I have been waiting for you to divide this more into an actual question and answer before responding, but it doesn't look like that will happen. So, I guess I need to address your post in it's entirety.
However, the site's strict management has been bothering me for a while so I tought I'd bring it up. I would like to ask if we could be a bit more open and lenient as a community. It's great fun to talk amongst us, but it is also normal for others to reach out to us for help.
Yes, it is normal for others to reach out to us for help, but the scope and goal of this particular site is not to help everyone. From the very beginnings, the scope of this site has been determined by the community, including what is determined to be on or off topic. It has never been intended as a site to cover all things networking. It was meant as as an alternative to Server Fault by network professionals and for network professionals.
While network professionals are welcome at Server Fault, where such questions are on topic, for most network professionals SF didn't suffice because the actual network questions got buried under the volume of server questions. Most busy professionals don't want to use their time sifting through a lot of unrelated content to find the occasional question of interest.
Super User didn't suffice because while there were many networking questions, they centered on home/consumer networks almost entirely. Again, same problem as SF in many respects for professionals.
The result is that most network professionals did not find a place in the SE community and in turn did not spend much time on the SE sites in general. Speaking for myself, I know I am more active now at other SE sites than we would have been if NE did not exist.
Unfortunately, this sometimes results in a slightly dismissive attitude, and I feel this site sometimes reflects that.
You are certainly entitled to your opinion. I personally don't see this played out as you describe. There are quite a few examples where people have helped to troubleshoot issues and refine questions until an answer is found.
I don't have a lot of spare time now to dig up examples (and most of that usually goes to moderating when I have it, although this is taking up quite a bit), so if someone wanted to edit in a couple I would appreciate it.
There are gray areas between network engineering and other disciplines and the problems living in these gray areas are often the trickiest ones. I even feel that one of the differences between a good and a great network engineer (/ server admin / developer / ...) is having sufficient knowledge in bordering domains.
Absolutely, and I agree in part with this as you can find recorded on meta here. However, the community was a bit split and the strongest voice for them to be on topic was mine. Even then, I also said for now they were a better fit on SF and still believe that to be true.
Until the community is more established and makes a definitive stance on the issue, they are still better served on SF or another site. I will also note, nothting prevents members of the NE community from contributing on those other sites and I know a number of them do so.
I am sure many of you are such great network engineers, so we are actually saying "Hello there, we know the answer, but we're not telling."
No, we are saying that they are questions that are not deemed on topic on this site and that they should be asked on the appropriate site. This ensures that their question will reach the widest possible pool of knowledgeable people to statistically get the fastest, most varied, and best answers possible.
Community members from SF, InfoSec, and any number of other stacks are often very knowledgeable in a number of disciplines. However each site also has their own limits on what is on/off topic and close a great many questions for the same reasons we do here.
Unfortunately, I believe we get more than our share because so many more people are involved in networking casually. By this I mean that most homes today have a network, but not nearly as often run a server or have users who are concerned about information security to such a degree that they find themselves on those sites.
One of the goals of Stack Exchange is to create a body of knowledge easy to find through search engines. The likes of Google are going to find the answer on this site or the next. If we know the answer, and it is related to our field of expertise, why don't we just answer the question.
So, is it easier to find the answer you are looking for if you get a single better quality link or a half dozen links of various quality that you need to sort through to find the answer?
We are welcome to answer any question on any site, so wouldn't it be better if we do so on the more appropriate site?
The same thing is true for the strict policy on consumer-grade equipment... But when someone is trying to learn about networking and experimenting with whatever is at hand, I would hope we are a welcoming community. Yes, troubleshooting is harder without show commands or decent logging, but that is one of the lessons that a question asker can take away.
I feel this is mixing a couple of different types of questions. So, if someone is learning and has questions about networking concepts in general, we of course would hope to provide a welcoming community to address the question if appropriate. Howeverit seems most consumers are often only looking to fix a problem, not to learn about networking.
As for consumer devices, while not being able to utilize tools/resources that are expected to be found in an Enterprise environment is part of problem, it is by no means all of it. There are many other issues with consumer class devices that we as a community do not want to address, such as lack of technical information about the product/firmware/features, code that is more prone to bugs/known issues that are never addressed, non-standard approaches, etc.
Further, as I have stated elsewhere, when I answer here I can assume a certain knowledge level from the community. My answers on Super User are tailored for that audience. That is only possible because they are two different communities and if I had to frame all my answers here just like I would on Super User, I for one wouldn't spend nearly as much time here.
I would compare it to those high school students they send us every now and again to get a taste of "real work", we take some time to show them around without it being actual network engineering work. We're just being friendly.
These are great experiences for those students, and I fully support them...when I can. I have rejected requests to do these when work did not allow time for them and have never been questioned by my management at those times.
In this sense, when I have time to just be friendly, I spend time picking through and answering questions on Super User.
Why does a question suddenly become interesting because it contains a(n expensive) magic word like Cisco or Juniper?
Frankly, I don't find a great many of the questions asked here interesting personally. And I only skim or even skip a great many of them, even if they use a "magic word."
It does generally make them on topic, although we have closed many a question for various reason even if they used a "magic word" in them.
We are sometimes happily doing their support department's or even Google's work.
Yes, in a sense we are providing an alternative to vendor support. So what? Aren't all SE sites doing that in some respects?
As for Google, I again agree. Many questions can often be answered by a quick Google search, and sometimes we (and other SE sites) call questions out on this as well. This has been a complaint before by members or former members of the community. But again, aren't all SE sites doing that in some respects?
And here we are happily giving DIY advice about mounting a Cisco to a wall, just because it's about a Cisco?
No, not because it is about a Cisco, but because this is part of the job in many cases. Shall we survey network engineers to see how many have had to figure out "creative" installations for their equipment at least once in their career?
Whether in a retail environment, an inherited deployment, or mounting access points, I have often joked with other network engineers that growing up with my dad as a general contractor has often been more valuable in my career than many of of the network training courses I have taken and that the interior of my car often looks more like that of a handyman.
I the exact same question was asked about a second hand 2U device for someone's basement, we would refuse to answer...
Yes, because as a home network question this then falls outside the scope of what the community has determined to be on topic. However in this case, it is possible that it may be edited to be on topic.
Whether removing the context of the question will make it on topic has been discussed here before as well. This and this would be examples of such discussions, and details why this would or wouldn't work in some cases.
So, to make this a question instead of a mild rant, couldn't we be a bit more lenient in the interpretation of the rules? I agree with the intent of those rules, I am not talking about completely opening any gates, but about tolerating a gray area and sometimes following the spirit rather than the letter..
If we start allowing greys areas, which ones? Who determines which to accept and which we don't? When does grey become so common it is now white? And when that happens, what are the next shades of grey we allow?
The community has set boundaries on what is on or off topic. Some are very clear cut, and others not so much. There certainly can be some grey areas, but when the moderators feel the issue is clearly black/white, they will take action based on what the community has determined. When it skirts those grey areas, speaking for myself, I tend to leave it for the community to make the decision.
I do apologize for any mistakes or logic jumps, as I haven't the time to fully proof read and edit this now, since it took so long to write. I will try to return to it if I can, but feel free to edit if you find something you think you can fix.