I'm just about to see a bounty I applied to a question time out with no one having answered, although one commenter was very helpful in trying to diagnose the problem. The bountry of 50 points will be lost to the world forever.

I was just wondering, what benefit is there in having the bounty time out? If bounties were to stay indefinitely, is there a downside? If someone comes across a question a year later and has a good answer, why should they not get the points they would have got if they happened to have caught the question earlier?

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    Rep points are ephemeral things. A down vote of an answer causes three rep points to be lost to the world forever (or until the answer is deleted) (though its only one rep lost to the world if the person is already at one rep). An up vote of an answer causes ten rep points to magically spring into existence. Worrying about rep gained and lost to the world is like worrying about where the unicorn poo will fall in the meadow - just have faith that more will constantly be created and thrown about. – user213963 Sep 12 '14 at 5:44
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    @MichaelT, I'm not worried about the destruction of points. Just that the person offering the bounty loses the opportunity to acknowledge help, and that people who could be helpful might miss out on that acknowledgement simply by poor timing. – Questioner Sep 12 '14 at 6:43
  • I expanded some of my comments into a feature request (which is not well-received at all though). – Wrzlprmft Sep 17 '14 at 18:20

When you set a bounty, you're effectively "buying" more attention and answers to your question. If you never awarded your bounty, you could forever continue to get that attention, which defeats the whole purpose of bounties in the first place.

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    Is attention getting the only purpose of a bounty? I thought it was also an expression of gratitude, as well as way of conveying how intent someone was on getting an answer. The exchange of gratitude doesn't seem to be time based to me. – Questioner Sep 12 '14 at 6:44
  • @DaveMG: well there is the reputation side of it too, donating extra reputation to a user who provided a particularly useful/insightful answer. – Qantas 94 Heavy Sep 12 '14 at 8:56
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    @DaveMG if you don't have an answer yet you're mainly buying attention (trying to get an answer). You can also award a bounty to an existing answer, so if your goal is to reward someone who helped you, you can already do that. – Monica Cellio Sep 12 '14 at 12:58
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    @MonicaCellio: However you would have to start another bounty to award somebody who posted a helping answer and missed a timed-out bounty. – Wrzlprmft Sep 12 '14 at 13:46
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    As the attention is mainly coming from the featured questions tab (if I am not mistaken), this can be counteracted by simply not showing questions there, if the bounty is older than seven days. – Wrzlprmft Sep 12 '14 at 13:48
  • PS: Apparently, this is already the case, though for only one day, as you can award bounties to answers posted during the grace period. So effectively bounties already last eight days for all purposed except being in the featured questions tab. – Wrzlprmft Sep 12 '14 at 14:04
  • @MonicaCellio, you're right that bounties can be awarded after the fact. But, in that case, the person answering doesn't have any indication or assurance that will happen. – Questioner Sep 12 '14 at 14:30
  • @DaveMG right, I'm just reacting to your "also an expression of gratitude" comment. Bounties might provoke people to answer (and those answers might or might not be any good), and they can reward good work, and those needn't be tightly coupled. – Monica Cellio Sep 12 '14 at 14:38

Not only that bounties are an attractor (as Doorknob nicely explains), but as well, a type of a contract. And if you had an unlimited due date to the payment (i.e., if the bounty starter never had to award the bounty), the answerers could never get their rep. It happens a lot now that someone starts a bounty and then ignores it, that's why we have the automatic bounty award system. Such system would be impossible if the bounty never expired.

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    This could be counteracted, however, by only making the bounty not time out, if there is no answer at all. For example, you could change the system such that 1) the bounty times out seven days after the first answer was posted that would be auto-awarded a bounty, 2) the bounty can be awarded manually after at any time after seven days (if it has not timed out yet). – Wrzlprmft Sep 12 '14 at 13:43
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    1 week from when the first answer is posted seems like a good idea. – Questioner Sep 12 '14 at 14:28
  • An even better solution would be that you when you offer, say a 100 bounty, you lose 200, and you get back 100 when you award the bounty. – domotorp Jul 10 '18 at 8:28

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