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Six days ago I put a +50 bounty on Why doesn't jQuery work in Chrome user scripts (Greasemonkey)? which wasn't asked by me, but to which I'd previously posted a pretty decent answer. Since then I've earned 130 reputation from upvotes on my answer, netting me +80 reputation and a bronze badge from no work.

It seems possible to slowly generate free reputation by "investing" in your answers like this. I expect I could repeat this perpetually and continue to profit from it.

This strikes me as an abuse of the bounty system. Should anything be done to prevent it?

EDIT: For more concrete questions:

  • If I put another bounty on this question after this one expired, would that be considered abuse?
  • What if I did it several times? (In this discussion the answer was "yes", but the author was doing so to promote his own project.)
  • What if I didn't do it to the same question, but was constantly promoting questions I'd answered, in order to promote my answers?
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Given that it requires a good answer to work, it's not an abuse that is likely to unbalance anything significantly. –  Adam Davis Sep 6 '11 at 20:15
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@Brandon I'm mostly asking if asking repeatedly is abuse. However, if it's not on the same question, but on other questions I've answered, would that be better? Is it acceptable to constantly promote questions to promote my answers? –  Jeremy Banks Sep 6 '11 at 20:21
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Looks like you've invented commercial advertising for SO answers: spend some rep to make your post stand out, and hope that viewers "buy" it. –  Josh Caswell Sep 6 '11 at 20:31
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@Jeremy "Is it acceptable to constantly promote questions to promote my answers?" There is a social stigma against users that appear to be rep whores. I would hope that they don't change the system just to make this less attractive, but if a lot of users start to do it, and a lot of users start to complain about it, then there might be reason to change it. However, just because it's not specifically disallowed technically or through rules, it isn't likely to be looked on kindly by other users. –  Adam Davis Sep 6 '11 at 20:35
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brb suspending your account for abusing the bounty system –  Won't Sep 6 '11 at 20:43
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Seriously, tho, why did you do it? Was it an experiment? –  Won't Sep 6 '11 at 20:46
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@Won't: My answer was posted more than a year late, so it didn't get many views. I thought it was reasonable to promote the question so it would have a chance of being ranked more appropriately. I didn't expect it to be this effective. –  Jeremy Banks Sep 6 '11 at 20:49
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Posted too soon. Tomorrow you'll have to award the bounty and you won't be able to assign to the best answer. The very wrong signal that sends is abusive. –  Uphill Luge Sep 6 '11 at 20:54
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Hey, somebody put a bounty on the kxcd question so that my answer can get even more votes. Then, I'll put a bounty on your best answer's question. Cross question rep-whore-mojination! –  Won't Sep 6 '11 at 20:56
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This was asked here before, regarding this question and Rook's bounties to promote his answer (which worked very well). waffles replied and said he was totally fine with this: Clever bounty reputation hack –  NullUserException อ_อ Sep 6 '11 at 21:01
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wow, nice one - what a cool pseudo hack –  Chamilyan Sep 6 '11 at 21:09
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@JeremyBanks thanks for this. It works like a charm –  genesis Sep 18 '11 at 9:55
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you could make this rep strategy more elaborated :-) You could transfer the bounty to your buddy (another account) and then place second bounty by this buddy and reward yourself :-) This way all your investment comes back (so you earn whole +130, not just +80) ;-) –  Tomas Oct 15 '11 at 0:27
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8 Answers

up vote 42 down vote accepted
+100

As noted by Robert, this has come up recently. Posting a bounty is a perfectly reasonably thing, a good thing (with badges too!). However, when applied repeatedly to a question it does start to represent abuse.

To help minimise this, but while leaving open the option of offering a subsequent bounty when you really, really are looking for another option we will be implementing a change here, where subsequent bounties have a higher minimum offering. This means you can't place 6 "cheap" bounties of 50 rep, to keep your answer on the bounty board to get lots of pass-by upvotes, as subsequent bounties probably1 will not cover your "spend".

We now double the minimum "spend" for successive bounties on the same question by the same user. So if you started at 50: your next bounty on that question has a minimum of 100, the next 200, the next 400, the next (max).

Another related change has been mentioned by Sam Saffron:

  • If you are placing a bounty on a question you answered, your minimum spend is 100

1=Unless of course your answer is super-awesome, but if it is super-awesome it'll probably already be doing the rounds for free (insert obvious regex/html jape here).

