First of all, I have read and understood:

Suggestion for answering your own bounty question

Bounty with no answer?

Why didn't my Bounty get refunded?

How does the bounty system work?

But still. I have a suggestion/question. I have started a question on StackOverflow that didn't give me any answers. No answers at all. I really didn't write a bad question, it got 3 upvotes, but still I got no answers ( jTDS + stored procedures + prepareSQL = nesting level error? ). Therefore, as a relatively new user, I decided to add a bounty to the question, hoping it would attract some new attention. But nothing new happened. That doesn't really motivate me (as a new user) to use this bounty system more.

I think there are a few situations that can happen to questions with an attached bounty.

  1. One of the answers gets manually awarded the bounty. As long as it's not an answer of the person handing out the bounty himself, this shouldn't be a problem.
  2. In case nobody manually awards a bounty, but there are good answers, the automatic awarding system makes very good sense to me.

This all sounds good. Nobody should be able to award a bounty to himself and good answers should be rewarded.

But. What if there are no good answers? (so no answers with upvotes at all, only answers with minus 4, or no answers at all after a week of extra attention) Right now, the policy is to just discard the bounty. The bounty starter loses its rep and nobody wins. Sure, you have "bought" a question some extra attention and that requires some commitment and a kind of "handling fee". On the other hand, if we compare this to real life, it doesn't make sense. If I place an ad "I lost my wallet, I have a $ 500 bounty for whoever returns it to me", I can keep my $ 500 in case my wallet doesn't show up. I just spent money (if any) on placing the ad.

Therefore I would like to suggest another way of handling this. For me there are some realistic options, keeping in mind that we don't want to have the bounty system be abused.

  1. After a question with a bounty is not answered in a satisfactory way, so the automatic awarding system would discard the bounty, the bounty is refunded to the bounty starter after a deduction of 25 rep (for example). So a bounty of 50 would give a refund of 25; a bounty of 100 would give a refund of 75. See it as the "administration fee" for having a bounty.
  2. The same as 1, but half the bounty is refunded to the bounty starter. This way, the higher a bounty and the more attention it therefore gets, the more "administration fee" you pay.
  3. When wanting to place a bounty, you pay the administration fee in advance (like placing the ad). So for example it costs 15 rep + the bounty to place a bounty. To place a bounty of 100, you pay 115. To place a bounty of 50, you pay 65. This of course includes that when no bounty is awarded, the full amount of the bounty is refunded.

I don't want to kick against any people's knees, I just want to help make this (network of) site(s) better. It's fine if nobody agrees with my suggestion, then I'll just rest my case. It's also not about getting my own bounty back, I have agreed to this system at the moment I started the bounty. But we're talking about a website where we try to help each other, where we can get (hard-earned) reputation that we can invest in others. Compare it to giving a recommendation about someone. It just makes no sense that someone's reputation just "vanishes" because he has asked a good question where simply nobody knows the answer to.

I'm curious to your opinions on this. :)

  • related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/112823/…
    – Mat
    Dec 29, 2012 at 14:28
  • 1
  • I know this system is discussed a lot, but I think I did everything that the mentioned questions didn't do. I'm not giving incentives to not award the bounty. I'm also not giving incentives to place an endless number of bounties. It still costs rep to place a bounty in my idea. And the refund system should only take effect if all other options are not giving any results. I'm giving an example how it could be better, taking all that into account. Comparing it to real-world-bounties and to real-world-reputation, the current policy doesn't make 100% sense (to me). Dec 29, 2012 at 14:37
  • @bartlaarhoven: Comparing the Internet to the real world doesn't make sense to me, personally :/ Dec 29, 2012 at 14:45
  • 3
    What do you mean? Of course it's not the same completely, but the words "reputation" and "bounty" aren't chosen without a reason, I presume..? Dec 29, 2012 at 14:53
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    @bartlaarhoven: Well, you have to use words familiar to new guys and are similar to the feature they talk about. Dec 29, 2012 at 15:01
  • @Manishearth I think this discussion can be merged with the discussion on your answer, so let's continue there. :) Dec 29, 2012 at 15:16
  • May I say that I completely disagree with closing this question? I think out of the many questions this is said to be an "exact duplicate" of, this is the first one with a good discussion about it, seriously considering alternatives and discussing the details of the policy. Apart from whether it will lead somewhere, I think closing it is unfair to the discussion. Dec 29, 2012 at 23:06
  • @bartlaarhoven I agree. The other posts are related and may provide useful context, but I think calling them duplicates is a stretch.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Jan 1, 2013 at 0:22
  • If anything, I am still on the fence about the possibility of losing privileges when my reputation decreases due to placing a bounty on one of my own questions... then again, it's been a while since I've set up a bounty. I don't remember if that happens or not, but I suppose some level of risk has to be set somewhere in the system.
    – anon
    Feb 10, 2013 at 13:20

