As someone who has neither awarded nor received a bounty, my thinking about this is purely theoretical.
Let us say that we allow the bounty to be broken up, with parts awarded in varying fractions to user A who edited the question, user B who made an insightful comment, user C who provided a partial solution, and user D who capped it all off.
How could this (complex system) be managed, and how could it be gamed?
Since users who offer a bounty have enough rep on SO to do so, I say that they can in general be trusted. So they should be able to award bounties within a preset range of outcomes.
Proposal 1 Bounties can continue to be awarded as per the current method.
Proposal 2 Discussion of specific bounty allocations is always off topic. If there is a problem, it should be flagged for moderator attention.
Proposal 3 Appeals to should only be considered where an attempt to game the system is suspected.
Proposal 4 Only bounties of 100 points or more can be distributed.
Proposal 5 Bounties should be automatically accepted by the system according to the following recommendations:
- editors may receive from 0-10%
- the author of the accepted answer may receive from 50%-100%
- the author of the answer with the most up votes may receive from 25%-50%
- the author of a contributing answer may receive from 0-25%
- the author of the comment with the most up votes may receive from 0-10%
In the example above, user A could be awarded 10%, user B could be awarded 10%, user C could be awarded 25%, and user D could be awarded 55%. In another scenario, user A could be awarded 0%, user B could be awarded 10%, user C (providing a solution expanded by user D) could be awarded 50%, and user D could be awarded 40%.
Bounties that are not within these guidelines should be automatically flagged for moderator review.
(These guidelines are not yet completely self-consistent; please suggest improvements).
- It's complicated. Such a system would be a significant effort to build. It would probably take several iterations to get right. A whole new UI would be needed for the bounty offerer to allocate their bounty, and possibly variation of it for moderators to be able review / change the allocations.
- A new load on moderators. Nuf said.
Can it be gamed?
Yes. For example, the author of "a contributing answer [that] may receive from 0-25%". A user may choose to allocate those points to a buddy who is not really deserving. Assuming no other user flags it for mod attention, this could be done repeatedly to "help" the buddy. Adjusting the checks already made to catch serial up voting to include serial bounty awards would catch this scenario.
Surely we can find a simpler way! Proposals?