I'd like to make a feature requests for a Reward system similar to the Bounty system. You can call it an Award feature if you like, but I'll refer to it as a Reward below.

The Bounty system is good at advertising questions that needs answers (and its variants, like improved answers and canonical answers); but it performs rather poorly for folks who want to say "thank you" and reward a user for timely, good answer.

Above, a distinction is being made between the user and the answer they provide. The current system works well for questions and answers, but has some room for improvement when making the user a first class object in the point system.

When rewarding a user for a good, timely answer, I would like to:

  • enhance the points beyond an upvoted and accepted answer
  • provide the reward to the user immediately
  • decouple from a Bounty's time lag and advertising
  • decouple the user from their answer

Bounties perform poorly at the number of points as an award. The minimum points required for a simple "thank you" are 50 or 100, depending on whether the system identifies the bounty as overly promotional. In contrast, a reward is a small "thank you" to a user for an exiting answer, so either (1) a single selection should be provided; or (2) a selection of smaller point values should be provided. For a single selection, perhaps 25 points would be a good choice (2x an upvoted and accepted answer). For multiple selections, perhaps 25 (2x an upvoted and accepted answer) to 100 (4x an upvoted and accepted answer) would be a good choice.

Bounties perform poorly in timeliness. If a user provides a good, timely answer, then the "thank you" for an answer could be delayed up to a few days. The first delay is due to waiting for the question to be eligible for a bounty; and the second delay is waiting for the bounty to expire. In contrast, a reward should be available immediately because it acknowledges a particular user's actions and answer. And the insight is: a Reward is for a user based on their answer, while the Bounty is for a question.

Bounties perform poorly due to the coupling of question to advertising. In the case of a bounty, the person providing the bounty may want the question answered (or answered better), and likely want to advertise the question. In contrast, a reward is for a user and their answer; and it requires no advertising. And the insight is: a Reward is for a user based on their answer, while the Bounty is for a question.

Bounties perform poorly as Rewards because entry level awards cannot be awarded equally. Multiple bounties on the same question "cost more" in subsequent awards. See, for example, Accept Multiple Answers or Split Bounty among Several Users (ymar's answer) and Bounty Reasons and Post Notices

Bounties perform poorly as Rewards because its confusing and cumbersome to use. See, for example, Can I award bounty to two answers? and Bounty as reward, award to two recipients.

Bounties allow users to game the system on a large scale with few events. See, for example, What's the most reputation that anyone has earned on a single day?. Rewards could allow users to game the system on a small scale with more events. But the larger number of smaller events should be easier to detect. See, for example, What is serial voting and how does it affect me.

Rewarders should not need the help of a higher authority. For example, at Undefined symbols SystemRuntimeMacOSX::Initialize and SystemRuntimeMacOSX::Terminate, the question needed to be flagged in an attempt to award a bounty to two recipients.

Rewards as Bounties can be difficult for moderators to navigate and accommodate. For example, at Undefined symbols SystemRuntimeMacOSX::Initialize and SystemRuntimeMacOSX::Terminate, a simple request was made to split the bounty between the two user's for their answers. The moderators were not able to fulfill the simple request, and the 150 point bounty that was supposed to be a reward was lost to the bit bucket.

The reward system could help fill the gap where a user would like to accept multiple answers. In this use case, the person would award the users who provided the timely, good answers even though he/she could only accept one as the "correct" answer.

The reward system would fill the gap identified by comments like "I'd like to upvote this answer twice". While the comments usually mention the answer, the genuine thanks is to the user.

Rewards could help with the negative perceptions associated with some of the Stack Exchange sites. See, for example, Could we please be a bit nicer to new users?.

Rewards would also help folk commit rage quits efficiently. Rather than waiting for bounties to expire, a rage quitter could burn though all their reputation immediately.

Some thoughts on the system and its implementation (in no particular order):

  1. A Reward should not be coupled to a Bounty because they are different features. The Reward should not be a sub-selection inside a Bounty workflow.

  2. Rewards apply to user's and their answers. If there are no answers, then there are no users eligible for a Reward.

  3. Rewards should NOT be hindered by the various time delays that encumber Bounties.

  4. Rewards should be easy to apply.

  5. Rewards apply to other users; and do NOT apply to one's own answer(s).

  6. Points for Rewards should be deducted immediately like a Bounty.

  7. Points for Rewards cannot be retracted like an upvote or downvote. One does not retract "thank you" in real life, and it makes no sense in this context.

  8. Rewards do not need advertising.

  9. Rewards can be as simple as a "thumbs up" icon on a user's answer. If a single point selection is available, just prompt the rewarder similar to "are you sure you want to thank this user for 25 points".

  10. Rewards provided to a user do not need to be "counted" on a particular answer. There is already a system in place for that.

  11. If desired, place a entry in the history of the person who provides the Reward, and the person who receives the award.

  12. Deleted questions and answers don't factor into this system because Rewards are provided to users; and not answers. The recipient keeps the reward even if the question or answer is deleted.

