questionsshould people really be encouraged to ask…

vote-for10vote-against
vote-for7vote-against

Yes.

But the penalty for asking stupid questions or simply trolling the community should be severe (I'm not implying THIS is a stupid question - I think it's a great one).

Good question asking should be rewarded. It livens up the community and can add to the collective knowledge. There needs to be consideration for that value when calculating one's overall reputation.

If you don't have a good question to ask then pursue the myriad other means of magnifying your moniker.

vote-for2vote-against

The encouragement/incentive seemed to work for you OP....
:p

vote-for7vote-against

I agree - no, unless there is a question asking for opinions that you really need, information that is hard to find, etc. I also feel that the posting of deals, just for the sake of posting SOMETHING should not be encouraged strictly for reputation. It is very annoying to read pages of random stuff that aren't deals at all. It is making me avoid the deals pages and I assume it could have the same effect on others. QUALITY not QUANTITY should be the driving force.

vote-for5vote-against

There never seemed to be a lack of questions asked here before the meteor from the CHat-tAb3 Nebulae impacted and created such a huge crater. Thankfully, some of the dinosaurs survived.
At the very least, the "why don't you ask a question" hint on the dashboard has prompted many users to wander over to this side of deals. Hopefully, they'll enjoy themselves enough to hang around to help build a new and improved community with some of its former glorious fun.