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I recently had a question where the bounty offer failed to solicit anything useful. Further research, though, dug up a similar question which had an answer which provided some leads - those leads resulted in an answer. I asked the answerer on the other question to post a similar answer to mine so I could accept it, but returning today to do so I find there is no accept tick on any of the answers.

The bounty system seems quite broken to me, and really needs some hard thinking about how it should work. I squandered a bunch of rep (as much as I could afford on SU, which isn't that much) for no results. Now when I find someone who deserves the bounty, I can't award it - I can't even accept his answer. That combination of end-results is really annoying.

In my case I found someone who has done me a huge service and I would like to reward that with the bounty rep I offered for an answer to my problem... but I can't!

The only worse end-result would have been to have another answer auto-accepted for me because some well-meaning, but mistaken, individual voted it up during the bounty period without reading my comment that it did not resolve my problem. And it was only some vague pointers anyway.

Could the system be modified to allow us to accept answers on questions where a bounty was offered and not awarded. Even better, could we have the ability to award the bounty with the accept if a resolving answer comes in after the bounty period?

Could the bounty system be modified to never auto-accept. I am OK with removing the question from the feature questions list after the bounty period, but why can't the bounty remain available until I accept an answer? Perhaps it might only auto-accept after a month or 3 of the question owner not returning to the site?


Robert C Cartino suggested, and I concur:

  • Half the bounty amount is awarded to the highest voted answer (within the current restrictions).
  • The answer is not auto-accepted.
  • Instead, the banner at the bottom of the question ("This question has an open bounty worth 100 reputation ending in 1 hour") should be replaced with:

    A bounty of 100 reputation points was awarded to Robert C. Cartaino [answer link] on xx/xx/xxxx at xx:xx xM.

but I would like to further suggest:

  • The remaining 1/2 of the bounty remain pending until the OP accepts an answer, if they ever do.

This seems no worse than the current behavior of forever discarding the remaining bounty.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 17 down vote accepted

We were discussing an alternative handling of bounty awards over at StackExchange. The folks there really seemed to like this idea so I will post it here:

If the original author does not accept an answer, an answer should never be "auto-accepted. It goes against the very definition of "accepted answer." But I don't agree that you should be able to award bounties after they expired (maybe a short grace period if none are eligible for auto-bounty... maybe).

So I suggest expired bounties be handled like this:

  • Half the bounty amount is awarded to the highest voted answer (within the current restrictions).
  • The answer is not auto-accepted.
  • Instead, the banner at the bottom of the question ("This question has an open bounty worth 100 reputation ending in 1 hour") should be replaced with:

A bounty of 100 reputation points was awarded to Robert C. Cartaino [answer link] on 03/30/2010 at 23:18 PM.

... and the question reverts to a "normal" question. This has the following benefits:

  • The "top" answer still earns the bounty.
  • The "accepted answer" function is consistent with the rest of the system.
  • The original author can still accept an answer later (which may not have even existed when the bounty expired).
  • Even if the original author accepts and answer, they can accept another (better) answer later.
  • It avoids the confusion with the current system that the original author cannot accept an answer for that question.
  • Bonus: The original author is free to place another bounty on the question, if they want to spend the rep.
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@Robert: I would add, that the other half remain pending and be awarded to the ultimately accepted answer, if any. If you don't mind adding that, I will accept this answer. –  Lawrence Dol Mar 30 '10 at 23:37
    
Unfortunately for me, on SU, I have not the rep to spare to award even more bounty to the answerer who actually ended up helping me. –  Lawrence Dol Mar 30 '10 at 23:39
    
That would add too many requests in one post, in my opinion. If you really want that, I think it should be a separate question/discussion/feature-request. I think you have much less chance of getting anything past status-declined if you lump a bunch of sweeping changes into one, big feature-request. Separate issue. –  Robert Cartaino Mar 31 '10 at 3:10
    
i think this is a reasonable alternative to the current system. i'm not a big fan of the permanent-accepted-answer that the current bounty system creates, and this seems like a reasonable solution to that problem. i'd hope that, should the muliple-bounties portion be implemented, all bounties won would be listed in the banner -- tho i suspect there might be potential for abuse with that aspect. –  quack quixote Mar 31 '10 at 4:10

Hmm.. I'd be cool with making auto-accept optional. If, when the bounty expires, you have checked "auto-accept", the standard auto-accept rules run as normal. If, you have unchecked auto-accept (which would be checked by default), you lose the entire bounty from your rep, but no answer is accepted, and the question is automatically closed.

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4  
@Randolpho: You already loose the rep the moment you offer the bounty. And closing the question at bounty end is the opposite of what is needed - I have a question I really need an answer to, so much so that I expend rep to get it attention, but the system closes it if no answer is provided time??? –  Lawrence Dol Mar 30 '10 at 21:50
    
@software how is the question "closed"? new answers can arrive, and votes can be added. –  Jeff Atwood Mar 30 '10 at 23:54
2  
@Jeff: I was responding to his suggestion that the question be automatically closed in lieu of not auto-accepting. –  Lawrence Dol Mar 31 '10 at 0:28

How about an adjustable bounty period? The default (and minimum) could still be a week, but you could bump it up to a month or more if you want. This would especially help on SU (and probably SF) because of the lower traffic rate.

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1  
I think the real point is that until there is an answer that resolves my question, the question is still open and the bounty should remain. –  Lawrence Dol Mar 30 '10 at 21:51
1  
@Software Monkey: I know, but I don't think indefinite-length bounties are a good thing. This is the best compromise I could come up with. –  mmyers Mar 30 '10 at 21:55
    
i could see extending the bounty period (say, to two weeks) on SU/SF, but an adjustable period sounds too complicated. i don't think i've ever seen more than 15-20 bounty questions on SU at a time. –  quack quixote Mar 30 '10 at 22:37

How about using the flag feature to ask a moderator to change the accepted answer when this happens? Presumably, mods (or the team) could handle this with their moderator tools.

I'd prefer this rather than even more complicated rules for bounties -- actually, I'd prefer no bounties, but that's a different issue entirely.

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2  
mods don't currently have the ability to set or alter accepted answers. i don't think it's a tool they(we) should have. –  quack quixote Mar 30 '10 at 22:17
    
@quack - So make it a team function. Presumably a moderator could contact the team on their behalf if the OP flags the question. The important part is the question should have the correct, accepted answer; not the allocation of the bounty. –  tvanfosson Mar 31 '10 at 2:26
    
Er, I somehow don't think the team would go for that idea... –  SamB Apr 8 '10 at 0:21

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
share|improve this answer
    
Woohoo! Thanks. –  Lawrence Dol Jun 23 '10 at 5:10

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