4 Answers 4


I disagree. The bounty you "pay" isn't to award the answers to come (unless you're awarding an existing answer).

The bounty you "pay" is to increase the attention of the question for a week. If you got an answer, the bounty will go (if you award it, or half of it if you haven't), to the best answer you've gotten.

If you hadn't, the bounty you paid goes "to the system".

That is the logic behind bounty, and I think it's working well.

  • 2
    But you're contradicting yourself with this. If it is something you "pay" with, then it shouldn't go to someone else. If I pay a newspaper to place an ad that I lost my wallet, that's fair. But they're not going to pay that same money to someone who found it. And, this comment applies here and I completely agree with this: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/136507/… Dec 29, 2012 at 14:41
  • @bartlaarhoven - That you pay for something doesn't guarantee you will get what you wanted out of it.
    – Oded
    Dec 29, 2012 at 15:31
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    @Oded Indeed, and that's also what I'm stating in my post. It's fair to say you have to "pay" something (and the only thing we have here is reputation) to give your question extra attention. But if I place an ad in a newspaper (let's stick to that example), it'll cost me maybe $15. While the reward for getting my wallet back is $500. I know and totally agree with paying the $15 to the newspaper, but I'm not giving them $500 already without getting my wallet in return.. Dec 29, 2012 at 15:34
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    @bartlaarhoven - But that's what your rep is paying for. An ad.
    – Oded
    Dec 29, 2012 at 15:35
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    @Oded No. In this analogy, I'm paying the newspaper $500, regardless of the result. If someone comes with my wallet, the newspaper gives him/her the full $500, which implies that placing the ad itself didn't cost anything. If nobody shows up, they keep my $500 for themselves stating "yeah that's what an ad costs", while placing the ad didn't cost anything if someone showed up. Doesn't make sense to me... Dec 29, 2012 at 15:38
  • @bartlaarhoven - Well, looks to me like you are simply not liking the price for an ad...
    – Oded
    Dec 29, 2012 at 15:40
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    @Oded No, it's not the price of the ad. It's the reward for the right answer. It only becomes the price of the ad once there's nobody with the right answer. Which doesn't make sense. I would be even more willing to pay more for the ad in case I do get the right answer than the other way around.. Dec 29, 2012 at 15:43

Nah, I disagree. While the system is indeed called a "bounty" system, I feel that the rep you place for the bounty counts as the full advertising fee. The rep is paid to the system, which then doles it out. Having a bounty refund will reduce the value of bountied posts (because it will cost less and there will be more of them), which we don't really want. With too many bounties, people will go bounty hunting more--not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but too much of it leads to less attention to normal posts.

Aside from that, you already earn back lots of rep from question upvotes if you have bountied your own question.

The system works well right now, why change it?

