One of the tools moderators have available to encourage and reward high-quality participation (and beneficial behaviours in general) is to set and award bounties.
- Encourage great self-answers (something our experts don't do enough).
- Reward consistently good contributions in under-represented tags.
- Bring to attention answers that went 'beyond the call of duty' in important ways, such as rescuing an initially poor question through a terrific edit, before adding a super answer as well.
- Attract expert users from the wider community that do not currently participate (enough or at all). Moderators have a role to play in advertising the site and attracting high quality members as well.
The issue of how moderators can improve participation and change a less-than-positive attitude toward some tags came up in our recent moderator election. One of the methods I called out was using the bounty system. The aspect to this is the responsibility of a moderator to encourage positive contributions and behaviour patterns - leading by example. On smaller sites, bounties are much less common than on, say, Stack Overflow.
The limit of three concurrent bounties should be further relaxed (perhaps even removed) for moderators, so there would be no artificial limit on the number of 'encouragements' we could promote at the same time. Moderators should be trusted not to abuse the bounty system, so the main purpose of the limit does not really apply.
Personally, as an active contributor as well as a moderator, I find I still earn reputation faster than I can spend it on bounties. Reputation is largely meaningless for a moderator (from the point of view of unlocking abilities anyway).
For clarity, I'm not saying all moderators ought spend their 'spare' rep this way, just that the system should allow them to do so if they choose, without being restricted by the three-bounty limit.
- As an lower-volume 'expert' site, we do get model posts more frequently than might be the norm. We would like more, of course, especially self-answer wiki contributions, as noted above.
- Being able to give 1500 rep per week presupposes the maximum award is offered each time. In many cases, this would be overkill (doubling existing rep or even more). We should choose an appropriate bounty level given all the circumstances. Often 100-200 is the optimum level for us. Also, it's not about using the rep earned - it's about the positive effect it has.
- There is no danger of overwhelming the site with bounties. I'm not Jon Skeet. Also, please consider that moderators would be aware of this risk and act accordingly.