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I'm bringing up this question again, because the previous one is four years old and the accepted answer is, well, wrong. There seems to be some disconnect between the people who want this feature and the people who don't that I don't entirely understand. The text of the relevant bounty reason is:

Reward existing answer

One or more of the answers is exemplary and worthy of an additional bounty.

The argument is whether such a bounty should be awardable immediately, instead of having to wait 24 hours. I would argue that such a bounty must be awarded immediately; the bounty creation dialog should ask you which answer you're rewarding and award the bounty directly to that answer. Nonsensical arguments against this include:

  • The goal of bounties is to draw attention to questions -- True in most cases, but explicitly untrue in this case; the goal is to "reward an existing answer". We don't need new answers, this question already has such a great answer we want to give the person who wrote it a bonus.
  • People need time to write a good answer and earn the bounty -- The bounty has already been earned. It was earned before the 24 hours even started, so tricking other users into thinking they have a shot is disingenuous -- the offerer has already mentally awarded it to somebody.
  • People will be discouraged if they see a bounty awarded immediately -- Nonsense. If anything people will see "reward existing answer" and think "excellent, any of my answers might get a bounty at any moment if I do a really good job; why even hunt for existing bounties. I should try hard on all my answers".
  • There's no way for the system to know that you intend to slap your bounty on an already existing post -- I...what? I don't even know how to respond to this.
  • Wouldn't that also allow a fairly unthrottled way of transferring rep? -- That...actually isn't ridiculous, but I'll talk about it below

I think the confusion must come from the word "bounty", which normally has a connotation of being offered before an event. This particular "bounty" is the opposite -- it's a bonus offered after the fact. The fact that it's part of the wider bounty system is coincidental, because there was already a system in place for giving people reputation when they post exceptional answers.

The concern about funnelling reputation to another user is valid, but this method of preventing it is very user-unfriendly. Rewarding an existing answer should take about 6 seconds; users shouldn't need to keep the tab open in the background for an entire day waiting for an arbitrary timer to elapse so they can do what they were going to do anyway. I'm quite sure there are other ways to prevent infinite rep transfer -- only allow a certain number of "reward existing answer" bounties per day, for example, or intervene if the same user is rewarding the same other user over and over, like we do for voting.


TL;DR: Users should not need to wait 24 hours to reward existing answers. At the very least, the bounty should be created as normal and then be immediately rewardable. Ideally, it should just be part of the bounty creation wizard and the bounty should never even be visible on the question.

