There was an an earlier meta-discussion about allowing moderators to skip the "bounty refund" step when closing a question that was declined, but I wanted to spin off waffles's comments into a separate feature request:

I am open to amending some of our close logic to allow for casting close votes on bountied questions (even if we require mod intervention for the final closing). A close sends a much more powerful message when multiple users are involved.

It is a weird thing that users can vote to close any question except bountied questions: it allows a single user to short-circuit the community moderation process, and in many cases, forces a moderator's hand to act unilaterally (or appear to act unilaterally).

As the earlier discussion showed, allowing bounties to go away without some thought is not ideal; a bounty is meant to be, as Shog9 put it, a "contract": additional reputation is offered in exchange for better quality answers. Making it non-refundable ensures the people writing those answers don't get the rug pulled out from under them.

Because of this, bounty refunds are an extraordinary action that—if done too often—could potentially undermine the system as a whole. They should require moderators to look at and see if taking such a drastic step is warranted.

Instead, I'd like to formally propose the following:

  • Allow users to vote to close bountied questions.
  • If a bountied question attracts 5 close votes, generate an auto-flag that alerts a moderator to deal with the question.
  • Moderator uses a magic button that removes the bounty and allows the closure to go through.
  • 20
    +1, I'm pretty sure I saw at least one bounty that was used to "protect" a bad Q from closure recently and a custom flag is currently the only thing that can be done - less than ideal.
    – Flexo
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 21:00
  • 6
    Oh a magic button? I say make it a big pink button, with a rainbow unicorn, and lots and lots of glitter.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 21:22
  • 6
    Aw man I was totally going to close this question, buuut....
    – Zelda
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 18:07
  • 5
    This question is crap! Voting to clos--oh, wait... Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:00
  • 1
    Another example which I think fits into this: How to create Mutable java.lang.String?, where the asker even admits it's more like a puzzle and knows an answer.
    – Arjan
    Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 11:32
  • @caird Moderators, now, can remove bounties, refunding the bounty to the user who placed it. Any user with >=15 rep can raise an "in need of moderator intervention" flag telling the mods the question is off-topic, but blocked from being close-voted due to the bounty, and request that the bounty be removed (and the question closed). How is that mechanic sufficiently worse than what is requested here (generate an auto-flag after enough users have voted to close) in order to justify the developer time to make a change? As-is moderators can be informed faster than such an autoflag would happen.
    – Makyen
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 3:38
  • 2
    @Makyen Personally, I support removing this restriction entirely. Whether or not a question has a bounty shouldn't affect it's ability to be closed, especially as closing a question has zero effect on bounties (I.e. they can still be awarded, for example if you start a bounty on a closed question). Shog's answer suggests having this raise an auto flag, but I don't even think this is necessary. In short: I support bounties and closing being entirely separate, and this bounty is intended to draw attention to that belief Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 3:45
  • @caird Raising an auto-flag is the proposal in the question, not just an alternative provided in answer. So, while I understand that you may be willing, or desire, some other implementation, that's what's specifically requested in the question. Given that, I really don't see much difference between that request and what has been implemented since this request was posted (i.e. allowing moderators to refund the bounty). In other words, I'd say it's arguable that this specific request is now status-completed.
    – Makyen
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 3:56
  • 2
    Overall, a bounty is a payment for advertising the question in the hope of getting answers. If the question is closed any significant time prior to the bounty ending, then the person who placed the bounty doesn't get the value which they were promised in that exchange. That's inappropriate. It's also inappropriate to eliminate the bounty from being awarded to anyone who has put out the effort to answer, based on maybe getting the bounty. , Both are potentially actionable. Balancing those against the needs of the site is one of the reasons it's in the hands of moderators to make the decision.
    – Makyen
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 3:57
  • @mayken Quite possibly. Either way, I have no problem with this bounty going to waste if there is no response from SE. The reputation matters very little to me, and I'd rather use it to draw attention to feature requests I believe should be implemented (or at the very least, addressed) Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 4:00

7 Answers 7


Here in August 2013, I strongly support making this change. I found a question today that is utterly and blatantly off-topic, but had somehow survived a few days without being downvoted and closed, and now the asker has added a bounty, which protects it (I flagged it for moderator attention.) I think this is becoming more common as SO grows -- the sheer number of questions is such that things like this can slip through more often.

