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I've recently posted a question on SO and set a bounty of 50 on it. My impressions was that neither the view count nor the amount and quality of answers increased significantly as a result of the bounty.

I wanted to know from your experience:

When and how to use bounties effectively?

Are certain topics better (or worse) suited for bounties?
Is a 200 point bounty significantly more effective than a 50 point bounty?

Note, this is not a duplicate of this question as I'm interested in how to use bounties effectively and not whether they are effective.

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It's all going to be down to what your question looks like. Can you provide a link? – Pëkka Jun 24 '11 at 17:48
Sure @Pekka, this is the question I used granted it doesn't have an obvious answer, but then that's the whole point – Asaf Jun 24 '11 at 18:07

The following is only my impression but...

  • Do questions with bounties get more attention? Yes, definitely, a lot more people will see your question because of it being featured and they will be more inclined to find an answer.
  • Does the quality of answers increase? Not necessarily. But with the increased number of responses you are more likely to get a good answer.
  • Does the amount I offer matter? Doesn't look like it.
  • How can I improve my chances? Make sure you've done your homework. Your question needs to be formulated clearly, without leaving room for multiple interpretations. It should be complete, meaning that all relevant information is included (and ideally nothing irrelevant). You should have invested reasonable effort into resolving the problem yourself and documented your attempts.
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The last point may be the most important: a bounty doesn't obviate the need for the question to also be good. – Josh Caswell Jun 24 '11 at 19:17
I appreciate your answer and really respect your work, not to be disrespectful but you have been a member of SO for 18 days and never offered a bounty. do you have another account or is your answer based on impressions you got from other users? – Asaf Jun 24 '11 at 19:20
@Asaf: No, I never offered bounties myself - but I answered some questions with bounties and had a close look at a number of questions with bounties to see how they are answered (I am very interested in the group dynamics on this site). But sure, my experience is limited which is why I started my answer with a disclaimer. – Wladimir Palant Jun 24 '11 at 19:25

It is my impression, and from my own experience answering, that the size of the bounty does matter when the problem being solved requires substantial work.

If users have to:

  • go do a bunch of research,
  • write a prototype program,
  • debug and test it, and
  • write up an elaborate answer,

then users probably won't attempt it unless:

  • the problem intrinsically appeals to them, or
  • the bounty is sufficiently high.

Usually it requires some of both. Put another way, if the problem is difficult the user might say "Too hard; not even going to try."

On the other hand, just being featured means that good answers are effectively featured too and there is some intangible prestige associated with having the best answer to a featured question. Any size bounty will work for this motivation.

But since you want to appeal to as many answerers as possible, and some answerers are motivated by the size of the bounty, you should consider a larger bounty based on the problem difficulty. Obviously other factors weigh in such as how badly or quickly you want the answer, but those are gambles unrelated to the actual problem.

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