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I see too many posts with bounties being abandoned on our site. Bounties are an efficient attention-getter device which does well to attract answers to the post. If the post is abandoned, this seems unfair to the people who invested their time in answering it.

My idea is inspired by the fact that if a poster accepts someone else's answer he gets +2 rep (link), which encourages acceptation. I would suggest a similar bonus for awarding bounties.

As +2 rep is a paltry amount when compared with bounties that are usually in the range of 50-200. My idea is that for a bounty being awarded by its poster (not the community), to refund the bounty-poster with something like 20 percent of his bounty. This is a positive type of encouragement which hurts no one.

To motivate bounty posters to return and indicate why the proposed answers didn't work for them, perhaps this award should also apply if they post an answer of their own during the 7+1 days bounty period.

Please indicate your opinion of my suggestion or your ideas for improvement.

Edit : Conclusion

We today have 63,676 unanswered questions, almost all abandoned, and the above +2 rep rule is too little to be effective.

I thought that because bounties are much more substantial there would be a numerical argument to offer a more effective incentive, including channeling back some of the reputation, but I didn't manage to start any brainstorming about the subject.

It has been suggested that meta.SE is more suitable for such a discussion, but in view of the evidenced inertia I don't think I'll bother.

Thanks to every one who participated.

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    I think this belongs on meta.SE, and not meta.SU? – rahuldottech Aug 24 '18 at 11:07
  • @rahuldottech: Maybe you're right. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 11:14
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    How do you mean abandoned? The asker doesn't return to award it to an answer? Surely then the community decides anyway? Maybe I'm missing something here. – djsmiley2k Aug 24 '18 at 14:19
  • @djsmiley2k: The community can only award half the bounty, and that also on condition that an answer got at least 2 votes. For many posts, the poster and/or bounty person are the only ones really interested. There is also the little gotcha that if they are not the same person, then even if the poster accepts the answer then in this case bounty awarding doesn't follow acceptation. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 16:05
  • @TwistyImpersonator: This works if post and bounty are by the same person, according to cases I have seen. I haven't seen such cases lately, so don't know if SU still does it this way. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 20:01
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I don't think the collection of fake internet points is the main driver here.

A lot of questions with reasonably good answers are abandoned without being accepted, regardless if a bounty is set or not. The user has had their issue solved, if they don't want to interact further with the community then you can't force the issue.

Additionally your suggestion only works if the questioner is the one that set the bounty. What do you propose occurs if a 3rd party adds the bounty to the question?

  • Force certainly not, the idea is to motivate. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 11:13
  • @harrymc - This type of motivation would make me never award a bounty. – Ramhound Aug 24 '18 at 12:05
  • My suggestion also applies to a 3rd party. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 16:07
  • "A lot of questions with reasonably good answers are abandoned without being accepted, regardless if a bounty is set or not." That's exactly what I was thinking. Unfortunately, the abandoned question phenomenon is rather common within the Super User realm, with or without a bounty. – Run5k Aug 24 '18 at 18:41
  • @Run5k: Right - SU can only encourage the correct behavior, and reputation is basically the only tool. The +2 rep rule quoted in my post is one attempt to avoid abandoned posts, although it's too low to have much of an effect. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 18:50
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I see too many posts with bounties being abandoned on our site. Bounties are an efficient attention-getter device which does well to attract answers to the post. If the post is abandoned, this seems unfair to the people who invested their time in answering it.

Any user who offers a bounty is not required to award it. I often use a bounty to draw attention to a question, and purposefully do not award the bounty to anyone, for the sole purpose of allowing the community to decide which answer should get it.

I cannot agree that by simply not awarding a bounty, that I have abandoned the bounty.

As +2 rep is a paltry amount when compared with bounties that are usually in the range of 50-200. My idea is that for a bounty being awarded by its poster (not the community), to refund the bounty-poster with something like 20 percent of his bounty. This is a positive type of encouragement which hurts no one.

Except I think the behavior of only answering questions with a bounty is harmful to the community. Bounties should remain non-refundable, the entire point of a bounty, is to draw attention to the question and its answers and if none exist hopefully encourage somebody to post one.

I personally think bounties shouldn't be awarded at all. They should simply be a way to draw attention to good quality contributions. This would get rid of what I believe is a negative motivation for answering a question. It would also solve the problem of "abandoned" bounties. If the answer that is submitted due to bounty answers the question, it should be accepted, which should happen in our current environment anyways.

  • Offering bounties but never awarding - lucky that this behavior is rare since it can destroy the whole concept of bounties. I'll ignore that last snipe of yours. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 15:59
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    Offering bounties and never awarding ... seems like a business practice called bait and switch. – Hogstrom Aug 24 '18 at 17:07
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    @Hogstrom - Show me the rule in the Code of Conduct that states I must award a bounty to an answer. When I offer a bounty, I literally indicate, that I am offering it to draw attention to the question. Even if I didn't make my intentions clear, it wouldn't be Bait and Switch, for the simple fact I am not required to award a bounty to an answer. Bait and Switch is an illegal business practice, and there are laws, that indicates it's illegal. – Ramhound Aug 24 '18 at 17:28
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    @harrymc - If I couldn't draw attention to a question (and never specifically award a bounty), I would never award bounties to a question. So there is the fact. by trying to draw attention to a good question. I am doing a service to the community. – Ramhound Aug 24 '18 at 17:32
  • You are not doing a service to the people who offered a solution, believing that they were getting a bounty for the effort. And I myself don't see a bounty as "please have a look" but as "please help". But my post is being side-roaded into a discussion of your practices, which isn't really the point. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 17:39
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Please indicate your opinion of my suggestion

Bounties are intended to draw attention to a post:

If you’ve asked a good question, edited it with status and progress updates, and still are not receiving answers, you can draw attention to your question by placing a bounty on it.

