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The reason is currently defined as:

Reward existing answer

One or more of the answers is exemplary and worthy of an additional bounty.

This bounty reason is the only one present that currently indicates that an existing answer will be rewarded with the bounty in the end. There have been requests declined to allow these bounties to be rewarded without having to wait 24 hours and even a request to hide these bounties from the featured tab. All the reasons seem to be centered around the idea that other answers that may be posted would not be eligible for the bounty, and that having to wait serves no purpose.

I have frequently expressed my opinion that this is misuse of the bounty reason. It's not intentional misuse, though. It's misused because the reason is poorly defined which encourages the wrong behavior. Following the purpose of bounties, any answer that exists or comes to be throughout the period of the bounty should be eligible. This bounty reason should encourage the holder to award it to answers which may be better than an answer which the holder originally intended to award the bounty.

Here is a better, reworked edition of the bounty reason:

Reward outstanding answer

Any exemplary information that can be provided or already exists may be rewarded.

I believe this reason is general enough to fit in with the other bounties while still encouraging participation from other users. I believe this would take the focus away from just flat-out transferring reputation to a user because they helped them out and put it on the general need for outstanding information.

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How often do you think this actually happens? Describing why you think it's a problem or highlighting evidence may help clarify that this is an issue and help get others (such as the SE community team) onboard. Good luck! :) – jmort253 Jun 28 '12 at 2:28
@jmort253: What happens? Rewarding an answer that didn't exist before? The problem isn't about how often it happens, the problem is that the bounty reason doesn't encourage it to happen. – animuson Jun 28 '12 at 2:30
So if I understand, you're for the idea of rewarding existing answers but feel the reason should be clarified to point out that it's possible that the bounty could be awarded to a brave SE user willing to try and beat the existing answers? Or are you trying to take the focus off of the idea that only existing answers should be awarded? Just seeking clarification. Thanks :) – jmort253 Jun 28 '12 at 2:31
I have a huge problem with the word "existing" there; it shouldn't... exist. Just because an answer exists doesn't make it worthy of a bounty. It needs to be outstanding. – animuson Jun 28 '12 at 2:33
Thank you for clarifying. What about "reward existing outstanding answer" ? – jmort253 Jun 28 '12 at 2:34
While that eliminates part of the problem, I still don't think it's appliance is logical. We should be rewarding outstanding information in general, no matter when that information is actually posted. – animuson Jun 28 '12 at 2:36
I think that if someone gets it in his/her mind that he/she is going to award bounty X to user Y, I'm not sure changing the description would modify that behavior. With that said, is it possible that it could encourage people to answer and then lose the bounty because the bounty-awarder still insists on giving it to user Y without taking the new answers into consideration? In other words, could this create more conflict because now a user spent time on a great answer that won't be considered? Not sure how much of an issue this is. This is just speculation... – jmort253 Jun 28 '12 at 2:40
There will always be some users like that, but the current way it's defined certainly isn't helping the situation as it puts that exact mindset right there in front of them with the way it's worded. It's also deterring other users from even attempting to submit another answer to the question because they see that darn word "existing" and take a hike. You're also only thinking about the bounty. Bounties draw in a lot of attention, so new answers will also get upvotes, which is good enough for some people (like myself) when they at least have a chance at getting the bounty as well. – animuson Jun 28 '12 at 2:45
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I... Think you might be missing something obvious here...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but offering a bounty serves two purposes:

  1. Allow you to heap a bounteous reward of virtual tokens upon the head of a deserving answer.
  2. Bring additional attention to a question and its answers.

Yeah, if the answer you want has already been posted, then #1 requires no wait. But... #2 still requires that the bounty is actually active for some period of time. And indeed, I've often seen small bounties that result in numerous up-votes for the answer(s) as a result of the bump to the featured tab.

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I was hoping your reply would be more discussive than this, but I'm having trouble understanding how this is really related to some of the statements I've made. – animuson Jun 28 '12 at 4:59
The impression I got from your question is that you're dismayed that the wording implies the bounty can be used to reward an existing answer (singular). I'm saying that even though a bounty can only be awarded to a single answer, the act of offering it can drive attention to the entire question (and all its answers). – Shog9 Jun 28 '12 at 5:14

From the StackExchange Blog. Here are the list of bounty reasons:

Authoritative reference needed

Looking for an answer drawing from credible and/or official sources.

Canonical answer required

The question is widely applicable to a large audience. A detailed canonical answer is required to address all the concerns.

Current answers are outdated

The current answer(s) are out-of-date and require revision given recent changes.

Draw attention

This question has not received enough attention.

Improve details

The current answers do not contain enough detail.

** Reward existing answer **

** One or more of the answers is exemplary and worthy of an additional bounty. **

There will be cases where a user wishes to reward an existing answer with a bounty. When selecting "Reward existing answer", it's clear that the intention is not to attract new answers.

However, the flaw in the logic is the 24 hour wait period, which implies that the question is open to new answerers. In this scenario, one of two things will happen:

  • Other users will not answer the question, because there is a real perceived risk that they will not receive the bounty award, regardless of how good the answer is.

  • A user will answer the question, yet the award will still go to the original intended target. This could spur arguments and debate about whether or not the bounty was awarded fairly.

Alternative Options:

To solve this problem and eliminate the discrepancy, I see two options, the first of which has already been declined and isn't worth rehashing:

1. Get rid of the 24 hour waiting period.

StackExchange has clearly stated this isn't an option, and questions about eliminating the 24 hour wait period are closed as duplicates. This issue has been decided.

2. Lock the post for 24 hours.

If the purpose of the 24 hour wait period is to avoid abuse of the bounty system, then perhaps locking the post for 24 hours could accomplish the following goals:

  • It avoids abuse of the bounty system by limiting the number of active bounty periods, since each bounty must exist for at least 24 hours before it is awarded.

  • It forces the bounty-awarded to consider more carefully whom to award the bounty. After 24 hours, unlock the post automatically and allow more answers.

Lastly, this alternative may not address your specific problem in its entirety. It doesn't necessarily focus on the best answers, but it prevents conflict caused by other users answering a question where the bounty-awarder already has his/her mind set on the goal. While it's preferable that we focus on the best answers, changing the bounty reason won't change the behavior of those individuals who have their minds set on awarding a specific, existing answer.

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I assume you mean close, not lock; there's no good reason to disallow voting during the bounty period. – Nathan Tuggy Dec 28 '15 at 4:34

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