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Scenario: A bounty is placed on a question. An answer is accepted during the bounty period, but the bounty is not manually awarded, and the bounty period expires.

As a new user, I think the wording used in the FAQ to describe what happens to the bounty in this scenario is ambiguous and/or inconsistent.

For those of you wondering: if your answer is accepted during the bounty period, even if you have 0 upvotes, you will be awarded the full bounty soon after the grace period expires (not necessarily immediately).

Meta privileges section about bounties linked from FAQ (no mention of accepted answers):

If you do not award the bounty within 24 hours of the bounty period ending, half the bounty value will be automatically awarded to the top voted answer posted after the bounty start, provided it has a score of at least 2. If no new answer matches this requirement, no reputation will be awarded at all, and the reputation used on the bounty will be lost forever.

Community Wiki bounty FAQ (reasonably accurate):

An answer accepted during the bounty period can automatically be awarded the full bounty at the end of the bounty period, provided the bounty owner made no other explicit bounty award by the time the bounty ends.

SO FAQ section about bounties (reasonably accurate):

If the bounty was started by the question owner, and the question owner accepts an answer during the bounty period, and the bounty expires without an explicit award – we assume the bounty owner liked the answer they accepted and award it the full bounty amount at the time of bounty expiration.


Issues:

  • No explicit mention of upvote requirement being waived for accepted answers. My assumption was that 2 upvotes are required, which is incorrect.
  • I had to search high and low to find any mention of a possible delay after the grace period ends, before the bounty is automatically awarded. I imagine this results in hasty/panicked questions about bounties not being awarded, which could easily be avoided.
  • In my extensive Google/SE searches, I came across a number of answers that reference the bounty system update in 2010, most of which quote: All bounties are completely independent of and unrelated to accepting an answer. I feel this is misleading in this particular context, and should be compensated for by clarifying the FAQ entries.
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1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

How about changing the privileges text to:

If you do not award the bounty or accept an answer within 24 hours of the bounty period ending, half the bounty value will be automatically awarded to the top voted answer posted after the bounty start, provided it has a score of at least 2. If no new answer matches this requirement, no reputation will be awarded at all, and the reputation used on the bounty will be lost forever.

And including a "For more information" link to the most extensive (if not as authoritative) documentation:
How does the bounty system work?

It looks like you didn't run across those docs in your searching (which doesn't speak well of this documentation system) (Nevermind, yes you did. Following links is hard, let's go shopping.)

The privileges and FAQ page shouldn't try to cover all the minutiae of the system, but linking to the docs that do seems quite reasonable. The answer there covers all your questions (including a newly added note about the delay), and all the esoteric ins and outs of bounties generally.


Update:
I suspect that some of the confusion this documentation inspires is due to two different types of "automatic awards":

  • The asker accepts an answer during the bounty period, but doesn't manually award the bounty.
    The automatic bounty award in this case is essentially an attempt to compensate for a complex UI. It's assumed that the asker considered the accepted answer the most useful, but didn't bother to award the bounty (or didn't realize it was a potentially separate action). The specifics of the mechanics of this case are largely uninteresting as it's essentially the same as the asker awarding the bounty modulo some timing differences.
  • The asker expresses no preference, but the community does.
    This is the case that requires the bulk of the documentation owing to its complexity.

If were writing the documentation from scratch, I'd probably call the first case an "automatic award" and the second a "community award" or words to that effect to clarify the situation. If I were designing the bounty UI from scratch, I'd remove the first case entirely by causing acceptance to award the bounty immediately and simply eliminate the rare use-case of accepting an answer and then awarding the bounty to another (in that order, the reverse would still be possible).

Barring those changes, I'll update the Meta FAQ question to try and better capture this distinction.

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1  
Absolutely, but I still think the 3 issues I mentioned could be addressed for clarification. (For the record, the second link I quoted is the accepted answer on that question) –  Sara Oct 2 '12 at 23:52
    
@Sara Oops, so it is. Sorry 'bout that. –  blahdiblah Oct 2 '12 at 23:56
    
For the sake of spelling things out, it would still be nice to see some explicit mention of no upvote requirements for an accepted answer (I'd love to think that I'm not the only person inclined to jump to the wrong conclusion there). Especially since the documentation states: The criteria for an answer to be eligible for automatic awarding are as follows: The answer must be given after the bounty was started. The answer must have a score of at least +2. –  Sara Oct 3 '12 at 0:53
    
Thanks, your last edit perfectly addressed my concerns. Did someone say shopping? –  Sara Oct 3 '12 at 1:54
    
Hi @Sara, I think blahdiblah was jokingly referring to this popular blog post: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/qa-is-hard-lets-go-shopping –  jmort253 Oct 3 '12 at 3:59
    
Thanks @jmort253 , I'm sure I'll pick up the SO memes eventually. –  Sara Oct 3 '12 at 4:03
2  
@jmort253 That line's a lot older than Jeff's blog post. See this article tracking its origins from 1992. –  blahdiblah Oct 3 '12 at 4:06
    
+1 for terms automatic award vs. community award –  David Tansey Apr 11 '13 at 3:38

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