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I have lately encountered several cases where a poster has awarded the bounty, but has not marked that answer as accepted (or any other answer).

This is the symmetric case to the grace period introduced some months ago, where an accepted answer gets automatically the bounty after both the bounty period and the grace period have elapsed.

What I propose is that granting a bounty to an answer should also automatically mark that answer as accepted. After all, acceptance can later be undone.

In my opinion, this change can make the two mechanisms, acceptance and bounty, work together in a more coherent manner.

Status-declined comment:

I have previously been highly criticized for pointing out that the bounty system was losing reputation through answers accepted but bounty not assigned. I got of course "Read the FAQ" as answer (I call this attitude "FAQ off"). Then the "Accepted->Bounty" principle was invented.

Later I was highly criticized for pushing for a solution to bounty-posters missing-out on the end of their bounty period, so their reputation was lost again. Then the grace period was invented.

Now I am encountering the same attitude for the problem of bounty assigned but answer not accepted, so the right answer is not clearly indicated. I suppose I just have to wait for the Powers That Be to reinvent a solution from scratch.

  • What about situations where another user posts a bounty on the OP's question? – James Mertz Jul 11 '12 at 14:47
  • @KronoS: I don't see much difference between the two cases, beside the technicality that the post may then have two accepted answers because of two differing acceptations by poster and bounty-giver, but SU has no problem with two acceptations. – harrymc Jul 11 '12 at 19:56
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    There is zero support in the software for multiple accepted answers (it has happened on occasions due to merging but those bugs have been fixed). Requests for that as a feature have been routinely denied. – Shog9 Jul 11 '12 at 20:55
  • @Shog9: I have seen multiple (two) accepted answers in cases where poster and bounty-giver were not the same. The SU software might have changed since, though. – harrymc Jul 12 '12 at 5:21
  • @Shog9: Please read my comment above. – harrymc Jul 14 '12 at 9:46
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    This case is different from the others since there is no need for users to immediately mark an answer as accepted, whereas bounties are time sensitive. Also, as @random wrote, you might assign a bounty to a user who managed to get you closer to your goal, or reward someone who spent a significant effort solving your problem but still fell short (Journeyman Geek had a topic like that IIRC), but neither implies acceptance of an answer as the one that solves the problem completely. This is very different from marking as accepted during a bounty period without assigning the bounty. – Daniel Beck Jul 14 '12 at 12:06
  • @DanielBeck: Instead of arguing philosophically about what the user might have intended or not, the simplest UI solution is to ask the user thru a popup dialog, isn't it, just to be sure ? – harrymc Jul 14 '12 at 13:39
  • IIRC not showing unnecessary popup questions is one of the design principles of stack sites, so I don't think you'll be successful with that approach. – Daniel Beck Jul 14 '12 at 13:45
  • @DanielBeck: Ahh, but is it unnecessary when a mistake is possible? I can also point to these irritating "Click to dismiss" SU dialogs. – harrymc Jul 14 '12 at 13:49
  • There are also corner cases like this where the accepted answer is correct but the bounty doesn't have to go to accepted one. Note: my answer is the one up for bounty however I obejectively feel that there are many other cases similar to this one where the accepted answer is correct but there's a detailed answer that could benefit from the bounty for future users. – James Mertz Jul 15 '12 at 14:16
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I'm not sure the two cases are really symmetric.

When the asker marks an answer as solving their problem (by accepting it), then effectively by definition of the tick it is the one that was most helpful to them. As the most helpful answer, it deserves the bounty and so it is safe to automatically allocate (unless, for some reason, the user has already allocated it elsewhere).

However, instead if they give only the bounty to the answer, they are saying that answer was the most helpful to them. This does not directly imply that the answer actually solved their problem - for example, maybe it's a hackish workaround, or some great research that's helped, but the asker still wants a real fix.

As such, while automatically handling Accepted→Bounty makes sense, the same for Bounty→Accepted feels like stepping into the "dangerous" territory of potentially putting words in to the mouth of the asker.

