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Could one place a bounty on a question to tempt replies and then at 7 days award it to an accomplice with a lackluster answer?

Accomplice then subsequently posts his own question with a bounty and quid pro quo. A bounty ring!

Has this scheming already been thought of and defeated? Or we can just rely on the goodness of people perhaps?

Edit: One might think the net number of points remains the same so this quid pro quo is irrelevant. But think of this like a "magic" power to costlessly promote all your questions to Bounty Status.

PS. It'd be deliciously recursive if I could put a bounty on this question itself.... Too bad I don't have enough rep! :)

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migrated from meta.stats.stackexchange.com Feb 28 '13 at 19:10

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This is why bounties are visible and not immediately awardable. If you see this happening, just flag it. IMO this isn't the sort of thing it'd be smart to automate. –  Ben Brocka Feb 28 '13 at 19:14
In the early days Stack Exchange would add an additional free 50 reputation to each bounty. Even then it was not abused that much, if at all. –  Arjan Feb 28 '13 at 19:16
Hard to imagine a statistician could think this scheme will work. –  Uphill Luge Feb 28 '13 at 19:18
I recall a case of about 2 years ago where bounties were abused to transfer rep to a new account of the same person. This was appropriately handled by the SE team. –  BalusC Feb 28 '13 at 19:19
I don't get the point: so a little reputation sloshes back and forth among a small group of people. The net gain is zero. Bounties are sufficiently visible and well tracked (by mods and the SE team) that efforts to make wholesale shifts of reputation from one user to another are quickly caught and undone. The only similar thing I remember anyone getting away with was a high-rep user who, instead of quitting SE altogether, first shed all his rep with a string of +500 bounties: but there was no quid pro quo there (and I suspect the SE team nullified the effects anyway). –  whuber Feb 28 '13 at 19:21
@whuber net gain is not zero but getting your own post high visibility without actually losing any rep overall. I agree about the risk of getting caught though. –  curious_cat Feb 28 '13 at 19:27
@Arjan I actually think shaving off a percentage of bounty might make more sense. i.e. Of 100 bounty points Stack Exchange takes away 25 while transferring only 75 to recipient. Rings become less profitable now. –  curious_cat Feb 28 '13 at 19:28
There is no net gain in bounties: they merely transfer points. On average, there is a net loss due to people who forget to award the bounty. As a mod, I would strongly dislike shaving points off bounties, because I use them to redress occasional unfairnesses that arise and to promote underappreciated questions or answers that enhance the quality of the site. –  whuber Feb 28 '13 at 19:28
@whuber, there is no gain in points, but there is gain in answers of people that are attracted by the bounty, and if the bounty system is misused, that demoralizes good question answerers. –  Toon Krijthe Feb 28 '13 at 20:08
@whuber You seem to be missing the point here. The fraud doesn't involve reputation, but question visibility. A bounty ring can unfairly draw attention to their questions at no cost in rep (since it just gets refunded to them). –  Asad Feb 28 '13 at 21:21
@Asad Thank you; I am not missing that point at all, thanks to previous comments. I was merely trying to clarify what appear to be incorrect assertions by the OP that "net gain is not zero." Regardless, this situation is so hypothetical, and so easy to spot and control, I really don't see why it's worth further discussion after wax eagle's reply. –  whuber Feb 28 '13 at 21:28
Of interest: meta.mathematica.stackexchange.com/questions/926/…. –  whuber Feb 28 '13 at 22:53
Interesting question and thought. As noted above, I think the use cases of this would be fairly narrow, and the questions tend to attract the sort of attention to themselves that will eventually expose the people doing it. –  Andrew Barber Mar 1 '13 at 1:54
Possible duplicate, although by a different name meta.stackexchange.com/questions/141386/… specifically, "Group Bounty Gaming". I like "Bounty Fraud Quid Pro Quo" better. –  Ellie Kesselman Mar 1 '13 at 6:27

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

This has been tried in the past by users that were attempting to grow sock puppet accounts by 'seeding' a few with some 'organic' reputation from a real account. It's usually done in an attempt to get a few new accounts enough reputation to be 'useful' sock puppets. Using the bounty system like this just shuffles reputation around, the initial 'deposit' if you will is never really grown.

It's also the most completely asinine way someone who has studied the system in an attempt to do this could possibly go about it, and is always detected. If the thousands of eyes watching the site at any given time don't pick up on it, irregular voting patterns and (as others have mentioned) recently awarded bounty reports quickly show the circular activity.

The somewhat more clever, yet still asinine way is to abuse the association bonus by growing accounts on other sites and using bounties to try and transfer the 'free' rep to other accounts. And yes, this is detected in exactly the same way, and quite easily reversed.

In short, yes, there are very short term loopholes where someone might 'win' by managing to shuffle rep around, or continue to transfer 'free' rep from associated accounts, but the amount of time that anyone would enjoy this net gain is typically measured in hours.

To give you an idea of how easy this is to spot, most instances of it are spotted by users that don't have access to diamond moderator tools. It's something I really don't recommend anyone try :)

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It always amazes me; what lengths people will go to cheat, when it's usually easier, in the long run, to do things above board. –  Andrew Barber Mar 1 '13 at 5:31
I think it's sort of a deliciously ironic self fulfilling prophecy - user posts a link to his 'leet rep' profile on Facebook and his friends all see "This account is suspended for voting irregularities" when they click on it the next day. –  Tim Post Mar 1 '13 at 5:34
@TimPost Pardon my ignorance: What's "leet rep"? –  curious_cat Mar 1 '13 at 5:41
@curious_cat A sardonic term for 'ill gained', an abbreviation for 'elite' but more alluding to 'l33t', a term that some immature and broadly unskilled people use to describe a technical achievement. –  Tim Post Mar 1 '13 at 5:43
@TimPost You articulated that with great eloquence. I have noticed such situations, thought similarly, yet never even attempted to convey the sentiment. Nicely done! YOU are truly l337. –  Ellie Kesselman Mar 1 '13 at 6:20
@Oink That immediately makes you "immature and broadly unskilled". Tsk Tsk. Just kidding! No offence. :):) –  curious_cat Mar 1 '13 at 7:31
@curious_cat No offense taken ;o) I strive for 3l337. And I like your usage of the diminutive form of my name. I smiled. –  Ellie Kesselman Mar 2 '13 at 1:13


This kind of thing is completely possible. However, moderators have tools to detect this kind of activity and warn/punish those involved. We have reports that show us bounties that are awarded that can provide clear indications of circular or fraudulent bountying.

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"Fraudulent bountying"? It makes it sound so much more compelling. Sigh... I can't believe people don't have anything better to do. I can't believe that I am reading this, intrigued by it, and don't have anything better to do. –  Ellie Kesselman Mar 1 '13 at 6:22
@FeralOink The beauty of StackExchange is it has converted a Forum into a Board Game. :) Addictive? –  curious_cat Mar 1 '13 at 6:50
+1 for "fraudulent bountying" –  Thomas Mar 1 '13 at 10:20
@curious_cat Yes. Addictive. I love it here. I confess. –  Ellie Kesselman Mar 2 '13 at 1:11

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