Possible Duplicate:
Why can't I have my bounty back if I don't get a single upvoted answer?
Bounty Points Refund

When a user offers a bounty and if the question did not get any response or the question has been answered by himself, then the reputation for the bounty will not be awarded to anyone. So I got this idea: How about following the Law of Conservation of Reputation (Energy of SO)? I wanted to hear some suggestions on this.

  • 7
    Ok so you've identified a problem you don't agree with then thrown out some term that I have no idea what it is and don't feel like looking up on Google.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Jun 18, 2012 at 7:21
  • To skip a few comments ahead - no, you can not get back any points of a bounty you offered. It has been requested many many many times and declined over and over again. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/127222/…
    – Lix
    Jun 18, 2012 at 7:24
  • 4
    If you would like to make a suggestion on how to improve the current system, you'll have to state your case and show how the changes you propose would benefit the community.
    – Lix
    Jun 18, 2012 at 7:25
  • 1
    If you're going to make this a discussion, please clearly detail what you mean, how it works and what its supposed effect would be. Then we can discuss something.
    – Bart
    Jun 18, 2012 at 7:33
  • 2
    It was already suggested numerous times (too lazy to search but I'm sure of that) and always declined. Jun 18, 2012 at 7:44

2 Answers 2


Consider the bounty as payment for giving the question more attention. When you drive a car, you don't get the fuel back, right? Yet energy is conserved--converted into a different form. Here, the "energy" (rep) is converted into a "different form" (attention).

The intended functionality of a bounty is to give the question extra attention (also to entice users to take extra time and write more detailed answers). You pay for the attention with the rep--you can't recover it if it doesn't pay off. Touching on cars again, you don't get the fuel back if you took the wrong road and got lost (thus wasting fuel with no gain from it).

Stealing @Dave's analogy (unfortunately not energy-related) from the comments:

My company can pay money to put a sign on a billboard. Will people read it? I don't know. Will it get people interested in the business? I don't know. Will I profit from it? I don't know. Will it be displayed in the billboard? Yes! Because that's what I paid for.

Another issue with refunding bounties is this:

Lots of people will just never revoke the bounty (i.e., keep re-applying it), and the featured tab will get cluttered. Eventually, it will become like the Unanswered tab--full of lots of questions of which a small percentage get answered. The only difference is that there's an extra rep gain, so people will like using this "new unanswered tab" better.

Currently, there are few enough bounty questions tagged (for example) that I can look through the list, and decide which I'd like to solve (in my case, the ones with few answers, not using arcane frameworks, and within my level of expertise). If there were a few hundred bountied JS questions, I'd never be able to go through all these. This is what you lose when you flood the bounty tab.

So, placing a bounty will make it get lost within the featured tab. Of course, you could sort the tab by "newest"--but that's extremely unfair to users who use bounties to get attention/answers for their old, unanswered posts (one of the primary uses for bounties, in fact). If they sort it by posts that have recently been bountied, the re-bountied posts will come up. Yes, you can come up with a "been bountied only once/etc" metric, but that just gets complicated.

Also note that there already is something to make re-bountying harder (the re-bounty must be higher than the previous one). Now, there's probably a reason for it-- if the post didn't get an answer, it's probably not worth the previous bounty . This feature request works against the spirit of the existing feature.