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    I agree the last concern is a faulty concern, mostly because the 24-hour waiting period still doesn't really prevent it - it just slows it down. Unless a sleuth stops by and investigates a user's account, no one is going to notice that they're receiving a bunch of bounties from another user. We really just need to modify the system to detect them better and have the system tell moderators that something suspicious is going on. – animuson Oct 23 '15 at 16:08
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    one argument even in this case is that it causes the question to be Featured for 24 hours, thus allowing lots of people to see it. Whether that seeing supports "make sure nobody is sneakily transferring rep" or "make sure everyone knows that I think XYZ wrote a great answer that deserves attention", having the post get seen will increase the number of people who notice later who the bounty went to, which is good. – Kate Gregory Oct 23 '15 at 16:09
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    @KateGregory If people actually want that behavior, I think this idea would work. I personally think it's bad to have questions on the bountied list if the bounty is going to an existing answer; I would expect to have a decent shot of earning any bounty on that list – Michael Mrozek Oct 23 '15 at 16:12
  • It would be simple to identify swoopy rep-transfer behavior, once defined, and throw a flag in the mod queue. – Won't Oct 23 '15 at 17:56
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    I like your point "why even hunt for existing bounties. I should try hard on all my answers", but I will say this: I've posted a few "reward" bounties and deliberately left them up for the full week because I knew that the featured status of the question would garner more well-deserved upvotes for the answer, a sort of secondary reward. I wouldn't mind the wait being removed, but I'd hate to see this changed to require the immediate awarding of the bounty. – Josh Caswell Oct 23 '15 at 19:22
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    @JoshCaswell Makes sense. Any solution would be an improvement to me as long as it doesn't require I come back to the post at a later date; it should be possible to see a really good answer, click a button or three to reward it, and (if you want) be done with the post forever. Outside of that I don't want to mess up the use cases other people have – Michael Mrozek Oct 23 '15 at 19:41
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    This really should be closed as a duplicate of one of the following, as the problem and suggested solution are exactly the same and no different. Bringing it up again so we can have the same discussion is redundant. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/107282/… ... meta.stackexchange.com/questions/99457/… ... meta.stackexchange.com/questions/116072/… – Adam Davis 'ze-zir-zem' Oct 23 '15 at 19:52
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    @animuson It slows it down a lot. I ran through 3,000 rep in a day on one site awarding several 500 point bounties before this 24 hour timer was added. Removing the timer doesn't solve this problem, but slowing people down does help a lot. – Adam Davis 'ze-zir-zem' Oct 23 '15 at 19:59
  • "the goal is to "reward an existing answer" To be absolutely clear, that's the goal of the user placing the bounty, not the bounty system. – Kevin B Oct 23 '15 at 20:19
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    I think that even if immediately assigned, bounty still would carry function of bringing attention to the answer. This is because bounty mark (which looks even more prominent than accept) helps future visitors discover outstanding answer marked that way, even when question isn't artificially exposed in featured tab. (I do not support your proposal, and I personally like that "artificial exposure" in featured tab, and I exploit it in my bounties, but for the sake of fairness I would prefer this point to be clarified anyway) – gnat Oct 23 '15 at 20:50
  • I agree but the option to wait the full period of time and to comment is useful. The person awarding the Bounty to an existing answer can write in the comment section (of the Bounty) that a particular answer is exceptional (and link to it); that advertises the answer and might earn the answerer hundreds (even over 1K) more Rep. These (bounty comments / advertisements) appear above all comments in 'the yellow box' and really earn the answerer some additional reward - if it's truly a great answer they are unlikely to get downvotes from the advertisement and those are only -2. – Rob Jan 1 at 9:22
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I'm torn about this, although I think I end up on your side of the debate here. First, let me explain how I tend to use the "Award existing answer" option of the bounty feature.

Once in a while, I find the more correct or more up to date answer to a question buried deep down in a list of answers. It's usually under voted compared to the first answer posted 5 years ago. Times have changed though. What once was the best answer, isn't any more. So, I want to leave a mark on that newer answer saying "Hey! Over here! This answer should have the green check. That other one isn't the right way anymore!" So, I create a bounty to award that answer and "level the playing field".

On one hand, I would very much like to just award it right now and get on with my life. On the other, being in the featured tab brings visibility to this great answer. Visibility == votes here on SE, so the answer that I'm awarding is often seen and upvoted by others before I award the bounty on it. This closes the gap (a bit) between the highest voted, maybe accepted, but no longer "correct" answer and the answer I wish to reward. That's a good thing for this community, particularly as the site (and its Q&As) age.

In an ideal world, we would be able to award an existing answer instantly, but still with the option to wait a week to award it.

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    I found my way here from the mobile app and just noticed this is on MSE. My answer was written mostly with StackOverflow in mind (I thought it was on MSO), but the principles should generally apply to the whole network. – RubberDuck Oct 24 '15 at 20:00
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    Ideally we could award an answer an exemplary bounty immediately and it would just stay on the bounties tab for a day with the bounty already awarded. – TylerH Nov 5 '15 at 18:51
  • That's not a bad idea @TylerH. – RubberDuck Nov 5 '15 at 23:39
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I can and can't agree with that. The bounty system is somewhat a technical solution to solve a social and psychological "problem".

Somebody put a lot of effort into answering your question and the answer really helps you out, now you want to compensate that, putting it simply: you want to thank him for helping you. How can you thank somebody in the internet? Well, basically by saying thank you. However, since you asked a question which troubled you quite a lot, you feel like a simple "Thank you" might not be enough. So you want to thank him more "intensely". In real life, you would pay someone his coffee, go to a date, invite someone to somewhere expensive, basically to compensate the time they used to help you. That's usually out of range on the internet.

