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When a user with at least 200 rep on any Stack Exchange site registers a new account on another SE site, they immediately receive 100 rep on that site as an association bonus. This is a deliberate feature to give users who are already familiar with how the SE platform and community works a bit of an extra boost (e.g. letting them upvote and comment immediately), and it's pretty much working as intended.

What's probably not intended is that, currently, this bonus rep can be given away as bounties.

In fact, because awarding bounties currently requires only 75 rep, any user with 200+ rep on at least one site can join another site, receive the 100 rep bonus, and immediately award it all as a bounty to another user, without having to earn any actual rep on the site at all. Not only does this seem contrary to the design intent of bounties (and of the association bonus), but it also seems ripe for potential abuse.

(In fact, the only thing stopping a sockpuppet ring from gaining unlimited rep this way is the fact that the bounties would likely be sooner or later noticed by mods.)

It's also possible for experienced users to (more or less) accidentally bounty their reputation so low that that they lose access to basic site features that they'd normally have due to the bonus. Arguably, of course, this is entirely the user's own fault, but it can still be annoying. Also, this behavior interacts poorly with protected questions, which currently require 110 rep to answer for users with the association bonus.

The fix I'd like to suggest is simple:

If a user has been awarded the association bonus, don't let them award a bounty that would take their rep below 100.

Of course, it would still be possible for users with the bonus to drop below 100 rep via other means, e.g. by having their posts downvoted. But they wouldn't be able to just give away this baseline rep to other users any more.

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    Are you attempting to solve a theorectical problem or is there a sock puppet network out there doing this? – Andy Dec 5 '15 at 16:51
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    This is not very different from this other declined request. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Dec 5 '15 at 16:54
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    @Andy: No, I haven't heard of anyone actually exploiting this with socks. Most of the actual problems I've observed involve users carelessly bountying their rep below 100 and then complaining about it. – Ilmari Karonen Dec 5 '15 at 16:58
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    @ShadowWizard: I don't see the similarity. The request you linked to is about voting privileges; I'm just proposing that the rep from the association bonus should not be transferable. – Ilmari Karonen Dec 5 '15 at 17:00
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    Not similar or dupe, but both ask to limit the bonus, that's what I meant. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Dec 5 '15 at 17:08
  • To be honest, I would hate to have been unable to put up this bounty that I used to get better results faster for a project in an area outside my specialization, for all that I hated to put myself 50 rep further from downvoting there. That's only one example of a legitimate use, but it seems like we'd need some concrete counter-examples of illegitimate uses to have any reason to give that up. – Nathan Tuggy Dec 5 '15 at 23:04
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I don't want to lose this bonus. True, I might know nothing about cooking, but if I see there something I really like to know too, without satisfying answer (or with an excellent answer I want to award), being able to give a bounty is a very nice to have bonus, which I'm not going to abuse by giving to my sock.

I am well aware that after starting such a bounty, I will have to work hard to earn the privileges back on that site, even upvote or comment anywhere: this is a huge consideration that make people to think twice and thrice before giving a +100 bounty with only 101 reputation.

As for sock rings, this mechanism is way too slow to be of use, not to mention easily detected. If anything, this can be used as honeypot to lure such rings and catch them. Smart puppeteers would probably refrain from such an obvious way to boost their socks' reputation.

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    That's a valid argument, I guess. It still seems somehow wrong to me, though, that someone can earn 200 rep on SO and then award 14.9k rep as bounties across the network. – Ilmari Karonen Dec 5 '15 at 17:13
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    @IlmariKaronen you make it sound a lot, but since reputation can't be shared between sites, it's not 14.9k just 100 in 149 different sites. One can't possibly gain 10k in a single site this way. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Dec 5 '15 at 17:17

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