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I have been using Stack Overflow for a couple weeks now as an active member and have previously been aware of the site through searching Google for answers to questions.

I have found that most of the questions I have asked have been promptly and thoroughly answered by an experienced userbase, but I have several questions which I see slipping into the abyss unanswered whcih I suspect may never be due to their decreasing level of visibility.

As a new user I have no hope of raising a bounty on any of these questions to solicit a response. I also dont see my reputation going up particularly quickly because any question I would have a chance of answering is picked up within seconds and answered better than I ever could by someone with greater knowledge.

This means the only way I can see of raising my reputation high enough to bring attention to these questions any time soon would be to spam the system with easy to answer questions (don't worry, I won't).

Therefore what I would like to see is some way for users with low reputations to be able to offer a bounty or at least in some way encourage an answer to a question - for example allowing them a free 50 rep bounty once a month to offer on an important question that has not been answered for a period of time and has not been downvoted (is a sensible question that is not easy to answer.)

We are probably the ones who need the most help after all.

P.S. love the site - I've leart more in the last two weeks of membership than the two months previous.

share|improve this question
You lose 100% of the reputation on questions you don't answer. -Wayne Gretzky – user7116 Feb 17 '12 at 22:02
The free bounty idea is interesting. Not sure it could work though -- you'd still need to garner enough rep so that it wouldn't be worthwhile for someone to make a new account just to get another freebie. – Matthew Read Feb 17 '12 at 22:51
I haven't testsed it but surely the site checks against your ip for duplicate accounts if not than I would add this to my feature proposal – WebweaverD Feb 17 '12 at 23:19
@sixletter what do you mean You lose 100% of the reputation on questions you don't answer? I've looked at loads without answering them if that were the case I would be well into the minuses on rep. – WebweaverD Feb 17 '12 at 23:26
@WebweaverD: My apologies on the pseudo-hockey-programming humor, I'm dating a Canadian. What I'm saying is you aren't going to gain any reputation by not answering questions, so don't be scared to! Even if you're not the fastest gun in the West you'll still get some rep. Trying to answer questions will improve your programming competence and will improve your writing, both of which will net you more reputation on the site. – user7116 Feb 17 '12 at 23:32
@sixletter Thanks for the encouragement but I did make what I thought was a reasonable suggestion for what may be the problem with a piece of code and my answer was voted down and I lost some of my hard earned rep early on - I have been somewhat scared off since tbh – WebweaverD Feb 17 '12 at 23:46
up vote 4 down vote accepted

When you edit a question, you "bump" it to the top, so the question gains visibility.

So, if a question is starting to languish, you can consider making a meaningful edit, to add detail to the question. That'll make it more visible, and hopefully someone will be able to help you with your newly improved question.

If this is your question, consider editing it down to the bare minimum of what you need to get the problem across. Right now the question is quite long, and the tl;dr factor might be scaring some people away.

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I didn't realise that editing a question bumped to the top of the list, this does seem like a reasonable alternative. – WebweaverD Feb 17 '12 at 23:23
@WebweaverD - for sure...just be sure to make it a meaningful edit. Changing some punctuation around just to bump it is usually frowned upon – Adam Rackis Feb 17 '12 at 23:25
Thank you for suggestion - I have reduced it to one concise question and removed as much of the waffle as possible – WebweaverD Feb 17 '12 at 23:38
@WebweaverD - cool. Best of luck on it (I don't know magento so I certainly can't help). If you still don't get any love on it, try bumping it one more time on Monday—since right now it's a Friday afternoon/evening, and a lot of people might have better things to do than troll Stack Overflow :) – Adam Rackis Feb 17 '12 at 23:41
Could you clarify what we mean by bumped up here - I was hoping it meant my question got sent straight to the top of the new questions queue but it appears not (at least I cant see it) I looked through the first ten pages or so a few minutes after altering it - I know this site moves quick but damn it must have been buried quick on a Friday night. – WebweaverD Feb 17 '12 at 23:49
@WebweaverD - it won't send it to the new questions list, but it will send it to the active questions list and, I think, to the front page. – Adam Rackis Feb 17 '12 at 23:52

I have never once been motivated to answer a question because of a bounty. I suspect this probably isn't true for most users, which is why we have the bounty system and it works. But I also think it presents sufficient evidence to negate the argument that without the ability to offer bounties, new users won't be able to get good answers to their questions.

By far, the biggest problem I see with questions from new users (particularly those that have not been answered, although not exclusively) is a lack of clarity. Sometimes the questions are appallingly bad, but other times they're just not nearly as clear as they need to be to elicit good responses. They don't give enough background information and/or context (why do you need to do this?), they don't tell us what that person might have already tried to fix their problem, they don't tell us what type of constraints they might be working under (oh, this actually has to run on Windows 95...), etc.

So the real solution here is to improve your questions! And there's a little bonus feature that works to your advantage if you continually improve and update your question: it gets "bumped" back up to the top of the list of questions every time it is edited. That helps to ensure that people will see it.

The only time I've ever seen a good question go unanswered is when it was either so hard that it took a special person with incredible insider knowledge to answer it (e.g., Eric Lippert answering questions about the C# compiler or language design decisions) or there was no good answer because the task pursued was essentially impossible. In neither of those cases is a bounty going to encourage anyone to answer the question when they wouldn't otherwise.

TL;DR I don't think this is necessary. It would just add unnecessary complexity to the system. Just edit the question and improve it; that automatically "bumps" it. Most new user questions are bad anyway.

share|improve this answer
As I said above, I didn't realise that edited questions were bumped - this is good to know. With regards to your comments about bad questions, I'm sure this is a fair point but this is a particular difficulty for new users whixh perhaps needs more guidance. Clearly a lack of knowledge is behinf much of this (and is probably the reason for asking the question in the first place). Clearly a difficult balancing act in asking 'good' questions. I try to include all relevent information(as far as my knowledge allows) as you suggest but adam (above) suggests I have included too much. – WebweaverD Feb 17 '12 at 23:30

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