There have been a few suggestions in the past as to how to disconnect the implication of reputation being a trust meter and the fact that offering bounties costs large chucks of reputation (generally followed by the conclusion "so offering bounties means you should be trusted less"). Because of this, I believe newer users are reluctant to offer bounties because they're giving up rep/privileges. Here's an idea that, while admittedly not easy to implement, would help delink bounties from privileges without breaking the bounty system (too much).
The basic idea is that once a bounty you created has run its course, the rep you spent on it slowly regenerates over time. This means that your privileges and "trust factor" are not affected in the long run, but you still have to pay up front. A few possibilities for the regeneration would be:
- +1 per day. Slowest option; a 50-point bountry wouldn't be restored for almost two months, while a 500-pointer would take a year and a half. For someone that participates every day this would be barely noticible.
- +5 per visited day. The "visited" criteria would be the same as the criteria used to determine whether your consecutive day counter goes up. A 50-point bountry would renegetate in a week and a half this way, a 500-point one in three months.
- +3 per day. Halfway point between the above two.
numberOfConsecutiveDaysVisitedper day. So you'd get +1 the first day after the bounty is over, +2 the second day, and so on, with it being reset to +1 if your consecutive days streak ends. 50-pointers would regenerate after a week and a half, while 500-point ones would take just a month (unless a cap of how much it can regenerate per day is used). This might have the side effect of motivating larger bounties, since the renegeration speeds up as long as you keep your visiting streak together, resulting in having lower rep for less time. Not an entirely serious alternative compared to the above.
With bounty-spent rep guarenteed to regenerate in the future, the number of bounties as well as their value would be sure to increase. It's hard to say whether that's a good thing; on smaller sites where bounties are rare it could be. A few ideas for restrictions include:
- Only regenerate a portion of the bounty, like 50% or something.
- Disable regeneration if the bounty expires without being awarded. (Discourages drive-by bounties that have no intention of being awarded.)
- Only enable regeneration if placing the bounty causes you to lose a privilege, and the regeneration stops once you gain it back.
- Only enable regeneration if the bounty is on a question with no positive-score answers. (Encourages the use of bounties on questions that have no upvoted answers.)
- Disable regeneration on questions where you have placed more than one bounty. (This would discourage the placing of constant repeated bounties on a question.)