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The bounty system has been well-discussed already, but the problem I would like to raise is that of lost reputation points. By this I mean reputation points that were allocated "up front" but never attributed to anybody. I apologize if I have misunderstood the bounty mechanism, but in my experience this happens maybe for around 10% of the cases.

Sometimes the bounty poster just disappears, and sometimes he accepts an answer but doesn't grant the bounty. I even had cases where I received the comment of "Thank you, this worked" with no follow-up action.

I can only theorize that the poster hasn't read the FAQ, or his knowledge of English wasn't good enough, or that he intended to wait the required 2 days and forgot to come back. I don't assume that he didn't care about his reputation points, just that he made a mistake, a mistake that could maybe be corrected in most cases by suitable adjustments to the bounty system.

To minimize the wasting of reputation points and also awkward exchanges between poster and answerer, I would like to suggest the following changes :

  1. Remove the 2 days minimum bounty-award period
    This will avoid the need for the poster to come back just in order to grant the bounty. As we are dealing with hardware or software, where answers can be verified fast enough, and as an answer can be accepted immediately if it works, this should also be the case for the bounty.

  2. Reinstate acceptance as also granting the bounty
    This will solve the funny case where an answer was accepted but bounty never granted. I was told that there were technical reasons for this separation, but technicalities can be overcome.

  3. Automatically grant the bounty to the best answer once bounty period has elapsed
    I don't suggest for the most-upvoted answer to be accepted as it was before, just that the bounty should not go to waste if one most-suitable answer exists.

EDIT

This post is not another one about "why don't I get these bounties". It is about "why are people missing out on using their earned reputation". This never happens when the poster is a high-reputation member, but rather to low-reputation more casual posters, who sometimes blow up a substantial part of their reputation points asking for an answer, then end up never using it. Changing the bounty algorithms may prevent some of this from happening.

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Regarding 3 - The bounty does get awarded (admittedly in half) if the bounty expires without being manually assigned. I'm not sure there is much need to increase it to full. Related, aren't there unavoidable emails sent to people who have a bounty? –  Grace Note Nov 18 '10 at 15:24
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Disappearing reputation is good for inflation. –  jjnguy Nov 18 '10 at 15:30
    
@Grace Note: I believe this is no longer the case. I don't get half-bounties any more, even if my answer was accepted. –  harrymc Nov 18 '10 at 15:32
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@harry Can you link one or more examples of this happening? –  Grace Note Nov 18 '10 at 15:46
    
@harrymc The auto-award rules have not changed. Are you sure the instance(s) you mention had an answer with more two or more upvotes? –  Pëkka Nov 18 '10 at 16:06
    
@Pekka: I didn't find such examples, just the fact that I didn't get any half-bounties for quite a while (I do get a few bounties per week on SU). The latest cases I can point to were for accepted answer but no bounty and less than 2 upvotes. example. –  harrymc Nov 18 '10 at 16:55
    
@harrymc you get bounties weekly? Nice. :) The example you point to has no answer with two or more upvotes. For those, the bounty will in fact expire. (But this has always been this way.) –  Pëkka Nov 18 '10 at 16:57
    
@Pekka: But the answer was accepted during the bounty period. –  harrymc Nov 18 '10 at 17:11
    
Acceptance has never been a factor in the auto-award calculation, so this means there isn't actually an error in the auto-award calculation. –  Grace Note Nov 18 '10 at 17:14
    
@Grace Note: I never claimed computer errors, just human ones. Which is why I advocate improving the algorithms. –  harrymc Nov 18 '10 at 17:19
    
@harrymc yeah, accepting a question and awarding the bounty are two separate things now. –  Pëkka Nov 18 '10 at 17:19
    
You said you didn't believe that the bounty half-awards happened anymore, and stated you didn't get them anymore. Fact is, bounty half-awards are only done by the system, not by humans. That... kinda sounds like an implication that the system was at error. –  Grace Note Nov 18 '10 at 17:20
    
@Grace Note: Could be truly a bug, but that's a separate issue from what I'm trying to achieve here. (without much success, apparently.) –  harrymc Nov 18 '10 at 17:30
    
Every comment on this question has been done to determine that there is no bug in the system. You haven't been receiving any half-bounties because you haven't been qualifying for any half-bounties. The lack of receiving any bounties at all continues to be a human error (and is what you're focusing on). –  Grace Note Nov 18 '10 at 17:42
    
@Grace Note: I'll accept that (computer errors will be for a separate post, if I'll find one). –  harrymc Nov 18 '10 at 18:02

2 Answers 2

  1. Remove the 2 days minimum bounty-award period

    I don't agree with your reasoning for this. Answers can vary widely in quality even if the ones that don't work are ignored. As a rule of thumb, better answers take longer to create, though there certainly are exceptions. "Better answers showing up later" isn't a big issue with accepted answers, because those can change. With bounties, it's sensible to be more careful.

  2. Reinstate acceptance as also granting the bounty

    I originally liked this, but there are two problems. First, now that questions can be bountied more than once, OPs can and do use bounties to reward people who post second-best but still very good answers. Second, bounties can now be offered by anyone, not just the OP. The answer that helps the OP the most might not be the answer that helps the bounty offerer the most.