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What an awful idea, it just squelches the only option the community has to press their ideas. –  Lance Roberts Sep 16 '11 at 6:08
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@Lance I replied to your other comment separately. This does not specifically relate to meta, and is not intended to squelch your ideas. –  Marc Gravell Sep 16 '11 at 6:23
    
Both highest voted answers to this question tell you that such bounties are legitimate - and what do you do? Prevent them... –  NikiC Sep 16 '11 at 14:05
    
@NikiC - what exactly is "prevented"? If you want to add a bounty you still can. Only gaming is significantly impacted. The second is only 100, for example. –  Marc Gravell Sep 16 '11 at 18:24
    
@Marc: Those two answer say that this shouldn't be considered "gaming" as you call it. That's why I wonder why the SO decision goes against the community decision. –  NikiC Sep 16 '11 at 19:57
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Was the reason for this change specifically to address the rare case where someone puts a bounty on a question that they have answered? If so, why not limit it to the case where the bounty giver has answered the question? It seems you're punishing people who really want an answer to their question, just to cover a rare corner case that might be seen as abusive. –  Gilles Sep 17 '11 at 19:47
    
@NikiC those two answers are talking about the "a (singluar) bounty" scenario; that remains completely unaffected. –  Marc Gravell Sep 18 '11 at 7:58
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How about not having the doubling on bounty cost for questions that received no answers when the previous bounties expired? Or received no non-downvoted answers? –  Charles Stewart Sep 19 '11 at 14:01
    
I think the 50/100/200/400/500 is not steep enough -- I'd go 50/150/350/500. @CharlesStewart The "non-downvoted" part can give someone more incentive to downvote answers that don't deserve it. –  agf Sep 22 '11 at 11:33
    
@MarcGravell - I believe this is a good solution, as it quickly makes it less profitable to re-post bounty –  Adel Oct 23 '11 at 8:40
    
@MarcGravell - Can you verify whether or not we're allowed to do a 50, 100, 200, 400, 500 sequence? The progression of 'double the minimum "spend" for successive bounties' leads to 800 next, which is more than the maximum allowed bounty size of 500. –  Kevin Vermeer Oct 26 '11 at 14:14
    
@Kevin I'm not at a PC to check, but I believe it just limits to 500 –  Marc Gravell Oct 26 '11 at 14:44
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Nice job, but easily hacked by deleting the answer, starting bounty with 50 then undeleting the answer - @waffles FYI as well hope you two can come up with something against it. :) –  Shadow Wizard Dec 19 '11 at 14:35
    
Marc, should the default selected value in the bounty dialog still be the lowest possible amount? If yes: this question once had a 500 bounty, but I was not involved in that question at all. Hence, I can select anything from 50 to 500 when I want to offer a bounty. However, the bounty dialog defaults to 500. –  Arjan Aug 13 '13 at 12:25
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Since then I've earned 130 reputation from upvotes on my answer, netting me +80 reputation and a bronze badge from no work.

Not true! You put work into your answer and into the 50 reputation that you needed to place the bounty in the first place.

It seems possible to slowly generate free reputation by "investing" in your answers like this. I expect I could repeat this perpetually and continue to profit from it.

This strikes me as an abuse of the bounty system. Should anything be done to prevent it?

This doesn't seem like an abuse of the bounty system to me; in fact, I would say that this is by design. No one was forced to upvote your answer, and everyone who did recognized its value and made that clear to any anonymous visitors from Google who see it. If a bounty causes you to benefit from great answers that the community approves, I'd say that it's a win-win situation for everyone. (In other words, I agree with waffles's answer to a similar question.)

The only exception to this, I think, is repeatedly placing a bounty on the same question to give it constant exposure.

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Wow, I dreamed up that whole repeated bounty scenario in my head while coming up with my answer -- I didn't know (or had forgotten) that it had actually occurred in practice! –  Pops Sep 6 '11 at 20:51
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I don't see this as an abuse. You could do nearly the same thing by editing your answer and bumping it to the front page. I know it's not quite the same as putting a bounty on it since, but you'd potentially get the same effect. After all, you're not guaranteed to get the extra votes to offset your bounty loss. Seems to me that you'd maybe have as good a chance at losing rep from the bounty.

I'd actually see this as less of an abuse on SO than on other sites as time went on since the Featured Questions list on SO is half a dozen pages long, even at 50 questions/page. Whereas the Featured Questions list doesn't have near the velocity of the front page on SO that's still a lot of questions to filter through.

