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This individual asked this question about a month ago, but received no answers. Recently, he added a bounty, which is how I stumbled upon it.

I spent a few minutes researching and typing up my answer, only to find that a few minutes later, he posted his own solution. (My answer may not have been the correct solution, so I don't mind not getting the award).

While this could just be considered a coincidence, I decided to look into his bounty offering habits. It turns out he has offered a number of bounties, most of which were never awarded, while many of his questions were answered and accepted by himself.

Occasional bounties on your own questions that you resolve I can believe, but not most, especially when it took a whole month for you to get your first response, then come up with your own magical solution just a few minutes later.

I know that ultimately, he's not getting that rep back, even if he accepts his own answer. However, I feel that it's an unfair waste of everyone else's time to play the bounty system this way.

So my question: What do I do about this (besides bring it up on Meta)? Do I flag the question with my concerns in the custom box, do I send an email to the mods/staff? Do I ignore it and move on?

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this could be fraud. @stackoverflow, please investigate! – EASI Aug 14 '12 at 14:41
Since I see nothing he might gain from it, I would personally let him be as much of an idi*t as he wants to... Unless I'm missing some dark underlying plot here. – Bart Aug 14 '12 at 14:42
Answering your own question is perfectly fine. Perhaps he's just trying to bring more visibility on the question and get some cheap up votes on his question and answer, or just looking for a better answer than his own. – Yannis Aug 14 '12 at 14:42
@Bart But my point is more that it brings people to the question, who then (potentially) spend their time trying to come up with a solution. (all for naught) – Gaffi Aug 14 '12 at 14:43
So? What's the problem with that? Half the bounty will still get awarded if he doesn't do so. And you got multiple new answers. (Yes, it's not how it should be. But it's not big drama either) – Bart Aug 14 '12 at 14:44
@YannisRizos I know that answering your own Q is fine, I've done it a few times. However, if he was just looking for a better answer, then why not post that answer first (perhaps as part of the question, but perhaps not), then explicitly say that's the reason for the bounty? – Gaffi Aug 14 '12 at 14:44
He's also accepted his own answer - presumably out for the cheap up votes as @Yannis suggests. – razlebe Aug 14 '12 at 14:46
@Bart If you review the third link, you'll notice often 0 bounty is awarded, I'm thinking likely due to the fact that no answers had the required number of upvotes. – Gaffi Aug 14 '12 at 14:46
Hmm, perhaps you mean a different link. Because the one I see was awarded. In any case, @caleb perfectly described my point. – Bart Aug 14 '12 at 14:50
@bart Did you look at all 19 he's offered? -- I didn't yet, either. ;-) In any case, my point behind this question was what should I do. It appears the community agrees that this should generally be ignored. I can go with that. – Gaffi Aug 14 '12 at 14:52
@Gaffi Yeah, your question is perfectly fine and welcome. I just think the issue is more of the "WTF?" nature than "OMG we have a problem". – Bart Aug 14 '12 at 14:53
up vote 10 down vote accepted

You correctly note that the bounty cannot be awarded to self anyways, so there are a couple ways this could play out.

  1. He may award the bounty to you or another answerer. Win.

  2. He may fail to award it at all, but half the rep will default to the most upvoted qualifying answer, which might be yours or another ops but can't possible be his. Win.

  3. Even if you don't get the bounty, the extra eyeballs on bountied questions might get your answer a few extra votes for your trouble dealing with the OP's antics, even if they were abusive. Win.

Frankly I don't see very many losses. They may be intending to abuse the system, but it doesn't play out in their favor most of the time. Only if their answer is significantly better than yours and the bounty was just to get upvote attention on it would you not stand something to gain by answering, and in that case they might deserve the upvotes anyway. The other possibility is if the question and ALL answers are so bad that it is a waste of time for anybody to look at, in which case the bounty would serve to generate the appropriate level of downvoting to discourage such low quality questions. Mostly they are just shooting themselves in the foot by combining self answering with bounties, so why worry about it?

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Under normal circumstances, I'd agree with this 100%, but for this individual, most often it appears the bounty resulted in a net loss. That being said, I think you're right that even then the overall harm done is probably minimal. – Gaffi Aug 14 '12 at 14:53
@Gaffi: If the overall is a net loss, then the personal standing the most to loose is the OP. This is either a training opportunity to help them understand how bounties SHOULD work and how they CAN benefit everybody, or the OP just figures out it isn't worth his own while and drops the technique. Either way, you don't loose and neither does anybody actually interested in the topic. – Caleb Aug 14 '12 at 15:11
I completely agree with this, but I think you missed a potential case. The bounty contract is "pay some rep for increased visibility and attractiveness to answerers." If this behavior happened so much that it reduced the visibility effect for other bounties, that would be a "lose" situation. That said, I'm aware that we're nowhere near that point in practice. – Pops Aug 14 '12 at 20:33

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