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There have been some questions with users expressing their confusion about the fact that the bounty system gives you the option to "Reward existing answers" but you have to wait a full day, anyway (1,2). The need to award great answers seems to be there; I know I have seen posts that were not only great but also clearly required so much effort I wanted to reward the poster. But I could not, other than (ab)using the clunky bounty system. Voting is not always effective, especially on smaller sites and posts on niche topics.

Maybe it would make sense to move rewarding existing answers out of the bounty mechanic. Treat bounties the way they were intended, i.e. as incentive to post new answers, and give every answer (and question?) a tip jar where users can leave arbitrary (within some bounds?) amounts of reputation (with or without their name), effective immediately (maybe some tiny delay to allow timely undos).

Does this allow unchecked reputation transfers? Yes, but we already have a script that detects illicit/unwanted voting patterns, so I expect we can also detect reputation transfer abuse with high accuracy.

This would also allow for some new badges, for example "Tipped X rep to other users" and "Received X rep in tips" for several values of X.

Note how this would also give core-community members on sites where voting goes slow (especially small and young sites) the opportunity to reward productive users in a visible and noticeable way (beyond their one vote). This is a problem on some sites and hinders community kickstarting to some extent.

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Does this really happen enough to wanrant such a system? It sounds like quite a complex system for such an edge case. This would only benefit the users who simply aren't patient enough to wait the required 24hrs to award their bounty. If anything, this would add more complexity to an already "complex" bounty system... –  Lix Jun 17 '12 at 11:11
@Lix: If it does not happen, maybe it does not happen because it is not clear/easy enough? The "start a bounty" link vanishes visually, and is placed on the question, not the answers you'd want to tip. I know there are many answers that deserve more than five to ten upvotes (kind of the maximum you can get on some sites). Don't use SO as a benchmark. –  Raphael Jun 17 '12 at 11:16
@Lix: Besides, I think a clearly visible tip jar would make things easier for users, not more complicated. I don't care much about implementation issues, frankly; we have professionals for that. –  Raphael Jun 17 '12 at 11:22
I thought upvotes are the tip jar. –  Juhana Jun 17 '12 at 11:58
@Juhana: Upvotes are a pat on the back: you can only given them once (without begin awkward). –  Raphael Jun 17 '12 at 11:58
I'm totally for this. I'd like to give some 5 answers on a question a tip, but I already put a bounty of 500 on it, so I have to give them all 500 instead of something like 100. What's more, I have to wait 24 hours to award each one... –  minitech Jun 17 '12 at 13:29
When you put a bounty on a question to reward an existing answer you also put that answer in the limelight which means that the overall reward is higher as it gets more eyes on it and more upvotes. I've done this a couple of times on Database Administrators and found the answers I wanted to reward probably ended up getting at least 10 additional upvotes from this effect. I've also been the beneficiary of that effect myself. –  Martin Smith Jun 17 '12 at 14:11
I agree that bounties are a much too complicated way for a quick (but extended) "thanks", but a "tip" system like this would bring manifold problems. Misuse that is relatively easy to detect and control under the bounty system, might become much harder to fight when the volume of transactions raises hundredfold or more. On the other hand, it would be cool to be able to do this... –  Pëkka Jun 17 '12 at 15:22
Very closely related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/8098/… –  Shog9 Jun 17 '12 at 21:30
possible duplicate of How come no option to 'tip' answerers? –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Jun 18 '12 at 0:00

1 Answer 1

Consider the current bounty-based system as it stands.

There are several possibilities.

  1. You have found a pretty good answer. One good enough that maybe a single upvote isn't good enough. So you want to give them something more. But, because it would take 2 days, and you don't want to be bothered, you don't.

  2. You have found a great answer. An answer so good, you want to give them a bag of rep for it. And the answer is so good, you don't care that it would take 2 days before you can actually award the rep; you're willing to wait.

The current system has two properties: it discourages handing out rep like candy. It encourages you to consider whether you want to reward an answer. This means that only the very best answers will qualify.

So if you see a blue +XXX bar next to an answer, you know that someone probably decided it deserved it.

The other property the system has is that it encourages additional good answers. It is possible that, within the 2-day grace period, someone else will have posted an answer, in hopes of garnering the bounty themselves. If that answer is better than the one you wanted to reward, then the rep goes to them. That would not be possible under your proposed system.

The current system encourages great answers as well as new great answers. Your system encourages merely good answers, and doesn't encourage new anything. I prefer the current system.

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