  • Question has been closed, thanks @Shog9! Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 14:09
  • 2
    I agree that this feature is vital -- an off-topic question is an off-topic question and a bounty doesn't make it on-topic
    – bobobobo
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 12:53

I like the idea of allowing voting and generating a flag, since it need not be acted on right away - potentially the question could be closed after the bounty ends if need be (I can't really think of a use for this off-hand, but...). And I've also found the inability to vote-to-close on bountied questions irritating in the past.

I'm not convinced this is common enough to warrant the additional complexity though. As a rare edge-case, it falls squarely in the realm of "exceptions moderators should be handling" - allowing for voting followed by moderator intervention only makes sense if this is happening so often that it's becoming a drain on moderator resources.

As jmort notes, bounties already have a two-day waiting period. A much simpler solution might just be to generate a flag on questions where a bounty is offered and there are close votes outstanding: a moderator can then review it and, if necessary, revert the bounty and close (without appearing to act unilaterally) before anyone has devoted time to answering.

  • 9
    To me, I see this as simplifying how questions work: right now, bountied questions are considered to be a completely different class of content that isn't subject to regular community moderation because of the bounty contract. That's counterintuitive: open questions should be handled the same way, and you shouldn't be able to pay to play outside the regular rules. Making a change similar to this request makes it so the bounty is the only thing that's special-cased, not the question.
    – user149432
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:25
  • The thing that makes this seem ok in my mind is that the exception only exists for a mere 7 days, which is a blink of an eye when you consider that we're pruning most of the content here so that it lasts for years to come. If you really think it's a problem, maybe we can put in a request to restrict bounties on any question with a single close vote or a flag. This would require that the flags be cleared by a mod before the bounty could be posted.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:28
  • 1
    FWIW: if I'm interpreting the data right, 773 questions with bounties were closed during or after the bounty was offered. That's on Stack Overflow. That's all posts that might've needed to be closed while a bounty was active. For the entire life of the site. To put that in perspective, nearly 44 THOUSAND posts have had at least one bounty during their lifetime on Stack Overflow. This is quite rare.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:36
  • 1
    Granted, that data may be slightly skewed by the fact that it's a PITA to close bounty questions, which means that only the really bad ones were really acted on. Still, I don't think we really need to do much here. If enough people feel strongly about it then we could require that questions have 0 close votes/0 flags before an op can post a bounty, but even then, I just don't see this as a huge problem, at least on SO or PMSE.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:40
  • 5
    @Mark: for the record, that's under 2% on SO, while Gaming is 8% and AskUbuntu is 5%. Programmers is... 22%. I can see how this might be more of an issue on some sites.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:45
  • 3
    @Shog9 Indeed: one of the most frustrating things on Programmers during the period immediately proceeding the antedisciplining era was people using their rep from the antedisciplining to keep questions open during closure sweeps. Still, 5% to me seems big enough to optimize.
    – user149432
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:52
  • 2
    What if we simply upped the threshold for bountied questions? e.g. it needs 10 or so close votes and then happens, as if a moderator had done it. Of course this would be fairly SO specific, thoughts? Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 14:18
  • Hmm... Sounds kinda hacky, but it would tend to let folks vote without actually doing anything in most cases. Probably would've helped the Progse situation at least, by indicating community support for closing bountied questions.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 15:50
  • @Nick that's a good idea in my opinion. Let users vote to close, and if the threshold is reached, refund the bounty and close the question. :) Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 14:15
  • I'm against an automatic refund of boonties when questions are closed. You just need 5 other people with the privilege "vote to close" and you can close & reopen every question and get the boonty back. (IIRC you can reopen your own questions.) Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 15:08
  • 2
    As a frequent flier of the Featured tab, I see these fairly often. I usually don't flag because they seem too unimportant to waste mod's time, but I see that's the suggested action. @Shog9 are your views about this still the same nowadays? Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 16:13
  • Do existing close votes age away on bountied questions? That seems kind of bad if a bounty blocks casting new ones. Maybe questions with pending close votes shouldn't be bounty-eligible? Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 19:46
  • @NickCraver you would get a lot more people telling you their thoughts if you posted that as a feature request or discussion :) Commented May 29, 2021 at 13:43

