I often see old questions on Stack Overflow - some are just plain bad, some have been asked at that time of day when no one is around except for RBS staff trying to frantically fix autosys, and some have clearly been asked when Jon Skeet* is on holiday. Some of them are just really hard.

The bad questions should be consigned to the dustbin, but those other questions, they might deserve another chance, and I'm wondering if, with a little (well, lots) of help from the community, we could promote them with a bounty offered by StackExchange itself. The purpose of this bounty would really be to promote these questions a bit more, or even just get them noticed again.

This started as a side comment on this question

@BilltheLizard Why not get people to review old unanswered questions, and if they are good questions, StackExchange itself could offer a bounty on them? – dash 31 mins ago

@dash That's an idea. I can think of a few different ways that could work. Users could nominate questions for bounties, and after 5 nominations in a given time period a 100 point bounty is set. We'd need a separate tab for nominated questions to be viewed before they're moved to the featured tab. Another option would be that questions that stay at the top of the unanswered list for a certain period could automatically get a bounty. You should post this as a separate feature request. – Bill the Lizard

In short, it's an attempt at suggesting a solution for the following:

...getting answers for the 20% of questions on SO that are currently unanswered, which I care about a lot. I'd love to hear more ideas on the latter if you have them. @BillTheLizard

*I'm using Jon Skeet in the context of meaning all the experts on StackExchange. Although it could just as easily be the Jon Skeet ;-)

  • 2
    How do you propose to ensure that only good questions get such a treatment?
    – Bart
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 23:13
  • Same way we decide a question is bad? We vote on it. However, I'd also suggest that moderators have the final say in deciding whether or not StackExchange should offer a bounty. (Just so we don't use up all of the bounty and have to borrow some from ExpertSexChange or similar at a massively over inflated (dis)interest rate. Also, more seriously, to perhaps avoid people from block voting to abuse the system for system offered bounty.)
    – dash
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 23:18
  • 1
    One thing we already do for unanswered questions (well, questions without upvoted answers, in this case) is give them a periodic bump to the front page.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 23:26
  • 4
    This is all lies! Jon Skeet is never on holiday!
    – Tudor
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 23:29
  • @AnnaLear I was just reading Jeff's response here meta.stackexchange.com/questions/363/…. It would be interesting to know sif that's effective, or if tugging at the more mercenary impulse of additional rep is the necessary incentive. On the other hand, all of the people on this site who I look up to, don't seem to be in it for the rep so if they could or wanted to have answered the question, they probably would have done already.
    – dash
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 23:29
  • I'm also aware that the original raiser of the question could have allocated a bounty if they felt the answer was important enough to them; the distinction here is that it's a way of getting old questions answered by Stack Exchange itself; perhaps it could be seen as a sponsored way of filling in the knowledge gaps. Having thought about it a bit more, though, I'm not 100% sure...
    – dash
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 23:31
  • 1
    I'm sorry, I don't know who Jon Skeet is, so the adulation is lost on me... Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 23:51
  • @yoda - it's not really just Jon, it's everyone on the site who's built up a load of reputation by contributing. I'm using Jon as a convenient meme, and shorthand for refering to a bunch of people. That includes you as I've used a bunch of your Matlab answers (and, err, thanks!)
    – dash
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 23:58
  • Heh, I do know who he is... just that this was like the fourth or fifth question I saw today that brought his name up to try and sell a point, that I almost thought it was Jon Skeet awareness day ;) Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 0:09
  • @yoda I was just being a bit lazy really; the meme page points to Jon as being the epitomy of Stack Overflow users - and he and his record are very, very impressive. However, I (rather soppily) believe that everyone on Stack Exchange who contributes is a legend, but okay, yes, there are levels ;-)
    – dash
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 0:12

2 Answers 2


I just wanted to flesh out some of the ideas above and address some issues. These are for the user nominated system bounty idea.

  • To prevent abuse, you can't nominate your own question for a bounty.
  • You also can't answer a question you've nominated.
  • Nominating questions for a system bounty should be a 10K privilege or higher.
  • Users should have a very limited number of bounty nomination votes so that the bounty tab doesn't get so flooded that it becomes ineffective. I'm thinking one a day, but this could go even lower.
  • To ensure only good questions get system bounties, five users have to nominate a question before it gets a 100 point bounty.
  • Nominated questions should be listed on a separate tab similar to the 10K review tools while they wait for enough votes to get a bounty. (This will also give them a little bit of extra exposure before they even get a bounty.)
  • Bounty nomination votes should disappear over time (like close and delete votes) if a question doesn't get enough votes to get a bounty.

The other idea is a little bit less complicated. If a question stays on top of the unanswered list for a certain period of time (let's say a month), then the system could automatically put a 100 point bounty on it to add a little bit of extra exposure and incentive.

  • Thanks @BillTheLizard. You've pushed my original suggestion far beyond what I was thinking. Also, a slight apology, I didn't mean for there to be a slightly flippant tone to my question, but my last attempt at answering a question on meta was_not_very_successful - I think I may have been born without that part of the brain that allows someone to succeed at meta!
    – dash
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 23:32
  • Interesting idea, but who would decide who gets the bounty in the end?
    – Tudor
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 23:34
  • @Tudor I think it might be okay to let the original poster of the question still select the winner, but it could also be decided by community votes. Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 23:37
  • @dash No apology necessary. Meta can seem like a tough neighborhood some days. :) Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 23:39
  • Perhaps I don't participate sufficiently on meta (to identify already-present prohibition on receiving a bounty if you answer prior to a bounty being awarded), but what about a restriction on nominating a question you've already answered? (Given that answering a question already bumps it back to the front page, and it would seem to meet the same criteria already raised in your second bullet (You also can't answer a question you've nominated.)) Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 23:48
  • @DavidThomas I thought about adding that too, but you're right about bounties only being awarded to answers that come after the bounty is started. Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 0:16
  • Just discovered this post. I like the idea. Maybe both mechanisms could be implemented: "auto-bounty" by the system with a lower bounty (50), "mod-nominated" with much higher bounty (200/250?), for really interesting/tricky/hard questions that deserve attention. Commented Oct 2, 2013 at 9:40

There is already a review system in place so that users can look over questions and either up/down vote them or flag them accordingly.

I spend some time looking over the first questions and flagging dupes and obviously poor questions. maybe the review section could be given more prominence or a boost via rep like @dash suggests.

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