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I've just started offering bounties on my questions, and to me the first two possible reasons for offering a bounty seem like the same thing:

  • Authoritative reference needed: Looking for an answer drawing from credible and/or official sources.
  • Canonical answer required: The question is widely applicable to a large audience. A detailed canonical answer is required to address all the concerns.

Maybe the difference is more obvious to others, but to me it seems like these two statements mean more-or-less the same thing. So this is my very humble suggestion to clarify the wording or merge these two options.

If the only use of the bounty reason is that it's displayed in the bounty description box on the question, then the overlap might not matter in practice. But if the data is used elsewhere then maybe it would be nice to clarify.

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    Incorporating MEE's answer, I'd say that there are two attributes that make a best answer: 1) authoritative -- the poster has made it very easy for their facts to be verified, and 2) complete -- the poster has included all the relevant details so one doesn't have to read several other answers to get the full picture. Often there is an answer that meets only one of these requirements, and the missing part is what inspires the bounty. I think this is more or less the intent of the two official reasons, but I have to agree that the distinction isn't as clear and obvious as it could be. – Ray Butterworth Mar 16 at 13:33
  • If the description used the word "complete" instead of "canonical" I think I would have been less confused. – Stephen Mar 16 at 15:39
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I don't think the two bounty reasons overlap.

The first one ("Authoritative reference needed") asks for new answers that base on/come from or cite from a canonical resource. Such a resource could be a programming language manual, a law, a dictionary entry or a response from Stack Exchange (here on Meta).

A reason for posting this type of bounty is that you are unsatisfied with the current answers and/or they are not trustworthy enough (in your opinion).

The second type ("Canonical answer required") is kind of the opposite. It is asking the answerers to create a complete, canonical answer for a common problem here on Stack Exchange.

A reason for posting this type of bounty is that you recognize that the problem that leads to this question is a common one and a lot of people might benefit from a detailed explanation/solution.

  • First, in case there is any confusion I'm talking about bounties made on an SE site like StackOverflow. – Stephen Mar 16 at 15:33
  • Second, I guess my confusion is that in both cases, you are posting the bounty because you want people to "make the answers more authoritative/canonical." Yes maybe in the "authoritative" case you're saying you want to draw in other people and in the canonical case maybe you're saying the existing people have the chops, but in practice what you're looking for in terms of the end result seems to be the same. – Stephen Mar 16 at 15:35
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    The definitions of "authoritative" and "canonical" are quite similar. – Stephen Mar 16 at 15:36
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    Pulling in my comment on the question itself, I think I would have been less confused if the distinction was between "authoritative" and "complete." – Stephen Mar 16 at 15:42
  • @Stephen what I am saying is that reason 1 is about the answer source being canonical and reason 2 is that the answer itself should be considered canonical. – MEE the sneaky user Mar 16 at 16:32
  • Example for such questions Reason 1: why is the << operator throwing an error? (Answers should quote from language documentation). Reason 2: What is a NullPointerException and how do I fix it. (Common Problem, Many people will benefit from a detailed answer. – MEE the sneaky user Mar 16 at 16:35
  • @Stephen reason 1: the answer cites authoritative sources, reason 2: the answer itself can be considered canonical – MEE the sneaky user Mar 16 at 17:04

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