One of my communities has just had some grief over a case of this. A question had four close votes, the bounty-giver didn't know that a bounty would block close votes (and I think didn't notice them anyway), several users raised flags asking for the question to be closed, a mod refunded the bounty and closed the question, and frustration ensued.

We could say "tough noogies; the community should have closed it", but sometimes questions get missed or the weekend dip or a holiday makes things take longer or there's a lot of activity on the question as people try to fix it. I don't want to force mods to refund bounties (an extraordinary action) in order to allow a community closure (an ordinary action). I also don't want to over-complicate bounties. I recognize that this is an edge case for an infrequently-used feature -- but if we can fix it without too much difficulty, we should because there are no good solutions when it does happen.

I see two approaches that don't seem to be too hard:

  1. Don't allow bounties on questions with active close votes. Force the community to resolve the matter first. Also, the two-day countdown starts from either the posting date or the latest reopening, so a question that's experiencing a close/reopen tug of war can't get a bounty right after reopening.

  2. Allow close votes on bountied questions and let them proceed exactly as they would were the question not bountied. The bounty-giver risks not getting the new answers he might have been seeking, but he also has a week to get the question fixed and reopened. That seems fair.

  • If a bountied question gets closed, wouldn't it make sense to refund the bounty if it hasn't been awarded yet and let the bounty-giver sort out the question without the clock ticking down? It seems unfair to tie up that reputation when it can't actually do what the person who spent it was hoping to do (get more/better answers if we assume good intentions).
    – ColleenV
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 12:31
  • @ColleenV not necessarily. Maybe it was a "reward existing answer" bounty. Maybe it got a bounty-worthy answer in the bounty period before being closed. Maybe it didn't get any answers but the question was only closed 6.5 days into the bounty. It might make sense to raise an auto-flag if a bountied question gets closed so moderators can decide whether to refund. Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 13:50
  • I would think that in most of the situations where the bounty hasn't already been awarded refunding the bounty is the most neutral impact. Why wouldn't we want to just reset it? We can't offer a bounty on a closed question, so why would we leave a question in a bad state?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 14:00
  • @ColleenV what a bounty pays for is visibility, both new answers and votes. It doesn't guarantee that you'll get an answer. That's why I said that if the question is closed near the end of the bounty period we wouldn't refund anyway -- you got the visibility, even if nobody bit. Sometimes it would make sense to refund -- a quick closure, or the closure was on a borderline scope issue where the bounty-giver had no reason to expect a closure, for example. I'm just saying it calls for human judgement; refunds shouldn't be automatic. Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 14:48

A question with a bounty has already been opened for at least 48 hours. In a busy community like StackOverflow, this is more than enough time to reasonably determine if the question is a good fit for the community.

On a smaller site, like Project Management SE, moderators see every question that comes in; thus, we have a 48 hour window to figure out if we need to unilaterally intervene when the community cannot.

Once the bounty starts, as Shog9 mentions, there is a contract that exists between the asker and answerers that offers X amount of reputation in exchange for research and effort invested in providing the best possible answer. It makes sense during this time period to allow the question to remain open, at least for the duration of the bounty period.

This is a temporary state. Once the bounty period ends and the answerers have an opportunity to receive their bounty award, the community can then take a hard look at the question and determine it's future.

It's been established that any rep earned for answers with a least 3 votes will be preserved if a question is ultimately removed. Thus, if the same rule applies to bounties, then this shouldn't be a problem in terms of violating this bounty contract.


Once a bounty is posted, it is locked until the end of the 7 day period. The contract has started, and we shouldn't violate that contract.