  • I'm not suggesting a system where placing a bounty costs less. In my option 3, placing a (successful) bounty even costs more. And we're talking about reputation here, something you earn by giving good answers or posing good questions. It makes no sense that that would be used to spend on advertising. Like saying "I'm a good programmer! Now I can become a less good programmer by asking someone's advice and rewarding him for it". See also this one again: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/136507/… Dec 29, 2012 at 14:47
  • Also, "earning back" from upvotes sounds weird to me. I get upvotes on my question because I formulated a good question, not because I put a bounty on it, I hope. Sure, I put a bounty on it so I'll get a bit more attention, but I don't get upvotes "because I put a bounty on it". I get upvotes "because I asked a good question", which is unrelated to bounties. In my personal case, I believe I also already had 2 out of the 3 upvotes before I put a bounty on it anyway. So I disagree with your "earning back" statement.. Dec 29, 2012 at 14:49
  • @bartlaarhoven: re: earning back: I'm jsut saying that it's a compensation. Yes, you got upvotes because the q was good, but also because of the bounty. If you hadn't put that bounty, would you have that many upvotes? No -- the question would have had less views from users, and thus less upvotes. So, the upvotes are a cause of the bounty (as well as your q being good, which is always there). Dec 29, 2012 at 15:04
  • @bartlaarhoven: Who said that rep was an exact measure of how good a programmer you are? Rep is a very rough measure of how much the community trusts you, and sort of of your programming capability (this only applies if you have high rep). Rep is an order-of-magnitude thing. Some rep down the drain doesn't make that big a diff. Dec 29, 2012 at 15:05
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    re: earning back: Yeah, but then we should make a difference between "a bounty" being "attracting more attention to your question" (which also leads to upvotes, and hopefully to more answers) and "a bounty" being "a reward for the correct answer". I think they are two different things. And with my suggestions, these two are taken apart; you "pay" something for giving your question more attention, which could be compensated if it leads to yourself getting more upvotes, and you "pay" for giving someone a reward for the correct answer. But if there's no correct answer, there's no payment. Dec 29, 2012 at 15:11
  • And of course the current system also allows you to put a bounty on someone else's question, where the whole "compensation" does not apply. Dec 29, 2012 at 15:11
  • In response to your rep-is-an-order-of-magnitude-thing: sure, with your 19.5k rep, that's true. You won't sleep less if you have to put up a bounty of 100 rep. I have 140 rep. Putting a bounty of 100 on a question makes me lose loads of privileges, and puts me 2 orders-of-magnitude lower.. While I'm still the same person with the same capabilities and the same intelligence... Dec 29, 2012 at 15:13
  • There is a rule about having to double the bounty each time you add a new bounty to the same question. There is a reason for that rule - people found out that continuously putting a small bounty on your best question could be a net gain.
    – Bo Persson
    Dec 29, 2012 at 15:16
  • @BoPersson And I think that rule makes good sense and should stay in place. :) Dec 29, 2012 at 15:18
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    @bartlaarhoven - But we don't want to increase the odds of getting the bounty back (in addition to 8 new upvotes).
    – Bo Persson
    Dec 29, 2012 at 15:21
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    Don't get me wrong, abuse should always be prevented and it should stay a privilege only after you have shown to deserve a certain amount of rep. But once you then put your hard-earned rep into play, a fair game should be played. And if people only put bounties on their questions to gain upvotes, they should be punished and demotivated. Let moderators "lock" the question for more bounties or indeed make the "administration fee" higher for the second, third etc. bounty. Fine. But don't punish the honest goodwilling people asking their questions that apart from getting no answer, also lose rep.. Dec 29, 2012 at 15:32
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    @bartlaarhoven: I'm not saying it's abuse. It will be a natural, shall I say, economic effect of making bounties semi-refundable (I use the word liberally, in economics you have lots of things that auto adjust due to no fault of any single entity). No one person will be responsible for it, it will not be "abuse". Just that the overall effect will be to increase the number of bounties and thus reduce their worth. Dec 29, 2012 at 16:07
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    @bartlaarhoven: "But with those things in mind, wouldn't it be a better and more fair system than the current one?" Because the current system isn't unfair. You could just as easily say that it's more fair to not have to risk anything for the first bounty. Your concept of "fairness" is not something that we need to appease. In short, there's nothing wrong with this aspect of the bounty system. It doesn't need fixing. Dec 29, 2012 at 16:37
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    @bartlaarhoven: Just cos there are a lot of posts saying that people disagree doesn't mean that the majority does. Nobody ever posts on meta "I LIEK THE BOUNTY SYSTEM!!11" -- there's no need to. The votes on those qs speak for themselves. Most of them(including this one) come from users who have just "lost" rep to a bounty and want it back. From that point of view, most of them are just rants :/ Not this one, though, it's well thought out :) Dec 29, 2012 at 17:19
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    @Manishearth But with all due respect, most of the votes and responses to those questions come from users with 10k+ rep (including this one ;-) ). I think the policy should not just be created with these very advanced users in mind, but that it should also be clear and "fair" to new users. As I said before, you won't really care about losing 250 rep on placing a bounty on a question without getting replies. Newer users, with 1k or less, will. And "my" system takes care of that, while it won't make much difference for the more advanced users. Dec 29, 2012 at 17:56

