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As this question did not yield any answer as to why bounties which have failed to attract auto-awardable answers – i.e., answered by somebody who did not start the bounty, answered after the bounty has been started, two upvotes in the week after being posted – should not be spared from expiration under certain conditions, I propose the following:

If a bounty’s grace period is about to expire without any answer being awarded that bounty automatically or manually, extend it until n days after an answer has become auto-awardable (e.g., with n = 7). Essentially treat the bounty as expired except that if an auto-awardable answer is posted, it can be automatically or manually awarded the bounty. Some suggestion on how to handle the details:

  • The bounty can be awarded manually at any time.
  • The question will not be listed on the featured questions anymore and thus not receive any additional exposure.
  • The bounty does not count towards the per-user bounty limit anymore.
  • The question loses the special protection against closure, which bountied questions have.
  • Requiring two upvotes in the first week and not just in general avoids the bounty being awarded to answers that are bad but attract an upvote evry now and then.
  • Unless the question has received an answer in the last n days, a new bounty can be started on that question, in which case the old bounty expires instantly. Note that without that restriction, one could start a bounty to deny an answerer the old bounty. Adding up bounties in this case has already been discussed here.
  • I chose the end of the grace period to depend on the time of the answer becoming auto-awardable in contrast to the time the answer was posted to avoid instant auto-awarding after an upvote. This could be replaced by a more complicated system (in which, e.g., the grace period ends if at least n days have passed after the first auto-awardable answer has been posted and at least one day has passed after the first answer has become auto-awardable).
  • I have no suggestion as to whether the bounty should still be indicated next to the question. In my opinion it does not cause much exposure as the question will likely vanish from the front page and thus this indication is only seen if the question turns up in searches and similar.

This way questions, on which an unsuccessful bounty was placed, retain at least some incentive for answers and thus the bounty starter has an at least a slightly increased chance to get something for the invested reputation. Also, somebody who missed the bounty period for whatever reason and can answer that question cat still get an extra award for helping the bounty placer (and answering what is likely a difficult question).

  • Could one of the downvoters explain their reasons? I am aware that downvoting on Meta plainly means disagreement, but it would be nice to know the arguments for this. – Wrzlprmft Sep 17 '14 at 18:31
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    You are in essence extending the grace period into infinity. Any half-hearted answers can just sit there until they gather the requisite 2 upvotes, which means all you get is more bad answers from people hoping to get the half-bounty award. I see no reason for this to be encouraged. – Martijn Pieters Sep 17 '14 at 18:34
  • @MartijnPieters: Point taken, but that can easily be fixed (see the change to the question). Nontheless, I do not regard this as such a big problem, as I expect such answers to mainly originate from the additional exposure and late upvotes to such answers are very rare in my experience – but then I do not know the voting behaviour on any Stack Exchange. – Wrzlprmft Sep 17 '14 at 20:24
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The whole point of the bounty system is to provide more exposure for a limited amount of time. That's what you're paying for. Getting a good answer is not a guarantee, nor a requirement. It never has been.

If, after your week, you still don't have a good answer, what good does leaving the bounty on there do you? Removing it from the bounty notifications to lose the exposure and losing the special close protection means it's just a regular, plain old question, and the bounty has absolutely no function at that point. The bounty has not helped get an answer in a week when it got the exposure, so it won't help get an answer after that point, and there's no point in allowing it to stick around.

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    Your first paragraph is an appeal to tradition. Concerning your second paragraph: If I see an old question, which happens to fall into my area of experise and which requires some effort, I am more inclined to answer it, if I have a good chance to be rewarded with some bonus reputation. Of course this may happen only to some of the questions in question, but there is also no harm in allowing for this (unless of course the effort of implementing it, which is upon Stack Exchange to decide). – Wrzlprmft Sep 20 '14 at 15:32
  • Saying there is no harm is handwaving away any concerns anyone has with your idea. Look that the comment Martijin posted. It would be abused. As for an appeal to tradition, no, it's not. It's an understanding of how the system works, and what it's meant to do. Your suggestion would make bounties completely meaningless, as we wouldn't treat them any differently than regular questions. What good is a bounty if it's not actually differentiated in some way from regular questions? Answer: Nothing. – fbueckert Sep 20 '14 at 16:06
  • I am not handwaving away concerns. I have adressed Martijns comment (and nobody has disagreed yet). Also, I do not suggest to change anything about bounties before they expire. So at large, bounties would stay the same. – Wrzlprmft Sep 20 '14 at 16:14
  • Well, you're wrong. It is that simple-- yes, go ahead and expire the extra exposure on the exchange site. But, to take away the benefit of the award you wish to give a smart individual that may not answer otherwise, I don't see the reason for it-- the points do have value. Except for the same reason gift card companies start to whittle down gift card values. Don't want them on the books forever. But one week, I say it isn't long enough. I don't know about you, but the exposure of the questions I answer have mostly come from google results and not from hanging out on an exchage site. – BradChesney79 May 1 '15 at 15:41
  • @BradChesney79 That's the thing, though, and shows your misunderstanding of a bounty. It's not a gift card. Never has been. All your rep is buying you is exposure. Nothing else. The incentive for the answerer is that they might get a rep boost. But at absolutely no point is an answer guaranteed. You got the exposure you paid for. – fbueckert May 1 '15 at 21:54

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