  • I don't see it as dangerous, since acceptance can be undone (unlike the bounty). Since I believe that acceptance is the base intention of the bounty-giver in the vast majority of cases, I see the danger as being quite minimal. Of course SU can always pop-up a dialog asking for the user's intention, but for me this is unnecessary effort. – harrymc Jul 11 '12 at 9:10
  • The only reason we would need to force the tick after a bounty is if the user has either failed to realise it's there, or intentionally avoided it. In the latter case forcing it would be bad (even if that occurrence is relatively rare), yes even if they can remove it why should we make them have to go to the effort? and what if they don't notice? I wouldn't be opposed to some or of "hey, don't forget to tick if the problem's fixed" pop up (if there isn't one already? been a long time since I awarded a bounty...) – DMA57361 Jul 11 '12 at 9:21
  • A "don't forget" dialog is a solution, maybe rather as a question "Should answer also be accepted?". I remark that I have never come across a case where the intention of the bounty-giver was not to accept. Rarely, I see cases where after several weeks the poster adds a more complete answer, unaccepts the bountied answer and accepts his own instead. For me the problem you raise here is next to non-existent, while mine is more prevalent. But your solution will work just as well as mine. – harrymc Jul 11 '12 at 10:16
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Originally, the bounty system was strongly linked to "accepting" an answer:

There are three possible outcomes:

  1. You accept an answer. The bounty is subtracted from your reputation, and awarded to the answerer.

  2. You do not accept an answer. Any answer that was a) provided after the bounty period started and b) has 2 or more upvotes is automatically accepted after 7 days. The bounty is subtracted from your reputation. The answerer is awarded half the bounty amount (unless it’s your own answer, see #3 below).

  3. You accept your own answer. The bounty is subtracted from your reputation.

Note that all bounty awards are immune to the daily reputation cap, of course. Also, a bounty accepted answer is permanent and cannot be undone. The traditional accepted answer check is “glowing” to indicate that this is a special kind of accept.

This was... Pretty awkward. If you didn't get an answer you were happy with, you were stuck. If someone posted a better answer later, you couldn't accept it because your accept-mark was permanently affixed to the bounty winner. If you accepted your own answer, everyone hated you.

So after some extensive discussion, the bounty system and accepted answers were unlinked:

I’m happy to announce that we’re improving the bounty system to address (almost) all of these issues. As of now:

  1. Any user with sufficient reputation can start a bounty on any question
  2. A question may have multiple bounties, though only one active bounty is allowed at any given time.
  3. Bounty awards are no longer tied to accepted answer in any way.

Practically and philosophically, this makes far more sense. The "accept" feature was always supposed to be optional - there's no pressing need within the system for any answer to be accepted on a question, ever: unlike many other forum or Q&A systems, the community is able to select the best answer by voting, leaving acceptance as merely an extra indicator of suitability for the asker's specific needs.

Yes, it's usually appropriate for the asker to accept an answer. But, this is his decision to make - if he doesn't want to, nothing breaks. If he decides to offer - and even award - a bounty, that changes nothing.

This is the symmetric case to the grace period introduced some months ago, where an accepted answer gets automatically the bounty after both the bounty period and the grace period have elapsed.

No, no it's not. There are a handful of rules in place to automatically award half of the bounty amount in situations where the person who offered it fails to award it. These are in place to make the most of failure, and draw on what little information is available from votes and the accepted answer. So bounties and the accepted answer are connected only when:

  • The bounty isn't awarded by the person who offers it.
  • The asker accepts an answer during the bounty period.
  • The answer isn't written by the person offering the bounty.

This is an extreme edge-case - and even when it occurs, nothing stops the asker from changing the accepted answer after the fact, or indeed removing it entirely.

  • I think you forgot that (1) bounties are subtracted up-front, and (2) this later bounty system also had problems and was re-calibrated by adding the "Accepted→Bounty" concept and the grace-period. It's very easy to create a confusing UI and lay the blame for mistakes on the stupid user - this called "read the FAQ" (RTF). It's much harder to create a UI that helps not to make the mistake in the first place - this is called "user friendly". – harrymc Jul 11 '12 at 18:34
  • @harrymc: the "accepted->bounty" concept you're referring to only applies when the bounty offerer doesn't accept a bounty and an answer is accepted during the bounty period. It certainly doesn't mandate accepting an answer, or put any other restrictions on when / how an answer can be accepted. – Shog9 Jul 11 '12 at 20:53
  • I do not suggest placing any restrictions - just making the bounty process more user-friendly. "Accepted→Bounty" is one way that SU corrects mistakes, double-checking this by using the grace-period. My point is that there is another possible mistake in the "Bounty→Accepted" direction. I have suggested one solution and @DMA57361 has suggested another. Whatever solution is accepted, this will only improve the user-experience on the SU site. – harrymc Jul 12 '12 at 5:29

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