  • It's a shame you can't just go back to the proverbial gas station and get your "tank" filled up :P
    – Lix
    Jun 18, 2012 at 7:34
  • I don't think that's the right analogy, because there's no assurance that the bounty will buy attention. I can totally see situations where the bounty causes people to navigate to the question's page, and then upon seeing that it's a tough question that will require real work to solve, people give up immediately. No real attention has been given. In the end, the person got nothing for their payment, and I can totally see the rationale for this complaint.
    – Nate
    Jun 18, 2012 at 7:35
  • 5
    @Nate: Perhaps a more apt analogy is to pay for advertising space. My company can pay money to put a sign on a billboard. Will people read it? I don't know. Will it get people interested in the business? I don't know. Will I profit from it? I don't know. Will it be displayed in the billboard? Yes! Because that's what I paid for.
    – David
    Jun 18, 2012 at 7:37
  • @Nate: (1) In general, it works for SE sites. (2) [citation needed].. You haven't offered any bounties yet. (3) If the question involves more work, the bounty is generally higher. (4) What Dave said Jun 18, 2012 at 7:39
  • 1
    @David, I agree ... that's a better analogy :). If I waste the fuel in my car, it was probably my fault. If my question goes unanswered, it's not necessarily my fault at all.
    – Nate
    Jun 18, 2012 at 7:39
  • @David: Awesome analogy, stolen and incorporated into question ;-) Jun 18, 2012 at 7:40
  • @ManishEarthwantsmorewaffles, well according to the poster, me, and the many, many requests Lix is referring to above, apparently lots of people think it's not a great system.
    – Nate
    Jun 18, 2012 at 7:40
  • 4
    @Nate: Perhaps it's not the best system, but I've yet to see a compelling argument to change it to something else. Imagine if bounties were refunded... How cluttered would the featured questions become? People could leave their bounties up indefinitely until an answer is provided. The number of featured questions would grow in lock-step with the number of overall questions, which would dilute the benefit of any given featured question. In short, by making bounties "free" in this regard we would be devaluing them.
    – David
    Jun 18, 2012 at 7:45
  • @Nate: There's a reason it's been declined. And the "lots of people" you refer to are looking at the bounties differently. The primary functionality of bounties is to garner attention for a question. And it has worked for whatever bounties I have placed. The rep-transfer part of bounties is a "necessary evil"--why would people want to answer your extra-hard question without a reward? Actually, the rep-transfer part degrades the "rep is a rough measure of how much the community trusts you" thingy, since one can earn lots of rep by "bounty hunting" without really gaining "trust". Jun 18, 2012 at 7:48
  • @David, I couldn't disagree more. Most bountied questions don't go unanswered. For those that get answers, this isn't an issue. It's only an issue for those that don't get answered, and yet still cost people the points. An unanswered question should be left up forever. What are you worried about? Server storage space? We have the option to sort by newest, which will push older questions down the list. I simply don't see your point about clutter. This isn't a physical desk with a stack of papers, being cluttered by memos from 5 years ago.
    – Nate
    Jun 18, 2012 at 21:58
  • @ManishEarthwantsmorewaffles Your opinion is that the primary functionality of bounties is to garner attention. I think that's an inferior interpretation to one whereby the primary function is to garner solutions. People earn rep on SO for providing useful content, not attention. I don't understand why the spending side can't be the same. You grossly misunderstand my contention. I'm not against people having to pay bounties, or having the withdrawal automatic if answers are provided with votes. The complaint is about losing points if you get no answers.
    – Nate
    Jun 18, 2012 at 22:04
  • As a modification to my earlier comment, I'd replace "forever" with "as long as the poster sees enough value to risk losing points".
    – Nate
    Jun 18, 2012 at 22:21
  • @Nate: It's the same for advertising. Yes, the primary functionality is to get "customers", but that is done by getting "attention". The main issue is that the bounty tab is like a "premium" place. Make bounties indefinite and then the tab becomes like i.stack.imgur.com/sP8Lb.png (and so on). At one point, it'll be just like the Unanswered tab, with a slew of questions (not necessarily good). Only difference would be is that people would prefer this list to the other one, due to the extra rep gain. I'll expand my answer a bit on this. Jun 19, 2012 at 15:06
  • @Nate: Btw, regarding your "many people seem to want this", just take a gander at the vote counts here (+1/-19). We have no reason to post "keep the bounty system as it is, please" (that doesn't make sense as a meta post unless there are some changes that are being applied by SE), otherwise there would be a million such posts to counter the 10-15 "bounty refund" posts ;-) Jun 19, 2012 at 15:37

Consider the consequences of this change, though...

If fruitless bounties were refunded, having a "featured question" essentially becomes free of charge. The charge only applies when a suitable answer is provided. Thus, people could (and very likely would) leave their bounties up indefinitely.

This would clutter the featured questions. The list would grow in lock-step with the total questions for the site and would very quickly create a higher noise-to-signal ratio. This would devalue the purpose of the bounty in the first place, as offering a bounty would just get lost in a vast sea of other bounties, with very little difference between the featured questions and the regular questions.

The price is for the advertisement, not for the result. Results may vary.

  • 1
    The price is for the advertisement would make sense to me if this was real currency, being paid to SO for the bandwidth (like real advertising on Google, etc.). But, this isn't real currency being spent. It's reputation points, which are earned by you providing useful content (questions and/or answers). You don't gain points with advertising, so why does it make sense to lose them under the banner of advertising?
    – Nate
    Jun 18, 2012 at 22:08