  3. Automatically grant the bounty to the best answer once bounty period has elapsed

    I don't agree with your reasoning for this, either. While it's possible that user error is responsible for the bounty not being awarded, it's just as likely that the bounty offerer considered all potential answers and actively decided that none of them was good enough to deserve the bounty. Remember that half-bounties are auto-awarded if an answer posted after the bounty is announced reaches a score of two. If that's not happening, that's an independent bug.

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I think with regards to 3, the author is specifically stating not to accept the most upvoted, but rather just awarded the bounty. –  Grace Note Nov 18 '10 at 16:08
    
1. Upvotes is the only mechanism we have even if imperfect. 2. I meant answers accepted by the bounty-giver during the bounty period. In the case of a second bounty by the same person, the bounty button will still serve here. 3. Grace is correct. –  harrymc Nov 18 '10 at 16:32
    
I have edited my answer regarding #3. –  Pops Nov 18 '10 at 16:34
    
New 3 point: I don't really believe that the poster will willingly waste his reps. But if he wants to do that, we can add a "No answer" button for him to avoid the automatic point awarding, but I really think this is pushing the limits a bit. –  harrymc Nov 18 '10 at 16:39
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@harrymc Actually, there are quite a few times that people decide to not award the bounty. In the event that there are no qualifying answers for the auto-award, it's easy task. In the event that there are qualifying answers, it's been continually suggested to just post your own answer and award the bounty to that (you don't win the bounty back, but this prevents the bounty from going to someone else). See here as a recent example. –  Grace Note Nov 18 '10 at 16:43
    
@Grace Note: I have had cases where my answers were accepted with a thank-you comment, but bounty wasn't awarded. That is clearly a mistake. –  harrymc Nov 18 '10 at 16:47
    
@harrymc I was only addressing the fact you didn't believe people would dispose of bounties and pointing out we already have something in place of a "No answer" button. Again, if you can provide actual links to these cases, then we can actually diagnose why you didn't receive the bounty as an auto-award. –  Grace Note Nov 18 '10 at 16:49
    
@Grace Note: Right, "No bounty" is easy to do by awarding to self. I only started keeping notes a couple of weeks ago, although I had the feeling for quite some time that bounties were getting lost. I have no links except to answers from these 2 weeks. –  harrymc Nov 18 '10 at 17:17
    
@harrymc, I agree that it sucks that people aren't giving you bounties that you deserve. That said, I don't think changes to the bounty system that interfere with legitimate use cases are a proper solution. –  Pops Nov 18 '10 at 17:58
    
@Popular Demand: I don't care much about the bounties I'm not getting. I'm talking about people who sometimes put most of their earned reputation on one question important to them, yet waste it all on misunderstanding the difference between acceptance and bounty. –  harrymc Nov 18 '10 at 18:16
    
@harry, there is no such problem. Any hypothetical "wasted" bounty will keep generating interest for the full seven-day bounty period, because nobody can know that it won't be awarded until after it's over. If anything, this maximizes the benefit of the bounty. –  Pops Nov 18 '10 at 18:32
    
@Popular Demand: On SuperUser, many of the questions are technically oriented and only of interest for a few people. The bounty is a measure of the importance of the question to the poster and a signal that special knowledge is required for a solution. A bounty doesn't make the question popular, nor is everybody qualified to evaluate whether the given answer is correct. –  harrymc Nov 18 '10 at 18:49
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it's not wasted to the person who posted the bounty... why should they care if someone gets the points or not when they're gone from their score no matter what? in any case i think this whole thread is stupid, harry just seems upset because his 'correct' answers are frequently incorrect and the OP doesn't give him his hard-earned points. –  Robert S Ciaccio Dec 3 '10 at 7:36
    
it's not wasted to the person who posted the bounty... why should they care if someone gets the points or not when they're gone from their score no matter what? @RobertSCiaccio, that’s a good point. Besides, it’s like paying some money to have your classified ad “stickied” or in color for a few days. It draws more attention to it, but even if you don’t get what you were hoping for, you don’t get a refund. –  Synetech Dec 24 '13 at 2:21

Just a contributing opinion from somebody that used to answer a lot of bounty questions. I don't bother with it anymore after the last change. I posted this feedback but it got ignored. The bounty experiment on it didn't help :) But the biggest hurdle for me is that users just don't put enough bounty in. It used to be 100 rep with the 'system' adding 50. But that's gone, too many users only wage 50.

That's just not worth the amount of time I personally have to spend on researching the typical bounty question. Two regular answers give me the same and gets me back to my normal job a lot quicker. The personal payoff from the research is too slight, it is almost invariably 'too localized'.

My call: increase the minimum bounty amount. At least 100, I'd like 200 to increase the odds they care enough to come back and award it.

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(From my own side, the bounty is just a signal that here is a hard and interesting technical question.) From the lack of interest in this post, I am starting to think that there is no real forum to discuss bounty rules, which are determined by only the owners of this site. The opinions of the people who actually participate in answering bounties isn't listened-to. –  harrymc Nov 19 '10 at 7:27

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