Auto-selecting answer for rewards is really annoying

This question had no good answers so I set a bounty on it. It received one new answer that was completely irrelevant, and that was auto-selected. I do understand the policy of losing the points regardless of if an answer is selected, in order to not motivate people to not accept an answer. But I don't see how the auto-selection feature contributes constructively to anything.

I figured this would have been discussed extensively elsewhere but I only found this from 2009.

  • 2
    Do you have a proposal for another way to handle it? Just expire the bounty if you don't want to assign it to something?
    – JonW
    Jul 29, 2015 at 13:37
  • 3
    I think the main reason is to reward an answerer where the person placing the bounty forgot or left and so didn't reward deserving answers. I can see why if you think they are not deserving you might not want that to happen. I guess the decision was made that it's more common for deserving answers to miss out than for undeserving ones to get an auto-awarded bounty. Jul 29, 2015 at 13:43
  • What's your question?
    – 410 gone
    Jul 29, 2015 at 13:49
  • 1
    @EnergyNumbers I'd say the question is "should a bounty be auto-awarded when the only new answer is undeserving?" Jul 29, 2015 at 13:53
  • 1
    I understand the reasons for auto-awarding to an upvoted answer. Maybe we should consider not auto-awarding when the candidate answer also has a certain number of downvotes? Jul 29, 2015 at 14:22
  • 1
    The tag is "discussion" so I didn't know a question was necessary. I've now edited this and turned it into a suggestion. Jul 29, 2015 at 22:52
  • 2
    @GeorgeDuckett I think the easy solution is for the bounty award window to have the added option for the bounty poster to pick "None of the questions have successfully answered the question in my opinion."... though I could see some major issues with people refusing to award bounties because they don't like the answers (but they're not necessarily wrong) or don't like the people who've posted them.
    – Catija
    Jul 30, 2015 at 1:08
  • @Catija I don't see that as a major issue. Hey, it was my bounty.
    – mattdm
    Jul 30, 2015 at 3:41
  • @mattdm True... you've still lost the rep, it's not as if you get the rep back either way.
    – Catija
    Jul 30, 2015 at 3:42

1 Answer 1


According to the description in the help center. the bounty is only auto-awarded if there exists an answer that was created after the bounty started with a "minimum score of 2". Quote:

If you do not award your bounty within 7 days (plus the grace period), the highest voted answer created after the bounty started with a minimum score of 2 will be awarded half the bounty amount. [...] If there's no answer meeting those criteria, the bounty is not awarded to anyone.

This means that if the voting mechanism works the way it is supposed to, downright bad or irrelevant answers would not get a bounty, as they would not have a score of 2 or more.

However, I have noticed that bad answers (at least bad IMHO) sometimes receives a lot of upvotes, so the voting mechanism is far from perfect.

It is also a fact that people set bounties, receive a useful answer, and then don't bother (or forget) to accept the answer or award the bounty. I've experienced more than once that the person who set the bounty has thanked me for the answer in a comment, saying that is solved their problem, but never returned to SE in time to accept the answer or award the bounty. When I experience this, I am happy that the auto-award mechanism at least gives me half the points for my efforts.

So I think that auto-awarding should still be the default. Because of the "temptation" of the bounty, people tend to spend more effort to solve a problem with a bounty, and the present auto-award mechanism solves the annoying problem of bounty-setters who don't care what happens after their problem has been solved.

Also, there should no way to get the bounty back, as such a mechanism is open to obvious abuse.

However, there should be a way for the bounty-setter to prevent the bounty from being awarded, even if the highest voted answer has a score of two or more.

Proposal: Add the criterion that if an answer has been downvoted by the bounty-setter, then it is not auto-awarded the bounty, no matter what its accumulated score is.

This gives the bounty-setter a way to prevent the bounty from being awarded a bad answer, while still allowing good answers to receive an auto-award if the bounty-setter is just negligent.

  • 1
    Your proposal has been made before.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jul 30, 2015 at 8:34
  • @Wrzlprmft. You're right. It is identical to the accepted answer (by animuson). It was suggested, heavily upvoted and accepted in 2013, but not yet implemented. Can we do anything to incentivize SE to implement it? Jul 30, 2015 at 8:44
  • Well, we can do this.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jul 30, 2015 at 8:49
  • @Wrzlprmft. Can you explain why this would help? IMHO that question already has a very good canonical answer. A bounty is an incentive to write a new answer, but in this case, I don't think the problem is that we don't have a good enough answer. Jul 30, 2015 at 9:04
  • A bounty is an incentive to write a new answer – Not necessarily. You can also place a bounty to award an existing answer or just to draw attention to the question. In particular here on Meta, bounties are often awarded to old, open issues, which is claimed to have some effect (see here and here).
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jul 30, 2015 at 9:15
  • I see! I've already upvoted the canonical answer and hope others that want to see this implemented do so as well. Jul 30, 2015 at 9:19

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