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I'm guessing I'm falling into an edge category here but I wanted to point out a slight issue in the auto-awarding of bounties.

I'm using an example from English Language Learners but this can happen on any site:

how to distinguish “cost” from “price”

This question has several answers. The top rated answer (mine) has 12 upvotes and one downvote. Of these votes, 7 up and 1 down (I think) were awarded after the bounty started.

The OP edited the question severely, asking more and more questions until the entire question was reverted to the original but I edited my answer, giving the information that was requested.

Even if you only include votes after my edit on 7/20 (the day the bounty was placed), I have 4 upvotes and one down, which is more votes than the other answers (the highest other answers have two total three up and one down or two up and no down).

I'm not saying that the OP won't award me the bounty, but is it really acceptable for a lower-rated answer to get the bounty simply because it was answered after the bounty was started? Particularly in the case that the answer has been edited to address the bounty reason.

If I had known this, I could just as simply have deleted my answer and reposted it, just to be eligible for the bounty... which is certainly not the behavior we want.

If we're auto awarding bounties based on what communities think is the best answer (through votes), should we not consider all answers?

My recommendation:

  • When a bounty is set on a question, the system remembers the beginning vote count on the existing answers.

  • When the bounty does not awarded by the bounty poster, the system compares the vote status of all answers.

    • Answers submitted after the bounty was placed use their ending value.
    • Answers submitted before the bounty was placed use their ending value - beginning value.
  • If we want a secondary restriction, we can require that the OP of the answer must edit it to be eligible (though this could lead to people editing simply for eligibility reasons and not to make substantial changes, so I'm not sure how I feel about it).

  • Alternately, we could have a window of time prior to the bounty being placed that makes the answer still eligible, like a week or a month. This would prevent very out-of-date answers from being auto-awarded (as they're likely not correct any longer) but allow the award to go to a more recent, correct answer that just happened to have been posted shortly before the bounty.


A little epilogue... the OP of the question mentioned above did not award the bounty, so an answer with only +3 (vs my +13) has received the half-value bounty.

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    Well, on the other hand, if he had been satisfied with an existing answer, there wouldn't have been a need for the bounty in the first place. So the current approach seems reasonable from that viewpoint. (But I guess there is already a canonical meta question drawing out the exact motivation behind this policy.) – Christian Rau Jul 26 '15 at 21:34
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    @ChristianRau Well, I didn't want to say "just because the OP doesn't like an answer, doesn't mean it's wrong"... regardless, this is why the "edit" option is there as a possible restriction. The very fact that we're penalizing people who might otherwise improve their answers is silly. – Catija Jul 26 '15 at 21:45
  • "I didn't want to say "just because the OP doesn't like an answer, doesn't mean it's wrong"" - But now you said it, and the easy response to that is, the bounty is entirely the OP's decision, as it is also his reputation that he pays for it. But I note that edit part. – Christian Rau Jul 26 '15 at 21:46
  • @ChristianRau Except this entire FR only comes into play when the Bounty placer doesn't choose to award the bounty, so it's not their decision any more. – Catija Jul 26 '15 at 21:48
  • Adding both your secondary restrictions would, I think, make a usable system; answers that are obviously not up-to-date for the bounty would have no chance of auto-winning it. – Nathan Tuggy Jul 27 '15 at 0:25
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    If the OP (or anyone else who wishes to put a bounty on a question) was willing to give up their own rep points but didn't like any of the new answers or edited answers enough to award them with the bounty, wouldn't it make more sense to just not award any points to anyone? Or am I missing the actual point of automatically rewarding a bounty? – Mike Jul 30 '15 at 22:02
  • One problem I can see with the ideas from this question is that it ignores the fact that an already high voted answer can pull a disproportionate number of upvotes after the bounty is awarded because of the mob mentality people often (even unconsciously) have where they just upvote an answer because it already has a high number of upvotes, even if it isn't a great answer. Also existing answers with upvotes will automatically be listed first. – Mike Jul 30 '15 at 22:08
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    This entire feature request is based on an OP editing their question multiple times in an unacceptable way (it looks as if they tried to turn their question into a conversation). The correct procedure would have been to make them stop (flag for moderator attention to have the edits rolled back and the question locked, maybe invite the OP to chat), instead of editing your own answer again and again. It's no surprise that, under these circumstances, the bounty system seemed flawed, but it's not. I have a problem, get many sensible answers but none solves my problem. So I start a bounty... – Anne Daunted May 11 at 17:17
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+25

is it really acceptable for a lower-rated answer to get the bounty simply because it was answered after the bounty was started?

Yes.

The primary purpose of a bounty is advertising, to publicize a question so that more answers will be posted. As such, any existing answers must have been considered deficient by the person placing the bounty. So... why would they get the bounty if they're deficient in the stated way? If they provided what the bounty asked for, there wouldn't be a need for a bounty.

So just from that, it makes no sense to automatically consider any answer that has not at least been edited since the bounty started.

Furthermore, by virtue of having already existed, any such answers are likely to attract upvotes from the influx of people attracted by the bounty. How do you know that any such upvote represents an improvement in the quality of the answer, rather than the result of more eyeballs on the question and its answers? Even if the vote comes after the edit, you still don't know if the edit affected anything.

By contrast, if a new answer is posted during the bounty period, it is more reasonable to assume that the answer specifically pertains to the issues raised by the bounty. Yes, you could be wrong about that, but it's likely that a new answer that doesn't address the bounty probably won't get upvoted much; hence the 2 upvote threshold.

The purpose of the automated award system is to ensure that users who added new answers that others see as addressing the point or otherwise are good don't get nothing if the bounty provider doesn't select an answer themselves. It makes sure that people can still get something, if there is evidence that they added something of value to the post.

An existing answer simply getting upvotes proves nothing about its relationship to the bounty reason. An existing answer being edited and later getting upvotes also proves nothing about it. By contrast, a new answer is far more likely to actually be addressing the bounty reasons.

A user editing an existing post to address issues raised in the bounty is good, but there is no automatic way of knowing whether such edits genuinely addressed the issues.

The automated award system is a fallback mechanism, to be used if the OP doesn't award the bounty. It's not meant to be perfect, but I don't see how the system you suggest is better.

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