You get one or two things with your bounty:

  • a full week of attention on the "featured" tab.
  • possibly one or morea great answer(s).

SE gives you the first, the community has to give you the last. And if nobody knows (or is willing to share) the answer, you are out of luck. This is a Q&A site with a high response rate, but we can't guarantee 100% success rate.

Besides your metaphore is flawed:

If I place an ad "I lost my wallet, I have a $500 bounty for whoever returns it to me", I can keep my $500 in case my wallet doesn't show up. I just spent money (if any) on placing the ad.

You must see the bounty as the cost to place an ad. You won't get that returned either.

Last note, remind it is the holiday season for a lot of users. So you will get a lower response. If you like to retry, start a new bounty second week of january. The probability of getting an answer is greater.

  • Again the metaphore that the cost of the bounty is the cost to place the ad. Why doesn't it cost anything to place an ad then at the moment there comes a good answer? My suggestion is to break those two apart: the "cost of the ad" and the reward for the right answer. I totally understand why it costs money to place an ad. I also understand why it costs money to hand out a reward. I just don't understand why it costs just as much money placing an ad and handing out a reward, as placing an ad without handing out a reward... Dec 29, 2012 at 16:12
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    This would be a bad idea, because it overflows the feaured tab with the result that nobody has the extra attention. Besides, if you want to have the premium seat, you have to pay. Dec 29, 2012 at 16:17
  • Why would it overflow? We're only talking about questions where no good answer is given to. Hopefully, with as you say a "high response rate", there aren't that many questions with that. All the rest of the bounties are handed out. So putting a bounty on a question still gives you 90% chance (or so) that the bounty is handed out and you "lose" your rep. That won't encourage people to just put random bounties on questions? This just concerns those questions without good answers. They have to pay for the premium seat, but not for the reward that isn't handed out.. Dec 29, 2012 at 16:19

Again the metaphore that the cost of the bounty is the cost to place the ad.

You pay to get your question attention. You pay to give incentive to others to answer your question. Both of these things happen whether a bounty-worthy answer is posted or not. In short, you got what you paid for, regardless of the outcome.

The fact that the "same money" may or may not go to someone else is irrelevant; you got what you paid for. You get increased attention and your question had an incentive to attract good answers.

Bounties need to have an irrevocable cost, or else everyone would just keep posting the same bounties on the same questions forever. Bounties need to expire, or else the bounty queue would not be a place where people would look to post new answers. We need to give old questions that got their chance the boot so that new questions can come in. Otherwise it would just be an infinitely accumulating wasteland of questions that obviously nobody is interested in.

And if you can afford to post bounty after bounty on your question, then it's because you've contributed to the site significantly, so you've earned it. And most people who could afford it won't bother.

Also, bounties need to expire because you can't close a question with a bounty on it.

  • I'm sorry, but I'm almost getting the urge to downvote you; fortunate for you I don't have the rep to.. ;) But you didn't read through this topic and its answers. I completely agree that there should be an irrevocable cost to a bounty. I completely agree that bounties should expire (I never talked about expiring). I completely agree that people with more rep should be able to post more bounties. I just disagree that that irrevocable cost should be as high as the complete bounty. And that's not what you responded to. Dec 29, 2012 at 16:24

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