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I was initially 100% supportive of you, but after re-reading your question a few times and thinking about it more, I've dropped to, I dunno, 70% supportive.

My first concern is sort of a reply to squillman. I think it's fairly clear that using a bounty is less abusive than submitting a no-value "bump edit." However, editing to add more great info and/or improve existing content is probably even better.

My second concern is about volume. What happens when lots of people start doing this? How many times will any given question be bountied? When those numbers grow, the featured list could become so long and repetitive that it stops serving its primary purpose: drawing attention to bountied questions.

I do wonder whether you could keep this cycle up indefinitely, or at least for a long time, with a single answer. Would the cost of opening bounties eventually make it "unprofitable"? It would be interesting to see data. Curiously, there is an equilibrium point: when more people do this, the featured list becomes less useful (see previous paragraph) and the tactic is less likely to work.

That said, this whole scheme is predicated on the existence of great answers, and as long as you're posting those, it's not abuse. I don't think there are enough users capable of doing this to justify the concerns I listed... at least not yet.

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I would think that people would start losing rep from this WAY before we start to see uselessness in the featured questions list. Data would certainly be interesting. The whole idea is based on the assumption that you'd get 6+ upvotes on an answer with < 4 downvotes (adjusted proportionately). That assumption is a decent sized risk. –  squillman Sep 6 '11 at 20:47
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Please don't do it more than once on the same question.

One time seems reasonable to me, maybe even innovative. You gamble that you make more on increased rep than you spend on the bounty. Do it more than one time on the same question, and people begin to get irritated.

After all, the question I linked already has an accepted answer with high upvotes. If the purpose of the bounty system is to get attention for your old, unanswered questions, then putting multiple bounties on a question that's been asked and answered seems a bit hinky.

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How would you feel about doing this regularly, but on different questions? –  Jeremy Banks Sep 6 '11 at 22:13
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You get one bite at the apple for each question. Make sure you award the bounty to the answer that most deserves it, especially if there's a good answer that didn't get it's due credit. Example here. –  Robert Harvey Sep 6 '11 at 22:15
    
@Robert So you'd say this is not acceptable? –  NullUserException อ_อ Sep 7 '11 at 3:31
    
@Null: Yeah, I don't quite know what's going on there. Rook's answer accepted by Rook? (no discernible sockpuppets). That answer has had extensive editing by Rook over time; looks like he's got a lot of time and effort invested in it. And Rook is not the only one leaving bounties there. –  Robert Harvey Sep 7 '11 at 3:45
    
@Robert You can choose to give your own answer the bounty, but you get no points for it. –  NullUserException อ_อ Sep 7 '11 at 4:34
    
@Null: Yeah, kinda figured that. Guess Rook thought his answer was best. –  Robert Harvey Sep 7 '11 at 4:43
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Looking at the bounty FAQ you've definitely gone away from the designed intent.

A bounty is a special reputation award given to answers. This feature was designed to motivate answerers, and make questions get the answers they deserve

You're not doing that since you've already provided an answer. Which is why I agree with Popular Demand that it definitely negatively impacts the people that are actually looking to get a bounty or looking get their question answered. Since it takes eyes away from unanswered questions and gives it to questions that have answers.

My gut says that if this tactic takes hold and becomes common place it will probably be regarded in the same way camping is regarded. Some will think its cheating while others simply will feel its part of the game.

Also I disagree with Popular Demand and others that it is "predicated on the existence of great answers". I think it would actually be most successfully employed on answers to Bike Shed questions. We have enough attention paid to those as it is.

Finally if you really want to draw attention to an answer you gave you can do it in a way that doesn't negatively impact the real bounty questions. Namely link to it from outside SO. If you're good at it you can earn a announcer booster or publisher badge.

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Wow, I didn't even think about bikeshed questions. But bounties opened for those could be flagged for mod attention. –  Pops Sep 6 '11 at 23:54
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The bounty system is the most expensive (and effective) means of drawing attention to a question. It fulfilled it's purpose.

The fact that you had a high-quality answer on the question that received upvotes is a GOOD thing.

You can't really "abuse" this since you have to have a good answer to begin with.

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Putting a bounty up drives traffic to your questions. It's worded as "This question has an open bounty... This question has not received enough attention"

So if users feel the answer is deserving an up vote they will do so. Quite possibly another answer will even get their vote. So it seems like it is serving its purpose of driving traffic and votes on content. Really great answers will yield positive results.

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