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Last week, I tried to open a bounty for a Stack Overflow question of mine. Unfortunately, there was only one answer posted, and it's not been helpful (mostly posting results to some Google search which I had obviously already done myself).

Today, I received an e-mail notification that the top-rated answer "may" be auto-accepted once the bounty expires. This confuses me, and searching here on meta hasn't really made it any clearer.

What criteria are used for auto-accepting an answer? If something does not answer the question, it should never be accepted, imo. I gave the guy an upvote for effort, but since it doesn't help me at all, it seems unjustified to award him a 250 point bounty?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Did you check the http://stackoverflow.com/faq ? It covers bounty quite extensively.

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Thanks, that clarifies the "may" bit. I don't understand the design choice of never allowing the OP to accept an answer anymore. Should someone provide a useful answer after the bounty period has expired, it should be possible to accept it? There has been some discussion about that here already though, it seems. – Thorarin May 27 '10 at 11:32

You may consider for a moment that you (and maybe others) might have caused the mechanism to fail. Giving an "A" for "effort" only obscures the grading system. Your supposed to up-vote an answer because (from the tool tip) "This answer is useful." That's what you are telling the system—answer is useful.

When the system auto-accepts a bounty, it is accepting the "most useful" answer. Reputation is a measurement of how much the system "trusts" you. That's why it takes a certain reputation to vote. When the system applies the rules of auto-accepting, it's only responding to the information you and other users gave it.

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Generally speaking, upvoting is outside of the control of the OP. In my case I did contribute one upvote. In the end I answered my own question with a somewhat unsatisfactory answer, but at least I can update that answer eventually, rather than being stuck with a locked in accepted answer that doesn't solve the problem. – Thorarin May 28 '10 at 17:52
    
@Thorarin - Vote for this: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/44590/… and it will take care of those shortcomings. – Robert Cartaino May 28 '10 at 21:56

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