How could I still thank someone? Ha, money (currency)! While we develop over time, so does our currency and system to pay for specific things. Especially our time and age, money doesn't need to be real anymore, we already feel pleasured if your account balance, accessed through the internet, shows positive integers. Nonetheless, some sites, like SE, developed their own virtual currency. So how do you thank somebody more intensely without transferring real money, services or objects? By transferring the virtual currency. Sometimes, we just feel obligated to do more for somebody and not just say "Thank you". And a virtual currency enables us to do so, and furthermore this shouldn't be disabled.

Now to the term of a bounty. I understand a bounty as something that is used to find something that is not in reach yet. The power of money enables the greed of other humans to accomplish your goal. So, you set up a bounty for something which hasn't been properly answered yet. You don't award a bounty for something that's already existent, you reward somebody in this case.

So, yes, waiting 24h before awarding a reward - yes, I don't want to use the term of bounty in this situation - isn't the best idea. The time between the person who wants to award and the persons who is going to be awarded is delayed. This makes no sense. The bounty should be just usable on new answers because this is what a bounty is. You don't declare a bounty on something you already have.

So, the real problem here is that, if I understood @AdamDavis correctly, the transfer of the virtual currency, called in this case reputation, isn't desired. Why does the system of a bounty exist like that then? I think it's good to exchange the virtual currency for a service, here the question being shown in an extra tab, and it's also a good opportunity to reach more users, but why is the user of a question awarded with reputation although this isn't desired neither the primary goal? A possible solution is that you just exchange the virtual currency with the system itself and not the users being attracted, however, this would kind of deconstruct the term bounty, as it's not a bounty anymore.

I understand why a transfer of reputation isn't desired. It's there to prevent users from kick starting and gaining several privileges at once to maintain the site's overall quality, right? So why do we not just limit the complete reputation gain? Everything beyond could be either returned to the awarding person or to the system.

I would like to present a possible solution. If there's the system of a bounty anyway, we should think about expanding it a little bit. The bounty's only use should be to attract more users, as it was originally intended. You offer currency for information, absolutely fine. However, if you want to reward someone for an existing, extraordinary answer, this shouldn't happen by using a bounty. Instead, you should be able to do it directly by "donating", "paying" or "rewarding" (or some other term). The core idea is that the question isn't promoted to the featured tab and just the answer is awarded.

That you have to wait for assigning a bounty makes sense to ensure that an appropriate audience is reached before deciding. However, if, and I saw that too, the system is used just to thank someone more intensely and to thank this one answer in particular, it's wrong to use a bounty and it just creates confusion as users are being motivated although they never really stood a chance.

And if reputation transfer isn't the option, you just pay the system which in return grants the user a badge or something else.

So, it's not illogical to wait 24h. It's illogical that the function of a bounty is misused.

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    I think this is correct. We should keep the bounty system as a bounty system, and devise a new "tip jar" if that's such a necessary feature. If not, then continue to let people (ab)use the bounty system as-is, and if they're willing to jump through the hoops then it's grudgingly acceptable, but we don't want to encourage people to give tips. – Adam Davis 'ze-zir-zem' Oct 23 '15 at 19:40
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The bounty system was never designed as a way to transfer reputation from one user to another, even for an excellent answer. It was designed to bring additional incentive to bring a better answer to a question.

People started using/abusing it for this purpose - to award existing answers - but it's still a reputation transfer mechanism, and thus can be abused. You're not supposed to transfer reputation.

So people started complaining about it. We don't want to condone direct reputation transfer, but we also don't think that awarding existing excellent answers is a terrible thing either.

So we have a compromise. A 24 hour window for someone else to step in and blow the existing answers out of the water if they want to try to get that bounty, and it is a high enough bar that it actually works pretty well to stem the abuses of reputation transfer between accounts.

It is inconvenient, sure, but it ultimately doesn't prevent you from awarding someone for their hard work.


I should be up front, here. I am the reason this exists:

Why do I have to wait to "tip" a user for a great answer via Bounty?

