I see a lot of questions like:

Is it okay to say settable?

which are impossible to answer well because they lack context. How can we discourage this?

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The only way is to close them as "not a real question":

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.

Once users see those questions are closed, they should hopefully give more context to their questions.

If you are asking about a way to avoid those questions are even asked, I think there isn't. Maybe rejecting some questions, if they match a defined schema, could help, but as far as I have seen, those filters are not much welcome.
Take as example the filter on Stack Overflow that avoids using problem in the question title; it seems users found a workaround to that, and they now write pr0blem, porblem, or similar words.

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    I basically agree, but I sometimes feel such questions should be allowed to stand for an hour or two, to give the OP a chance to address the ubiquitous "Please give more context" comment. – FumbleFingers Jan 10 '12 at 19:41
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    Closed questions can always be re-opened. Somewhere, on Meta Stack Overflow, I read the phrase, "vote to close, early and often." – kiamlaluno Jan 10 '12 at 19:56
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    Point taken. It's not that I feel too many questions are closed - quite the opposite, in fact. But I just think it's silly for people to get "trigger happy" and close questions before they've had a chance to be cleaned up. Sometimes just because the close-voters didn't realise there was a valid issue being addressed. – FumbleFingers Jan 10 '12 at 20:06

This question, which had zero context, and almost literally repeats the title in the body:

Word for something sad and funny at the same time

(nor did these edits improve matters)


Ironically pointed to this meta post:

enter image description here

Indeed, the bittersweet tragicomedy of questions lacking context.

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    Bittersweet and tragicomedy I get, but how does this answer the question? – Marthaª Jan 30 '12 at 17:34
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    mostly I was just remarking, with a specific example, that the community isn't discouraging questions lacking context, it is upvoting them to +15.. and an experienced community member edited the question as well without voting to close. So there's a serious underlying problem here. – Jeff Atwood Jan 30 '12 at 17:41
  • -1, no freehand circles. – user11550 Jan 31 '12 at 1:31
  • @will when this question is getting +15, there is indeed a serious problem. It's the very definiton of what is talked about in the question at the top of the page. Textbook, even. – Jeff Atwood Jan 31 '12 at 2:57
  • I wonder if you are trying to be ironic. You can't assess whether the problem is serious or not without context. One question out of how many that were satisfactorily closed, @Jeff? One in a hundred? One in a thousand? That's hardly a serious problem, and it is certainly not one worth wasting my time on. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 31 '12 at 22:24
  • @KitFox: Statistics is not the last word. Maybe by “serious” problem he meant “intractable” problem, and was not expecting anyone to “waste time” on it, but was “just remarking”. – Hexagon Tiling Feb 16 '12 at 9:10

Usually these questions are asked by users with very low rep. I propose that in cases where the question asker has < 200 rep (or some suitably low number) it should require only three votes by high-rep users to close an obviously stupid question.

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    The problem is, we have a contingent of high-rep users who reflexively vote to close almost everything as "general reference" (even when it is nothing of the sort), and another contingent who simply agree with everything on the Close tab of the 10K tools, without pausing to think or (gasp, horrors) read. – Marthaª Jan 31 '12 at 17:17
  • @Martha: Then maybe you should get a close vote for every 10K of rep. ^_^ – Robusto Jan 31 '12 at 17:25
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    Ooh, then you could single-handedly close every question on the site, and we could all go home! Whee! :D – Marthaª Jan 31 '12 at 18:16

Can't we just prompt the user to provide context? On the page where you write your question, it says:

  • Provide details.
  • Share your research.

Maybe that should be expanded more. It should tell the questioner what is in it for them. For example, "If you want good answers, then you must provide context."

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  • You'd think, wouldn't you? But some newcomers take offence, especially if they are native speakers. – Mari-Lou A Jul 19 '17 at 9:21
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    The problem is, people don't read, no matter what text or guideline is provided. – NVZ Jul 19 '17 at 9:59

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