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One thing that I really don't like about bounties, is the fact that I have to accept an answer at the end of it. This forces my question effectively 'closed' even though I might not have recieved a satisfactory answer. If I haven't had a satisfactory answer I would much rather leave it open, and just 'lose' the points.

In the case of no satisfactory answer, these might be alternatives:

  • Opt to forfeit the points, but leave the question unaswered.
  • Opt to award the points to the best attempt at an answer, but leave the question unanswered.

What does anyone think?

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An interesting and related question (no dupe): meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1413/… –  Ladybug Killer Oct 26 '09 at 12:53

6 Answers 6

Joel has a great point in noting that the bounty should always be awarded, since it is a request for extra work by the contributors. But that could just be left separate from the accepting of an answer. If the person doesn't want to accept an answer, because their problem isn't yet solved, then award the bounty to the highest rated answer as normal, but don't auto-accept an answer. Then the questioner could hope for more answers, put up more information, perhaps a second higher bounty, etc.

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+1 This is exactly what I would have liked for a question I asked. I didn't mind loosing the rep, but my question was never really answered. It would have been nice to add a new bounty some time later and try again . –  Dave Oct 26 '09 at 16:38
    
case in point (the question was edited to say the accepted answer is actually not correct) stackoverflow.com/questions/1421893/… –  Mike Blandford Oct 26 '09 at 19:15
    
I Fully agree... –  UpTheCreek Nov 6 '09 at 8:34
    
100% agree - I have a question which NOBODY could answer, and the bounty simply disappeared from my account, awarded to nobody. –  user138345 Nov 9 '09 at 2:43
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The problem is that receiving the bounty doesn't actually require extra work. All it takes is finding a dead question with no/few answers. Making a general answer that doesn't solve the problem (like the rest of the answers) and pray for a few upvotes for effort. –  Cory Charlton Mar 18 '10 at 15:52
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@CoryCharlton sssshhhhhhhh! –  ioSamurai Jun 1 '12 at 15:48

You can think of a bounty as contract between yourself and other StackOverflow users, with the following basic terms:

You promise to give one lucky user some extra rep in exchange for more attention for your question from the community as a whole.

There are obligations on both sides here:

The community will give your question more attention. This is not the same as the community promising to give you an acceptable answer. No one could promise that, because there might not even be an answer. The best we can do is attention, and you can see from average view counts and answer counts that bounty questions definitely get a lot more attention on average than non-bounty questions.

Your end of the deal is then to award extra rep to the one member of the community that most helped you during the bounty period. Allowing you to decide you didn't like any answer would in effect be allowing you to breach your contract with the community, and make the bounty feature as a whole much less useful.

That said, I personally would like to see bounties changed such that they no longer expire. Instead, when you accept an answer for your bounty you get back 50 rep. This rep should be cap immune like accepted answers. That would align incentives correctly such that you are strongly encouraged to accept your bounty as soon as possible.

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Okay, but then there should be a difference between awarding the bounty and having the question marked as accepted. This whole problem could be solved if the bounty was always awarded, but the question would have to be manually accepted. –  beska Oct 26 '09 at 15:30
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I take your point, but surely my second proposal "Opt to award the points to the best attempt at an answer, but leave the question unanswered." would still fulfil this contract? –  UpTheCreek Nov 6 '09 at 8:33
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I disagree- if all of the answers are wrong, or none of them satisfactorily answer the question, why should somebody automatically for one of those half-hearted or incomplete answers? –  user138345 Nov 9 '09 at 2:47
    
@ryandenki: because the contract wasn't to answer the question. The contract was for more people to look at the question. If you want a contract where someone will answer your question, open a support ticket with your vendor. –  Joel Coehoorn Nov 9 '09 at 3:55

I agree with the OP. If there is not a good answer after a time and that prompts a user to add a bounty there is still a high likelihood of no "right" or best answer. I think it is HUGE mistake to award an answer automatically and/or to force a user to pick one.

I've made bounty questions a number of times and in MOST cases I did not get satisfactory answers. I am ok with losing hit points, but I don't want a bounty "Taken" just because some artificial time period ended.

I disagree strongly with [Joel and Jeff] on this issue and there have been a number of other threads about this on Meta.

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I'm not saying that bounties aren't broken. However, for bounties to work they must be awarded consistently or they will fail to attract as much attention to questions for those offering them, and any "fix" that breaks this won't help things. –  Joel Coehoorn Oct 26 '09 at 18:59
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My contention is that the people working on SO would rather ignore the issue than implement one of many possible solutions to improve the usefulness. Leaving it the way it is actually devalues the "answers" - which is worse than leaving some unanswered. A computer algorithm is too stupid to figure out if a bounty answer is worth selecting. If the user is unable to select any answer, why the hell would an algorithm be better? Since there is no undoing it, this leaves SO, the OP and the one answering the question with egg on their face if the answer is not worthy of being selected. –  tim Oct 26 '09 at 19:42
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@Joel: Sure, bounties must be awarded consistently, as you say...but we're not talking about changing how bounties are awarded. We're just talking about not auto accepting an answer. Award the bounty...fine...that's the best that someone could do, they get the bounty, and they're welcome to it. But if it doesn't answer the question, allow the asker to keep the question marked as unanswered until a real answer comes in. –  beska Apr 22 '10 at 20:45

What about an option to extend the bounty period, by being able to trade in another amount of points for a new week of bounty period?

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Yeah, these would work too in my opinion... –  UpTheCreek Oct 26 '09 at 13:01

http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/06/improvements-to-bounty-system/

This is effectively completed, because

  • bounty system is no longer tied to accepting an answer in any way
  • you can issue multiple bounties on your question if necessary
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Probably because the bounty was meant as a "last resort" measure, and it is assumed that you have tweaked and tuned your question beforehand - making it as high quality as it can be before you applied the bounty.

Normally/Usually/Generally (hereafter abbreviated NUG) you don't get quality answers to a question because:

  • The question is vague
  • Information that would make it answerable is missing
  • It just wasn't a good question to begin with
  • Its too niche a question and just hasn't been found by the only person who knows the answer (a.k.a. Jon Skeet)

NUG, if your question falls into one of the above, extending the bounty isn't going to help.

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I actually requested Jon Skeet to answer my question and still I could not accept an answer in time. My reasons were different (I was out of town and didn't accept in time and I didn't understand functionality) for which I feel i should still be able to accept. stackoverflow.com/questions/1474787/… –  snicker Oct 26 '09 at 16:29
    
Damn, sarcasm tags don't work in markdown... –  AnonJr Oct 31 '09 at 16:38
    
I take points 1-3, but I think extending the bounty might help point 4. –  UpTheCreek Nov 6 '09 at 9:47

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