...

Part of what you’re “paying for” with the bounty is to get additional attention for your question, over and beyond what a normal question gets. In that regard, a bounty does not guarantee a response

Source What is a bounty? How can I start one? - Help Center - Super User

There is no compulsion to award a bounty. That is up to the discretion of the user who placed the bounty.

If they feel that no answer deserves the bounty that is their choice and we should respect it.

You are not doing a service to the people who offered a solution, believing that they were getting a bounty for the effort. And I myself don't see a bounty as "please have a look" but as "please help".

Source comment by harrymc

Users should not "believe they are getting a bounty for their effort", as that is not specified in the rules for awarding bounties.

If that was the case, then everyone answering the bountied question would expect the bounty and that is clearly not the case.

You should consider it a bonus if you actually get awarded the bounty.

Nobody is forcing you to spend your valuable time answering questions that have bounties.

  • Your argument also works against the +2 rep rule quoted in my post - why should posters be encouraged to accept when their question was answered? The fact is still that many posters get attracted to posts because of the bounty and some even invest a great deal. This is human nature which SU does exploit with this mechanism. As such I believe that SU should not shirk responsibility and should encourage the correct behavior of all parties. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 18:43
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    @harrymc No it doesn't. The +2 for accepting answers is already the case. Nobody is obliged to accept answers whether there is a bounty attached or not. – DavidPostill Aug 24 '18 at 19:58
  • Nobody is obliged to do anything - SU can only encourage the right behavior, and reputation is basically the only available tool. I have seen really weird things happening around bounties, so think some encouragements are in order. The +2 rep rule is to my opinion ridiculously low and has really no effect, which is why I suggested to go as high as 20% for bounties. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 20:08
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    "reputation is basically the only available tool" Really? So you are only here because of your reputation? What happened to helping people because you know the answer? If you are only here because of imaginary internet points you should perhaps look in the mirror and think about your motivation. – DavidPostill Aug 24 '18 at 20:14
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    “Nobody is forcing you to spend your valuable time answering questions that have bounties.” Bingo! And FWIW, when I first became more active on the Stack Exchange sites, I would occasionally dig through the bounty pile for a question I might be able to answer and that only worked out—maybe—like one time at best. And ditto to this, “So you are only here because of your reputation? What happened to helping people because you know the answer?” Exactly. To me reputation is a reflection of my desire to share knowledge and learn in the process. No accumulate rep for reps sake alone. – JakeGould Aug 24 '18 at 20:14
  • I'm here for fun and education, and reputation is a byproduct. As a moderator you are more instrumental than me in creating rules that govern behavior on the site and many of these rules concern reputation, which is still the most effective positive incentive that SU has (although for me when a user thanks me heartily this is worth much more than reputation). Don't blame me for saying the rules are not perfect. My suggestions are meant to start a discussion that might bear some fruits of some kind sometime, that's all. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 20:28
  • Please disassociate my suggestion from myself. There is no correspondence except for my (long) experience here. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 20:39
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“Bounties are an efficient attention-getter device which does well to attract answers to the post.”

Yes, and as someone who has tossed a lot of my rep towards bounties on questions that still don’t get answered, the implication here is that the community is lazy and can only be motivated by bounties. So we should now come up with some wacky math to reward participants.

Sometimes this is the case. Other times, questions are asked that can in no way get an answer… At least not in the immediate timeframe.

I don’t believe people should rewarded a percentage just for posting an answer on a bounty-based question. If the original poster—who most of the time posts the bounty—does not see that answer as valid, they should not worry about their bounty being shaved away just by participation.

The other side of this coin is another fact about bounties: If a bountied question gets a real answer that has real value guess what? That question—and resulting answer—gets upvoted so much that the investment in the bounty is rewarded with an evergreen pile of upvotes.

I think bounties are fine as they are: A gamble. Sometimes the added attention creates quality. Sometimes it ends up doing nothing at all. I’m fine with the system being the way it is.

  • This is fine only in theory. For many posts, the poster and/or bounty person are the only ones really interested, so there is no evergreen pile of upvotes. If the post was very interesting, there would be no need of a bounty. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 18:53
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    @harrymc Define interesting. You seem to focus on questions that are not interesting to most users. That is your choice. – DavidPostill Aug 24 '18 at 19:59
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    @harrymc Also, in addition to what David said, sometimes posts don’t find an audience until after an answer is provided. I myself have gone ahead and added answers to very old questions that shed new light on an issue and then have gotten upvotes and even the answer check coming my way. It is rare, but still. I think the system works well as is. The idea of “wasted” bounties is a bit silly. – JakeGould Aug 24 '18 at 20:04
  • @DavidPostill: I focus on questions in my area(s) of competence that I find as challenging. "Interesting" for me is attracting the attention of many visitors. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 20:12
  • @JakeGould: I'm not talking waste but about human expectations. I have seen almost everything that can happen around bounties and the sometimes "feeding frenzy" that they generate. I'm not asking for changes in policy, just for consideration of my idea in the future in some way or means. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 20:17
  • @harrymc Then perhaps this Stack Exchange specifically is not the one to discuss this on. The main Meta Stack Exchange site seems far more appropriate in my humble opinion. – JakeGould Aug 24 '18 at 20:23
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    I think so too, but I wanted first the reaction of people I know, especially moderators. What I got indicates that this would be hard going. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 20:31
  • @harrymc Fair enough. Have you seen this thread on Meta Stack Exchange? – JakeGould Aug 24 '18 at 20:39
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    Interesting post and idea, going the other way. – harrymc Aug 24 '18 at 20:44

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