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To celebrate the new bounty system, I was just preparing for a shopping spree - for example, I need a good YAML parser for a project I'm working on, and thought I'd add a bounty to this question from 2009 to find out whether anything new has come up since then - only to discover that after starting my first bounty, I can't start any more!

Then I saw that the new small print has this to say:

Users may only have one active question bounty at any given time.

This is new, isn't it? It didn't use to be this way.

Why is this? Is there a good reason for it?

I'm disappointed about this. It imposes an arbitrary and unnecessary limitation and takes away a good bit of my initial enthusiasm for what I thought is now a really great system.

Can this please be lifted or at least increased to three or five?

Update: @ccomet and @Jon Seigel make some good points about how an unlimited number of bounties would favour high rep users. While I don't fully agree, I can see their point. I still feel at least three simultaneous bounties would be a fair level. Alternatively, apply the limit on bounties for other people's questions only - that would solve the problem of high-rep users setting the agenda, while everybody can continue to put bounties on their own questions as they like.

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It's it only one bounty on other people's questions? Can't you still have more than one bounty one your own? –  ChrisF Jun 19 '10 at 15:21
    
@ChrisF, it's effecting on own questions too. –  YOU Jun 19 '10 at 15:57
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three in flight at a time seems reasonable to me. (if unlimited is truly undesirable.) –  quack quixote Jun 19 '10 at 15:58
    
@S.Mark - Ah - in that case I take my comment back. –  ChrisF Jun 19 '10 at 16:14
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By the way, off topic, is this It didn't use to be this way. correct english? It feels wrong, but not as wrong as It didn't used to be this way which I've seen around as well. –  Pëkka Jun 20 '10 at 10:37
    
@Down: "It didn't used to be this way" is more colloquially correct. That is, people say that. But both of those options are grammatically incorrect. Perhaps you could have said "I don't recall it being that way." Generally, if a sentence is giving you a lot of trouble like that, you should just rearrange it. –  devinb Jun 21 '10 at 8:21
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4 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

We now allow for up to 3 concurrent bounties per user.

We will be analyzing the effect over the next few weeks.

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Was it announced somewhere? I mean somewhere besides this thread, e.g. in the blog, faq etc. Can't find mention about it anywhere. –  Idolon Sep 6 '11 at 15:40
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@Idolon it's pretty standard for new features to be announced by the devs in the meta thread where the feature was requested. There is a recent feature changes meta post with a list of such meta posts. –  nhinkle Sep 6 '11 at 21:13
    
@nhinkle: But I put this one in there only several days later, in fact after Idolon's comment :-) –  Hendrik Vogt Sep 9 '11 at 12:20
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This is to limit the number of bounty questions in the system (i.e., to continue giving them special attention). If there are too many bounty questions, they aren't special anymore.

Under the new system, every single question in the system is now eligible for a bounty by anyone, instead of only the user's own questions, and every question can have a bounty added repeatedly. This is a HUGE increase in the potential number of bounty questions that could pop up, so they had to be limited somehow.

This is also an equalizer of sorts between high- and low-rep users (unknown if this was intended or not). While I agree that high-rep users should have more abilities in the system, limiting the number of bounty questions lets the low-rep user's question get better attention since it won't be dominated by many many more bounty questions set up by high-rep users. High-rep users already have a huge advantage of being able to set up larger bounties without as big a relative penalty (think of a 50k user and a 1k user setting up a question with a +500 bounty on it). The value of the question with a bounty on it isn't really related to the reputations of the users involved anyway.

So, I disagree with the proposed feature request as stated. I think it could possibly be increased to 2 questions at once, but it would be a good idea to first give the new system time to stabilize to see how many people actually take advantage of the new ability.

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The thing is that I won't take advantage of the ability if I can't start more than one bounty at once. When I come across a question I find interesting and worthy sponsoring, I want to be able to start that bounty straight away and not in a week's time. I'm not going to write a new item into my calendar for this. Therefore, this sucks big time and takes away all the fun. Good explanation for why the limit is there in the first place, though. Thanks. –  Pëkka Jun 19 '10 at 16:49
    
@Dow: You would already be taking advantage of the new ability by putting a bounty on someone else's question. I think if you're really serious enough about getting an answer to a question (maybe you need it for work or something), then you will write it down for later if you can't start a bounty immediately. I suggested an increase to 2 questions because it could be seen as one ongoing question, and one "emergency" question. –  Jon Seigel Jun 19 '10 at 16:56
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@Jon I am a serious bounty shopper: I've spent about 3,000 points for bounties this year alone. When I heard about the new system, I started a 500 bounty straight away just for the hell of it, and I would have spent another 1,500 on good questions I had in my sights. I start bounties rarely out of a dire need, but more often to get a variety of opinions, to take care of a question I find worth grooming, or to find out what is the best option to do X. It's fun to do (and a good way to spend rep) but I'm not ready to do this if I have to keep a weeks-long schedule when to start the next bounty. –  Pëkka Jun 19 '10 at 17:24
    
@Dow: I updated my answer. Don't get me wrong -- I like your idea for spending rep on bounties, but I think it's the kind of thing the limits were designed to help avoid. Besides, if you set up 1 bounty question at +500 every week for a year, that's 26k rep spent. Is that too little? –  Jon Seigel Jun 19 '10 at 18:25
    
@Jon this is an interesting point you raise, and certainly worth being considered. However, on the other hand, the higher your reputation, the less questions and - usually - bounty questions you are likely to ask. I see your point but I'm not sure to what extent the danger of questions from high-rep people overshadowing others really exists. Anyway, I could live with a 3-question limit. But that really should be. One question is not enough. –  Pëkka Jun 19 '10 at 18:43
    