However, one possible solution could be to prevent bounties being offered on any questions that contain a single flag or close vote. A moderator would have to clear these flags before the bounty period could begin. This would effectively prevent an answerer from losing time spent researching the solution.

  • 2
    FWIW, the post needs to be visible for at least two months for the normal rep preservation rules to kick in - but bounties are preserved regardless. Provided they're actually awarded.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:06
  • 1
    @Shog9 - Then I think that sounds fair to just keep things as they are. There is no need to do anything different here IMHO. The bounty is the reason people pay attention to bounty questions, not the upvotes they may or may not get. Any upvotes on a bounty answer is really just a little extra icing on the cake. Lastly, the bounty is what the contract is about, so as long as we continue to preserve that then I don't think the bounty system would be impacted should a question be removed after this period ends. Those questions would still continue to get the extra attention from the community.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:11
  • 5
    When I initially made this request, I was speaking from my experience as a mod on Programmers, where even though we got a small fraction of the number of questions SO gets, we didn't see every single question as it comes in. I don't think it's reasonable to expect moderators to a) be aware of every question and b) act within 2 days of it being asked, especially unprompted. I also don't think it's reasonable to expect the community to act definitively on every single question within 2 days of being asked, either: if that is the expectation, we should just disable the close button after 2 days
    – user149432
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:15
  • 9
    A bounty doesn't make an otherwise crappy question good: a bad question 3 days later is still a bad question and should be subject to community moderator whether or not it has a bounty. Heck, one of the reasons bounties exist is to get attention for questions that slipped through the cracks: attention can be both positive and negative. Right now, it requires a moderator to act unilaterally to close based on a private flag, which is decidedly worse than letting the community decide to close a question on its own and register that publicly in the close message.
    – user149432
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:16
  • @MarkTrapp - It seems like the worst questions, the ones that really have no place here, do get filtered out by the community. The occasional ones that slip through the cracks probably weren't bad enough to warrant actual closure. Still, once the bounty period ends, anyone who has picked this up on their radar can then go in and take action. My concern with closing bounty questions is it may discourage potential answerers from spending time on the question, and no bad question is worth destroying or defacing the current bounty system.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:22
  • [cont'd] - If we went 2 days with a not-so-hot question, then surely we can go another 7 before taking action.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:24
  • 5
    @jmort253 I'm sorry, but I don't subscribe to the school of thought that if the community doesn't handle something quickly as it comes in, it shouldn't have been handled at all. If that is the case, the entire moderation system should be completely redesigned: flags should expire quickly, moderation functions should be disabled quickly, there's no need for /review or /tools, etc. But putting that aside, there is nothing about the concept of a bounty that implies "this question is good enough to delay community moderation because a person paid rep." It's a side effect, not a feature.
    – user149432
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:30
  • 1
    @MarkTrapp - please see the update in my answer. I think this could be solved without invalidating bounties. Granted, this requires that at least one user 15 rep or higher feels that the question isn't a good fit. If the SE team can implement that, we try that out, and we still have garbage slipping through the cracks, then maybe we can revisit the idea of close votes on bounties.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:34
  • 5
    @jmort253 preventing the bountying of a question that has outstanding community flags or votes is great idea: I'd be for that as an alternative as well.
    – user149432
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:42
  • Not sure what I meant there, @Paul (or even if the rules are still the same after almost 5 years - we had folks gaming this a few years back, so we did tighten up the rules at one point). Bounty reputation follows the same preservation rules as normal post rep, with the caveat that the person offering the bounty gets it back on deletion even if the recipient keeps it.
    – Shog9
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 17:17

One objection that seems to come up quite often is "well, if the question's remained open a couple of days without a mod closing it, it can't be that bad, can it?". Or "the community evidently thinks the question is ok, or it would have been flagged".


Friends, haven't we all seen (non-bountied) questions more than a couple of days old that are inappropriate, voted to close them, and seen them closed? I know I have. Community awareness isn't always that immediate; these things take time.

