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High rep users are very precious about their "reputation" - so precious that they sometimes avoid downvoting because of the 1 point rep loss.

If you look at a few of our high rep users a pattern emerges: they do not bounty stuff.

Nonetheless, they happen across pretty awesome questions, that may need a bit of a boost to get answered, or questions that just need a bit more maintenance love.

Would it be a good idea to give our top users a few free bounties?
(when you place them you lose no rep, with possibly some limitations like question age, not previously bountied, not yours etc.)

If you think this is a good idea, what should be the rep threshold and bounty amounts?

If you think it is a bad idea, why?

Now that we have bounty reasons we can properly track why they act in the way they do.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Not in favour of high rep users, or any set of users, having free bounties. That way leads to class separation between the users and crazy antics of Brewster's Millions.

It's giving the people who earn the most more tax breaks because they earn more and know how to skirt the system and not because they could do with it.

If they wanted to help the signal-to-noise ratio or highlight questions/answers respectively, they'd put some of their own skin in the game.

Downvotes on answers and bounties both work the GST model (where the goods and services are taxed regardless of the buyer (unless you go into the mess of what to do with birthday cakes)). The more you want, the more you pay.

If you want to increase philanthropy, work to change the mindset of the penny-pinchers.

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I'm personally not a huge fan of bounties in general - I rather prefer the idea of highlighting questions I found really interesting. Just because something is an awesome question doesn't mean it's necessarily important for it to get an answer - indeed, there may already be a perfectly good answer, but I still think the question itself is a really interesting one.

Putting a bounty on a question ends up rewarding the answerer - whereas I'm more interested in rewarding the questioner.

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I'm with you 100% except for the last sentence - the interesting bit of a question is the answer. Are questions with no answer really that interesting? (unless its you that provides the interesting answer). Besides, the questioner is rewarded - with an answer. –  Justin Sep 20 '11 at 10:57
@Kragen: Yes, I find questions with no answer interesting - they can highlight things I wasn't aware of. –  Jon Skeet Sep 20 '11 at 11:11
Jon my concern here is that we already have 3 ways of interacting with questions, bounty, vote and favorite, can't we adapt one of the existing ones like favourite for the purpose of highlighting? –  waffles Sep 20 '11 at 11:41
@waffles: Possibly. I don't use favourite much for "normal" reasons, so wouldn't mind using that as a signal... –  Jon Skeet Sep 20 '11 at 11:43

I'm against giving free bounties to high-reputation users. And I'm no Jon Skeet, but I am speaking here as a high-reputation user on a couple of sites (not SO). Regardless of whether high-reputation users hoard their reputation or not (it's certainly not my case or that of some other high-rep users, but I can't speak for everyone), they don't need the extra points.

Bounties are mostly useful to get answers for questions of medium difficulty that kind of got lost in the noise (in which case an edit bump would suffice) or require more research than usual. In my experience, they do not help get answers to the truly difficult questions. I've been disappointed several times when giving a bounty, getting only crapshoot answers that didn't really address my problem. So I mostly see bounties as a way to either get someone to do my research for me (not my style), or to reward an outstanding answer after the fact.

If you want to promote bounties, I'd rather restore the old +50 bonus, favoring low-rep users. Perhaps everyone could get one +50 bonus on their first every bounty (for a given account on a given site)?

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For every 1K of rep they can put up a bounty of 1 rep, with a 50 point minimum.

So you first get the privilege at 50k, being able to put up a 50 rep bounty.

I would say that they should only be able to do one of these at a time.

It would have to be monitored somewhat to ensure no one with high rep was just feeding a lower rep friend.

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That barrier is way too high IMO, esp on sites that are not of the same scale as Stack Overflow –  Sathya Sep 20 '11 at 7:12
It could probably be lowered a little, maybe to the 20-30k level, but it should be for those with a very high rep. –  Lance Roberts Sep 20 '11 at 7:25

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