@Dow: Good point. As I mentioned in my answer, we should probably wait a while to evaluate how the changes to the system will be accepted and utilized (or not). The limit of 1 question may be a sign that the dev team is taking a cautious approach to this, since they did, after all, open up the system considerably. –  Jon Seigel Jun 19 '10 at 18:54
    
@Down Beefy reputation users may ask fewer questions, but that doesn't mean they can't be interested in a fair number of them. It still falls that the more reputation you have, the more questions you can promote. Yes, it'll be promoting other user's questions, but it'll be promoted because those beefreps wanted it to. Which means that beefreps would get a significantly larger voice on what questions are featured. –  Grace Note Jun 19 '10 at 19:02
    
@ccomet that is a good point too. Still, I think three at a time is still a reasonable demand - or apply the limit to bounties on other people's questions, which is something I could understand. –  Pëkka Jun 19 '10 at 19:06
    
@Down 3 makes sense. That sounds very reasonable, but like Jon I'm in favor of testing the waters with the stricter limit first. –  Grace Note Jun 19 '10 at 19:10
    
The argument is invalid as high hit-point users can spend LOTS of hit points on their questions. Also, the limit for putting a bounty out is VERY low. THis argument is not a valid reason for such an arbitrary limit. –  tim Jan 13 '11 at 19:42
    
Why not have a queuing system. So you can put a bounty for a question in a queue. Each time your current bounty is closed, the next bounty in the queue becomes active. That way you don't have to mark your calendars, and it keeps a arbitrary limit in place (be it 1, 2 or some other limit on concurrent bounties). –  Kaos Jul 1 '11 at 8:54
    
    
@Jon: Ah, pretty obvious that I didn't do my research before posting that comment.. :-} Thanks for the link. –  Kaos Jul 27 '11 at 11:37
    
well now it is at 3 :) –  Jeff Atwood Sep 2 '11 at 0:34
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I wrote two queries to try to judge the differences between the bounty system before the change and then again after.

The total number of bounties split when the change was implemented according to the blog:

  • Before: 5907
  • After: 7054

Source

The bounty system was implementd on 2009-01-27 (According to blog) and updated on 2010-06-18.

So there have been just about a thousand more bounties in the last year, than the year an a half before that.

I also measured the number of bounties created per day. The most bounties ever created on a day was 2009-02-03 at 102, with the next highest at 45. There are a greater number of bounties on days after the change, which is to be expected, but could also be explained by the increase in users.

I don't know if there's a great deal of difference between managing the number of bounties created or active at any given time.

I don't think that there will be a great deal of trouble with allowing the limit on simultaneous bounties to be increased to 2 or 3, if indeed a limit is still desired. My reasoning is: assuming for some reason everyone with a bounty immediately wanted to always run the maximum number, the data says our current worst case scenario would be 135 bounties a day.

Bounties and users

befaf  bounties Users registered 
------ -------- ---------------- 
Before 5907     253803           
After  7054     397473           
Total  12961    651276 

From this, we have bounty/user ratios:

  • Before: 0.0233
  • After: 0.0178
  • Total: 0.0200

Which means that despite having more users register, the total ratio of bounties/users dropped after the change and the ratio is lower now than it was when the change was implemented.

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Thanks for the numbers! –  Pëkka Jun 27 '11 at 23:04
    
Could we get these per capita? –  user7116 Jun 28 '11 at 18:36
    
@sixlettervariables When you say per capita, do you mean per user? –  staticbeast Jun 28 '11 at 18:52
    
@staticbeast: correct. –  user7116 Jun 28 '11 at 19:15
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@static: turns out there are lots of 0 point bounties, your query picks some of those up. –  user7116 Jun 28 '11 at 20:55
    
@six Limiting by non-null BountyAmount removes all of the bounty starts and leaves the bounty ends. I'm assuming bounties with amount 0 were self awarded, or not awarded. So I'm not sure if these should be removed. There are, however, a large number (~6k) bounties with null BountyAmount values that I am excluding. –  staticbeast Jun 28 '11 at 21:05
    
@static: I dunno what to do with them either. Additionally, it looks like Feb/Mar 2009 skews the data as it had an obvious "new feature" bump in popularity that waned by April. Otherwise the 6 month moving average of Bounties Per User is pretty flat. –  user7116 Jun 28 '11 at 21:08
    
@static: self/no-award rate hovers around 8-10% and does not affect the rates. –  user7116 Jun 28 '11 at 21:12
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@static: another stat, the rate of +50's have skyrocketed since the change, while all other bounty types have seen a decrease in use. –  user7116 Jun 28 '11 at 21:36
    
@six: It'd be nice if we could tell whether that was due to users with large reputation using it sparingly on many questions, more users registered with less reputation or a combination. –  staticbeast Jun 28 '11 at 21:44
    
@staticbeast: indeed, Bounties Over Time and Bounty by Amount Per Month. –  user7116 Jun 28 '11 at 22:32
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Alternatively, apply the limit on bounties for other people's questions only - that would solve the problem of high-rep users setting the agenda, while everybody can continue to put bounties on their own questions as they like.

Although I fully agree with all of the opinions expressed here—especially Jon's in saying that "if there are too many bounty questions, they aren't special anymore"—for the sake of discussion, here are a few other possibilities.

Allow multiple active bounties (per user) as long as

  • they are not on the same person's questions, and/or
  • they are each for different bounty amounts.
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