I came here in search of questions on this topic after encountering one particular question. It is on Stack Overflow, where the criteria for types of question we can ask and should avoid asking are pretty clear; questions need to be specific and have a reasonable scope. Here, however, we are told of a friend's project to grow mushrooms in a computer rack cabin, and then, after some words about the friend's previous project and what's required for this one, and about possible problems finding a way not to waste the heat produced, we are effectively given the entire project ourselves to solve!

It's rather a nice story—so much so that it almost seems unkind to vote for the question to be closed—but that is what I know I should do. Our community is clear about what's on topic. Yet I cannot do so because the system currently prevents it. The question I am referring to is here.

I can hear the cries already: "flag it for attention by a mod"! Why? What kind of sense does it make for bountied questions to receive this exceptional treatment? The OP will lose their bounty for nothing? Sorry, but that doesn't really cut it because the site makes it clear what's on-topic. Since it's not an appropriate question for the site, and we have a process for that, let's apply the process.

Right now in 2022 I strongly support removing the exception for bountied questions. If a member of the community feels they should vote to close a question, let them do so for bountied questions like any other question.

And here it is: the "Stack Overflow question" that can't be closed.

enter image description here

  • 1
    sigh As of the point when I removed the bounty and closed the question you linked to, there had never been any close-votes on the question, nor any flags raised on the question. Another time, please raise an "in need of moderator intervention" flag explaining the situation and asking for the bounty to be removed.
    – Makyen
    Commented May 15, 2022 at 21:17
  • 2
    @Makyen you may sigh, but perhaps I should join you? Because what you are suggesting I should do another time is merely a restatement of the status quo I have just challenged in my answer. Also why do you say there had never been any close votes on the question? Close votes are not possible!!! But I had attempted two--one of which is shown in the above ascreenshot. The point of my answer is that we should not have this exceptional treatment for bountied questions.
    – Reg Edit
    Commented May 16, 2022 at 8:16
  • 1
    I didn't say this feature request shouldn't be implemented, nor argue against your answer here. I provided additional information about it never having been close-voted, nor flagged. Given there was just over the system-imposed 48 hours from it being asked to when the bounty was placed, there certainly could have been close-votes/flags. I also asked that while the system is the way it currently is, that you flag, which is the currently effective action to move such an off-topic, but bountied, question towards closure (which you could have easily done in addition to posting here on MSE).
    – Makyen
    Commented May 16, 2022 at 9:35

I definitely agree that we should have the ability to vote to close bounty questions. Nearly every time I look through the featured tab on my favorite tags I find at least one terrible question...

The only alterations to the existing proposal that I would make would be:

  • Add some mechanism to ensure that the Mod flags are handled quickly.
    • Bump these flags to the head of the line, as these probably should be handled before the bounty expires, and before the question draws too much attention.


  • Give moderators some amount of discretion as to whether the bounty is refunded or lost entirely.
    • Not that I think that all bounties on bad questions should be forfeited, but I do think there should be some additional sting to discourage blatantly abusive and/or habitual offenders.

Related: Will work for rep. / Closing bounty questions


I suggest to change this proposal to:

  • Allow users to vote to close bountied questions. No need for make the bountied questions exempt from VTC.
  • Actually close the question only after the bounty has been awarded. This keeps the bounty system fair and helps both the OP and the answerer.

Closing the question before the bounty has been awarded is not fair for the OP. It is also not fair for the person who might have spent some time preparing the answer - only to see the question being closed before they had a chance to post the answer! That's frustrating. Also, the community had 2 full days to close the question before the bounty could even be posted. This is plenty of time to weed out most of the obviously bad questions.

Full disclosure: I often benefited from posting bounties either to get an answer or to reward an existing answer. And I have to admit that some of my questions were in the grey area of possible closure, for example:

  • 1
    " It is also not fair for the person who might have spent some time preparing the answer - only to see the question being closed before they had a chance to post the answer!" This is always the case. Potential question answerers always need to consider whether the question they want to answer is on-topic or not. Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 12:03

You must log in to answer this question.