I got rid of 3,000 reputation within a day or so by placing and awarding multiple 500 point bounties on meta, and it was determined that allowing users to do that was probably not a good idea... (source)

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    If the bounty system wasn't designed to transfer reputation from one user to another, it probably shouldn't subtract reputation from one user while adding the same reputation to another user. It's like saying "street lights were never intended to control the flow of traffic, they were meant to prevent accidents" -- it accomplishes one by doing the other. I can tell you from my experience over the last 24 hours that I started the bounty, waited a day, and awarded it to the answer I was going to award it to without even checking to see if new answers had been submitted – Michael Mrozek Oct 23 '15 at 16:20
  • @MichaelMrozek so you're essentially saying that the 24 hour limitation didn't prevent you from accomplishing your goal. I'm glad to hear that. – Adam Davis 'ze-zir-zem' Oct 23 '15 at 19:05
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    I don't see any way you could have interpreted my post to mean "this is an insurmountable obstacle", and I don't think you really misunderstood it as much as you're pretending, but correct, the 24 hour limit did not permanently get in my way. It got in my way for about 24 hours, which is nearly 24 hours longer than necessary – Michael Mrozek Oct 23 '15 at 19:13
  • @MichaelMrozek That's good, because I didn't interpret your post that way. You seem very agitated and defensive about his feature request. I'm not attacking you. I provided some history and context as to why the current system is the way it is. Perhaps if you mine the data you can show how many people this is affecting, and demonstrate the positive effect it will have on Stack Exchange's mission, thereby gaining support from people like me who are content with the current design. Choosing to ignore the existing question and make a duplicate, though, seems petty and whiny. – Adam Davis 'ze-zir-zem' Oct 23 '15 at 19:21
  • @MichaelMrozek Regarding "it probably shouldn't subtract reputation from one user while adding the same reputation to another user" the history of the bounty system was actually a huge struggle with this issue - reputation isn't a currency, was never intended to be, and users discussed it endlessly to try to come up with a compromise. The compromise bounty system is intentionally limited in many ways to try to decouple reputation from being considered a currency, and to avoid the idea that you are paying for answers or transferring reputation. – Adam Davis 'ze-zir-zem' Oct 23 '15 at 20:05
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    Unfortunately, people are still treating it as a currency, and pretending that they are entitled to giving it away - as though it belongs to them. It doesn't. It belongs to the community, and is a simple representation of their contributions and value to the community. Giving reputation away for an exemplary answer is nice - but it is an abuse of the concept of reputation - you are essentially pretending that their contribution to you is worth what the community thought of your contribution to them for the value of that reputation - and it simply isn't. – Adam Davis 'ze-zir-zem' Oct 23 '15 at 20:07
  • So, yes, the bounty system, particularly the "exemplary answer" award, is completely illogical, and probably shouldn't exist. And because you're asking the same question yet again we get to confront the same issues all over again. How do you balance what reputation is and should be against the idea that it can be owned and transferred to another user at your whim? Obviously you have a different view of what reputation is, and whether you actually "own" it or not. – Adam Davis 'ze-zir-zem' Oct 23 '15 at 20:09
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    You're giving me far too much credit -- I haven't done any soul searching on the meaning of reputation or what it means to give it to somebody else. I think bounties are kind of a weird feature, honestly, but they exist. All I care about is eliminating what seems almost like an oversight in the system. Having a button that says "here, reward an existing answer" and then telling the user "wait, you can't award that yet, bounties are to encourage new answers" is internally inconsistent. It wasn't my idea to make bounties for two different things, but they are, and one of them is wonky – Michael Mrozek Oct 23 '15 at 20:13
  • The disconnect I mentioned not understanding in the question seems to be that some people say "people should be able to give away rep to award other users", and other people say "no, reputation isn't a currency", and somehow the compromise became "ok, we'll let you give away rep, but we're going to make it a hassle". That's a very weird compromise to me, but if the system is intentionally annoying to discourage its use, then I guess I have no further argument. It reminds me of how bad the comment subsystem was for years, and the response was always "well we hate comments anyway, so good" – Michael Mrozek Oct 23 '15 at 20:16
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    I think we'd all be wise to remember that users will use the system as they wish to use the system, regardless of how it is designed to be used. I feel like sometimes the SE staff forgets that. It's something that seems to have been magnified since Jeff left. – RubberDuck Oct 25 '15 at 12:55

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