  • 6
    "Rewards would also help folk commit rage quits efficiently. Rather than waiting for bounties to expire, a rage quitter could burn though all their reputation immediately." - Why is that a benefit? That's something that should be stopped, not made easier to do or encouraged. -- Also, your #12 concerns me. They definitely should be connected to an answer, and should be revoked if the question or answer gets deleted like a bounty. It sounds like you want a simple "give a user some reputation" feature that isn't necessarily connected to posts at all, and that sounds like a horrific idea.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Sep 8 '14 at 18:50
  • @animuson - Re: #12 - why is it a concern, and why is it a horrific idea? (I see what your position is, but I don't see your reasoning).
    – user173448
    Sep 8 '14 at 18:54
  • +1, but this would be easily abused by voteringers, or people moving rep from a suspended account to a new one. There would have to be lots of restrictions to prevent abuse like this. Limiting it to a certain percentage of rep to a certain user over a certain time period would be a must.
    – user1228
    Sep 8 '14 at 18:57
  • @noloader: because it is an abuse magnet; it doesn't matter that the post is going to be deleted, it is a foolproof way to transfer rep to a sock puppet! Sep 8 '14 at 19:50
  • @Martijn - do you mean like this: What's the most reputation that anyone has earned on a single day??
    – user173448
    Sep 8 '14 at 19:52
  • @noloader: No, I mean accounts trying to commit fraud. Sep 8 '14 at 19:54
  • @Martijn - two points. First, shouldn't the use case be handled first, before the misuse case? And second, the same fraud can be committed under a Bounty.
    – user173448
    Sep 8 '14 at 20:10
  • @noloader: by allowing the reward to be disconnected from the answer, the perpetrators can delete the answer immediately to greatly reduce community scrutiny. You cannot do the same with a bounty. Sep 8 '14 at 20:41
  • @Won't it should be legal in some cases. If I want to erase my account record and start with a new one, that should be allowed.
    – user340193
    Dec 29 '16 at 11:49

You forgot one basic fact: Stack Overflow, and all the communities in Stack Exchange network, focus on Questions and Answers, not on users. The users get their reward from:

  • Satisfaction they contributed something useful to the world of programming
  • Upvotes and possibly having their answer marked accepted (rep is nice bonus)
  • Being able to moderate the site as result of gaining reputation

Stack Exchange is not a social network. We don't have a Wall to each user. No private messages. Greetings are removed from posts due to being just noise. And all of this on purpose and for a reason.

Also, letting users freely transfrer reputation between each other will harm the whole reputation system and is wide open for abuse. Single user who gets to 15 rep will be able to create infinite sock puppet ring easily.

Last but not least, regarding rage quits. Is this really a good idea a user will just give free rep at random to some other users, who do not deserve it a bit? I don't think so.

  • "... letting users freely transfrer reputation between each other..." - isn't that available now via Bounties?
    – user173448
    Sep 8 '14 at 19:01
  • "... regarding rage quits. Is this really a good idea a user will just give free rep at random to some other users" - well, that seems to be happening already (on a very small scale). If its not a problem now, will it be a problem with rewards? Related: What's the most reputation that anyone has earned on a single day?.
    – user173448
    Sep 8 '14 at 19:03
  • @noloader The effort to award a bounty is high enough, due to the length of time that must be waited, that it's not worth it for people when they could spend that same time answering questions and making that rep. So there's a disincentive built into the current system for gaming rep points that your request would take away. There's a limit to how many bounties you can run simultaneously, and a few other limits that prevents this issue. If you think someone left an awesome answer, then waiting to go through the proper process isn't an obstacle at all.
    – Pollyanna
    Sep 8 '14 at 19:09
  • @Adam - I agree with everything except "then waiting to go through the proper process isn't an obstacle at all". I've had two problems while trying to reward someone in the past. In recent history, my last two attempts. In practice, the Bounty system is not a good fit for providing a Reward.
    – user173448
    Sep 8 '14 at 19:14
  • @noloader did the problems prevent you from awarding the bounty? If so, submit a bug report. I've used the bounty system for rewarding good answers many, many times, and it has never been an issue for me.
    – Pollyanna
    Sep 8 '14 at 19:32
  • @Adam - in the first case, the intended recipients did not receive the bounty. No one received it even though it was flagged for moderator help. In the second case, the bounty was not intiated because the desired points are not available due to something called "overly promotional bounties". So yes, I was prevented from awarding the bounties.
    – user173448
    Sep 8 '14 at 19:42
  • 3
    @noloader How did the first case not receive your bounty? It's a manual award. You not awarding isn't a bug in the system. You attempting to stretch the system beyond its capabilities also isn't a bug.
    – fbueckert
    Sep 8 '14 at 19:47
  • @fbueckert - it was pushed up to the moderators. Once it was flagged, it was out of my hands. Like I said, Bounties do a poor job as a Reward system.
    – user173448
    Sep 8 '14 at 19:51
  • @noloader what moderators? The bounty expired without you ever giving it to anyone. Sep 8 '14 at 19:52
  • @ Shadow - I flagged it for moderation before the bounty expired.
    – user173448
    Sep 8 '14 at 19:53
  • 2
    @noloader so? It doesn't prevent you from giving the bounty. I still have no idea what you mean. Sep 8 '14 at 19:55
  • @Shadow - I could not award the bounty to Cos and Matt. I flagged it for the moderators because I could not do it myself. I flagged it before the bounty expired. Looking at the question, the bounty was not awarded to Cos and Matt.
    – user173448
    Sep 8 '14 at 20:08
  • @noloader (sigh) what do you mean "could not do it myself"? What happened when you tried? What error you got? As a Stack Overflow veteran user you should know that saying "but it's not working" is not enough. You likely just stumbled into some bug and jumped right into the conclusion the bounty system as a whole is flawed. Sep 8 '14 at 20:21
  • Well, I'm sorry the bounty system doesn't meet your needs. I've awarded thousands of points of thank you bounty on stackoverflow without a single hiccup. I suggest you leave a comment to their answers asking for a way for you to send them cookies or a gift certificate. Honestly reputation isn't all it's cracked up to be, and I think you might be taking things a little too seriously. Not that I'm one to talk about taking trivial things too seriously... ;)
    – Pollyanna
    Sep 8 '14 at 20:23
  • @AdamDavis assuming you meant the OP to see your comment, you forgot to @notify him. (so he would most likely miss your comment) Sep 8 '14 at 20:24

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