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I like the bounty system -- I think it's a great motivator and an enjoyable, if intangible, method of showing/receiving appreciation.

However, as a new user, I find it difficult (if not impossible) to participate.

In the first place, as a just-starting-out coder with little to offer by way of solutions, I nevertheless ask quite a few questions. There is an inverse relationship there that perhaps deserves further exploration and integration into how SO rewards work.

For new users it is easy and rewarding to ask questions, but I find myself handicapped and even penalized when it comes to expressing appreciation. For example, one cannot really reward two correct answers -- even if they each answer a different part of the question and the correct answer is comprised of both answers. As a solution, there is the bounty system -- but access begins at 75 rep and the lowest reward possible is 50 rep.

At the moment I have 86 rep and, morally, I owe two such bounties. I am holding off on paying the first until I can remain above 75 rep... but now I owe a second. Of course, strictly speaking I don't really owe anything; it is only my sense of decency to which I am beholden. However, these fellows (thecodeparadox in particular) really put some work into their answers and they deserve acknowledgement.

Not yet having much to offer in the realm of providing answers, my rep is growing at a glacial pace. Is this fair to those answering my questions?

What would you more experienced members say about providing some system for low-rep users to reward helpful responders? What would you think of something like this:

  • a one-time bounty-purse (or access to a common bounty purse)
  • not displayed to other users (as rep points, etc)
  • the reward can be requested (rarely granted) or requested by a senior member
  • awarded at mod discretion
  • in order to compensate for the extra workload, mods receive a rep bonus for awarding such a purse, but a double-deduction if the purse must be rescinded
  • awarded only to qualified low-rep users who display clear-thinking and erudition in their questions
  • specifically to be used to reward 2nd answers and above-and-beyond answers
  • subject to the oversight of the mod who awarded the bounty purse
  • and able to be cancelled, with points granted rescinded, by the overseeing mod

Necessarily, such a purse would be a somewhat rare award, but many of the badges on the SE network are difficult to attain.

ALTERNATELY, could there be created a common "bounty-purse" along with a method of petitioning a moderator to award a special bounty to a specific user, specifying the question under review along with the answer? The answerer would be notified that he is being reviewed for such a reward, which, in itself, is a reward -- all rewards on SO are intangible after all -- and perhaps this nomination can be added as a statistic...

What think ye?

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Once you offer the bounty the rep is automatically removed from your account. So no worries on losing more rep when you assign the bounty to an answer. – amanaP lanaC A nalP A naM A Nov 8 '12 at 18:50
Keep in mind you can upvote all answers that you felt were helpful, not just the one that you actually used. It gives 2/3 the rep of an accepted answer. – Servy Nov 8 '12 at 18:57
@amanaP lanaC A nalP A naM A - I'm sorry - how did you come up with that comment? WHEN the rep is removed is entirely immaterial. If one only has 90 rep, then losing 50 rep is punitive. The time it takes to regain that 50 rep means that "answerers" (there must be a more correct term) are being penalized for responding to low-rep users. That is the issue, not when the rep is removed from one's account. – gibberish Nov 8 '12 at 18:58
@gibberish When answering questions the majority of rep gained comes from the community viewing the post and upvoting, not from the asker marking it as answered. It's one of the things I like best about SO as it doesn't provide all of the incentives to pander to the OP. – Servy Nov 8 '12 at 19:00
Very good point. Thank you. – gibberish Nov 8 '12 at 19:01
I see 4 downvotes to the question at this point. I can understand disagreement, but why the downvotes? What, specifically, makes this a stupid question rather than a matter of disagreement? – gibberish Nov 8 '12 at 19:23
And how, specifically, is Mr Palindrome's comment above (#1) both relevant to the question and worthy of upvote? – gibberish Nov 8 '12 at 19:29
On Meta, downvotes are used to indicate disagreement. – McCannot Nov 8 '12 at 19:29
Oh. I guess I misunderstood. There's a lot of that going around lately (referring again to self). Newbie-ness is an unpleasant state. – gibberish Nov 8 '12 at 19:40
This is my new favorite phrase: "it is only my sense of decency to which I am beholden" – juan Nov 8 '12 at 20:00
@gibberish From the MSO FAQ: "voting is often used to express agreement or disagreement, not to point out a lack of quality or helpfulness.". – apsillers Nov 8 '12 at 20:07
Then why subtract the rep points from a sincere question? That demotivates the asking of questions, does it not? One can expect the downvote if a question is frankly stupid, but if merely a matter of disagreement then a downvote connotes a strong element of discouragement. You can be sure that I won't be asking any questions on here again... – gibberish Nov 8 '12 at 20:43
@gibberish Rep on meta is generally seen not to really matter. – JNK Nov 8 '12 at 20:51
I suppose that makes sense... Although it's a bit like navigating one's way down a dark corridor, with shin-height obstacles, using a cardboard match for light. – gibberish Nov 8 '12 at 21:10
up vote 7 down vote accepted

First of all, please decouple using the bounty system to attract attention to an unanswered (or insufficiently answered) question from using it to reward the virtuous. The system was designed for the former, not the later. No one expects you to run around dropping post-hoc bounties to people who answered your questions. You'll never accumulate any rep that way.

Secondly, I think that you are correct about the basic operation of the bounty system in it's intended and designed mode. It exists to allow people who have earned status on the site to incent other people. That design is, indeed biased, using the unbiased sense of the word 'biased'. It gives people with earned status more ability to attract attention and effort than people who have not.

The existence of this site, where, for free, you can post your problems and have a high expectation that others will solve them for you, should strike you as manna from heaven. To mix a metaphor, it's rather ungrateful of you to complain that some other people, by putting work into the site, can get even more goodness out of it.

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Not to detract from the other excellent responses to my question, but this is a fantastic answer. Clearly and concisely addresses the concerns behind my OP. The final paragraph should be framed and hanging on a wall. Thank you. – gibberish Nov 8 '12 at 20:50

upvote the answer and mark it as answered, 25 rep awarded. You can award additional bounty at your leisure if you say... answer some other people's questions.

If other people need answers to the question you've asked, the answer-er gets even more rep.

you may also upvote other helpful answers. 10 rep each. that 10-rep upvote is always appreciated.

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Do you mean, upvote the answer? Can one upvote one's own question? – gibberish Nov 8 '12 at 19:48
@gibberish yes i did mean upvote the answer. – Sam I am Nov 8 '12 at 19:51
@gibberish no, you can't vote your own question but you can upvote answer made on your own question. – Shadow Wizard Nov 8 '12 at 20:24

As said from Sam I am, you can up-vote any answer given to your question, or other questions. The fact you accept an answer doesn't mean you cannot up-vote it, or up-vote any other answer that has been useful for you. You can up-vote answers given for questions asked from other users, if you find them useful. Up-voting doesn't cost you reputation.

With 30 votes per day, low reputation users can reward useful answers.

Bounties are the last resort to use when your question didn't get an answer, and you want to incentive users to answer it. Bounties could also be used as prize for great answers, but it must not be something done by default.

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