When opening a bounty and a question doesn't yet have an answer that I'm willing to accept, it always takes me a moment to pick a bounty reason: I am never quite sure what scenarios the "canonical answer" reason applies to.

Canonical answer required

The question is widely applicable to a large audience. A detailed canonical answer is required to address all the concerns.

When there are already one or two answers to the question that cover a bit of ground, it always seems to me like the "Draw attention" and "Improve details" reasons are also applicable. "Improve details" to me suggests that someone should edit the existing answer, though then the person who did the effort won't be the one getting the bounty; so maybe "Improve details" should be understood as "create a new answer based on an existing one / under acknowledgement that one of the existing ones is already a partial answer", but to me this would just increase the mystery of the "Canonical answer required" category.

In which cases should one use the "Canonical answer required" bounty category? If "definitive" or "complete" is meant, one could clarify the bounty description.

  • Closely related: meta.stackexchange.com/q/169786/152859 Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 11:15
  • @ShaWizDowArd Interesting that for that question (which asks which answer to pick if the present answers are all incorrect) the accepted answer suggests to just pick the "Draw attention" category. So if "canonical" (if the logic of the linked question-answer pair is to be believed) does not imply that the existing answers are incorrect, would it apply to the "existing answers are okay (but not incorrect) but not quite there yet" case? If not, just what does "canonical" mean? Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 11:46
  • Honestly not sure what "canonical" means, guess they are taking it from the programming world where you have canonical link element where it says "The canonical link element helps webmasters make clear to the search engines which page should be credited as the original". Can't see how it can be related in context of bounties, agree the wording better be changed. :) Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 11:48
  • @ShaWizDowArd "canon" means rule in Greek, the simplest definition for "canonical" is that it's in accordance to a predefined set of rules / principles. In the context of bounties, it means definitive. Definitive of course implies / includes complete, the dichotomy presented in the question is false.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 12:08
  • @Yannis well, if it takes that long to explain maybe it better be changed... but on the other hand it will make Stack Exchange sites bit less special. Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 12:20
  • @ShaWizDowArd Hm, what? It's a fairly common word, that can be found in a very wide variety of contexts. And, also, in a dictionary. Stack Exchange sites are English language sites. Sometimes that can be challenging to non native speakers (I know, I'm one of them), but it is what it is.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 12:27
  • @Yannis 1. To me, the meaning of "canonical" is close to the meaning of "default", but your definition is within the range as well. What canonical means elsewhere depends and might be clear elsewhere, but it isn't clear here. I think changing "canonical" to "definitive" would be preferable. Etymology is interesting, but the connection is often weak to modern usage in another or the same language. 2. I wasn't contrasting "definitive" and "complete". These words might or might not mean the same here, but just listing both seemed easier, plus the actual issue is about the wording "canonical". Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 12:35
  • I only posted the etymology because @ShaWizDowArd suggested it comes from the programming world. It doesn't, it was widely used in English long before there was programming ("canon law" would be the easier example). I'm not sure I see the ambiguity, but... it's not really up to me.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 12:40
  • @Yannis Thanks for the explanation. As for the "ambiguity" part: The description "ambiguous" isn't what comes to mind to me when I see the word "canonical" in this context; it's more like it's not clear or somehow insufficient. Does it mean "need correct answer" (but the blunt implication of the (one or more?) other answers being incorrect was avoided by the designers of this site)? Does it mean "elaborate"/"verbose" answer (a bit like user Caleb suggests below: he uses the phrase "thorough explanation")? How does it contrast with the other options in the menu? Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 12:46

1 Answer 1


The bounty reasons are cookie cutter and the reason the bounty is being offered is really up to the person offering it to define. However, the reason "Canonical answer required" typically means that a question needs more than a quick one-off "do this to fix your problem". The issue maybe be something that comes up a lot and a really thorough explanation would be beneficial to lots of future users.

  • 1
    Interesting, so your answer is consistent with the wording "detailed" in the bounty category description. The wording "to address all the concerns" however implies that it's also the implication that the other answers haven't sufficiently addressed certain aspects of the question. Then, the wording "is widely applicable to a large audience" suggests yet another thing, namely that this question is important and perhaps that this category shouldn't be chosen for less important questions?? Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 12:52
  • 1
    So is it about: (1) the need for a verbose answer, (2) the complexity of the question or a potential answer, or (3) the importance of the question? (It could be "(1) because of (3) and (2)" as well.) I think some debate would be useful. Perhaps the present 6 bounty categories haven't been chosen in the clearest possible way. Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 12:54
  • As I started out by saying, there isn't one exactly right reason for choosing this. On a case by case basis a question may qualify for one or more of those possible reasons/explanations. It may have aspects of all of them. And yes this probably shouldn't be chosen for questions that have little relevance or applicability to anybody else -- but then those aren't good SE questions to start with.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 12:54
  • I agree that it will be practically impossible to choose 6 (or 5 or 7) bounty categories so that in any given situation exactly one bounty reason applies (unless you were to build some sort of mathematical prioritization principle into the system ... of course I'm not suggesting this). But perhaps we can do better and improve on the categorization or categories or wording? When I was new to the site I thought that different bounty categories might be handled differently (by the system, by moderators, ...), so I always tried to pick "the best", and the "canonical" category always perplexed me. Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 12:58

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