't understand why legitimate questions like this one that is "sourcing" for sake of an example/clarity is put on hold. And questions like this one that is directly asking for a product source is fine.
In the case of individual questions that you think should or should not be allowed, this is a community-moderated site; even if a mod interprets a question as off-limits based on an existing policy, you can disagree and you can cast a vote to reopen the question. If that goes nowhere, you can dedicate a Meta conversation to the specific question; yes, that is allowed, once you've exhausted other avenues.
As it happens, both of those questions are now open. Personally, I think both are poor questions and I've voted accordingly. But the community decided the first one needed improvement, and then decided that the improvements it got were good enough. The more of us take part in those decisions, the better.