I think the bounty system is flawed slightly. Currently if you don't assign the bounty to a user before the time expires half will go to the user with the most up votes. Even if you do award the bounty there will be a chance that another user will come in with an articulate, well-written, deeply researched response who wouldn't get the bounty because the asker had already assigned it prior to the end of the bounty. Or, in my case, I return to my hotel to find the internet access had go down during the day and the staff hadn't been able to restart it, thus missing the end of the bounty and to assign it to the deserving winner.

A decent way would be at the end of the bounty time a grace period of 3 days to allocate the bounty. Then that would allow the users to allocate the bounty correctly.

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FYI: There was a recent feature change made so that if the original asker of a question places a bounty and accepts an answer during the bounty period, but doesn't allocate the bounty - then the full bounty is awarded to that accepted answer when the timer expires. This was done mainly to catch users who didn't realise the two actions weren't linked, but also allows you to provisionally accept an answer, while holding the bounty for a bit longer without fear of missing the deadline. –  DMA57361 Jun 10 '11 at 8:36
    
@DMA57361 Previously, awarding a bounty was strongly linked with accepting an answer. –  deleteme Sep 2 at 21:29

3 Answers 3

There is a grace period - you get a whole week to assign the bounty. How would adding a 3 day "grace period" be any different from just making bounties last 10 days? You can assign the bounty any time after the first two days, so there's if there's an answer you like, assign the bounty a little sooner. Unless I'm missing your point, I feel like this is already built into the system.

Furthermore, if you haven't assigned a bounty and there are 3 days remaning, you get a dropdown notification bar the next time you visit the site. When there are 24 hours remaning, you get the following message in your email:

Reminder: Your Bounty Is Ending Soon!

Your bounty on the question …

Question name and link

… ends in 23 hours.

Don't forget to review the answers and award your bounty by clicking the bounty indicator to the left of each answer. If you don't award your bounty, the highest scored answer (with a minimum of 2 score) provided after your bounty started may be automatically awarded half the bounty amount!

If that's not a clear enough indicator that the bounty period is ending, I don't know what is.

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My answer may be relevant. –  harrymc Jun 10 '11 at 9:04
    
Email delivery is not guaranteed. I still believe in the idea of an additional grace period. If 3 days are too much, the SU site can surely wait a day to let the poster wake up to the fact. It already takes a few hours to calculate the bounty. –  harrymc Jun 10 '11 at 18:14
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I honestly don't see what you are asking for here. Can you please explain the difference between what's being asked for, and making the bounty period 10 days, which is just another arbitrary time length? –  nhinkle Jun 11 '11 at 1:22
    
The idea is that a poster may wait for too long, therefor miss out on awarding the bounty, even if by a few hours. All I'm saying is to add some leniency into the system. It is too easy to say "read the FAQ!". –  harrymc Jun 15 '11 at 5:52
    
The poster is asking for 72 hours, while I think 24 are enough. The idea is that the poster might have been too slow to react to the notifications, so in effect to give him an informal 24 hours more before sending his reps up in smoke. I have seen many cases where the poster missed-out by just a few hours, or simply miscalculated the bounty-closing time. According to my private statistics, maybe as much as 10% of bounties are simply wasted. –  harrymc Jun 15 '11 at 5:58
    
They already have 168 hours to award the bounty. Having the bounty still viable after it expires is completely illogical. If you think that there should be more/earlier/oftener warnings, that's a different feature-request, which you're welcome to make, but again, you already have 1 warning on the site 72 hours before it expires, and an email warning 24 hours before it expires. –  nhinkle Jun 15 '11 at 6:34
    
168 hours to award the bounty while people are still eligble to give additional, possibly better, answers. The bounty should only be able to be awarded after the time limit expires on answers given before or during the bounty period, so you can decide then what the best answer is out of all those that have been given. –  graham.reeds Jun 15 '11 at 10:49
    
@nhinkle: I think you miss out on the fact that in spite of all these notifications and warnings and whatever, posters still manage to misunderstand and miscalculate, so bounties are still being lost. You are in the position of refuting reality, however vocally you do that and however many visitors vote for you. May I remind you again that the poster himself is just one of these cases ? –  harrymc Jun 17 '11 at 5:47
    
@harrymc if people don't award their bounties after all those warnings, what makes you think that an extra warning or an extra day will make any significant difference in the number of unawarded bounties? –  nhinkle Jun 17 '11 at 7:15

This post is based on a real case where the poster put almost his entire rep on a bounty, but missed out on the 7-days deadline because he hasn't finished implementing the answer.

The result was that his reps evaporated into thin air. Luckily the answer was upvoted more than 2 times, so not all of it was lost. But the poster is correct in feeling cheated of his rep, although the prevailing answer seems to be "Didn't read the FAQ ? Your fault!".

I have for a long time been asking for a more lenient system, and a more detailed user-interface that would guide the user and avoid mistakes. After all, not everybody reads every word in the FAQ.

Some more warnings and more info in the dialogs, even if this duplicates the FAQ and may look redundant to the site developers, may avoid the current pitfalls in the bounty system.

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When you put a bounty on something, you get a notification bar when you have 3 days left, and an email 24 hours before. Without ever even reading the FAQ, you get reminded how much time you have. See my updated answer. –  nhinkle Jun 10 '11 at 16:22

You might find it helpful to see this recent edit by Jeff Atwood♦ (on a similar question on Meta.SO) interesting (I've quoted it below). It seems a grace period of 24 hours has now being implemented.

edit: due to a lot of whining valued community feedback on this issue, I decided it can't hurt to extend the auto-award period 24 hours past the true end of the bounty. So, the question will stop being a bounty question at the original scheduled time but the auto-accept calculations will always occur 24 hours after that.

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