If someone asks a question, and gets no answer after a while, they get a suggestion from the system to offer a bounty.

After a week, the bounty expires.

If there was a useful answer, then the OP loses rep.

So the scenario is really, the OP loses rep for asking questions that nobody else is interested in.

Is this intended? Should we encourage a monoculture?

  • Do we have data to go along with this idea? – Brad Gilbert Jul 8 '09 at 1:06
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    @Tim: you're saying this is the way it works now, right? I think there's a bit of confusion among the answers... – Shog9 Jul 8 '09 at 1:48
  • @Shog: I noticed that as well. He needs to change that title. It makes no sense in context to the question. – GEOCHET Jul 8 '09 at 1:54
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    I thought it was easy to construe. Must have been wrong. – Tim Williscroft Jul 8 '09 at 5:13
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    loses not looses – Aidan Jul 8 '09 at 10:34
  • You missed a looses :P – Blorgbeard Jul 9 '09 at 20:51
  • Starting a bounty on a long time uninterresting/unanswered question is just a waste of rep - see other non-bounty questions success rate. The problem is: even if you offer 500 rep, the people who could answer don't need that rep at all. At that point, I turn to my own colleagues, or worse - answer my own question but forget to do it on SO. – akarnokd Jul 12 '09 at 15:13

Against this. Getting no answer when you probably need an answer is punishment enough.

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    I think, cletus, that is my point. – Tim Williscroft Jul 8 '09 at 5:14
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    @Cletus, He isn't so much proposing an idea. He is stating an observation that the current system "punishes" users who ask questions that no one is interested in. – mmcdole Jul 8 '09 at 8:21
  • Yes, which is why I'm agreeing with him. – cletus Jul 8 '09 at 8:37

You are correct. The system does currently penalize those users. I don't believe it is a major issue however since the bounty is voluntary.

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    But needing answers to a real question is not. – Tim Williscroft Jul 8 '09 at 5:14
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    Your answer should be amended to "You are not correct. The bounty is completely voluntary and therefore it cannot be considered a penalty." Although, to be fair, "dem's fightin' words" whereas your answer is much more amicable. – devinb Jul 8 '09 at 15:00
  • @Tim, Stack Overflow is a community where programmers help other programmers. It is NOT a place for work to be farmed out to it. That means if your job hangs in the balance of a Stack Overflow question, then perhaps you weren't suited for the job. – devinb Jul 8 '09 at 15:02
  • Devin, if my job was in the balance, I wouldn't use SO. I'd just rewrite the appropriate bits of either JBoss or Hibernate. It's just irritating to end up losing rep for asking a question and not getting an answer. I assumed somebody else had software licensing interacting with role-based access control. I guess not. – Tim Williscroft Jul 8 '09 at 23:00

We need some way to discourage people from starting a bounty and then not accepting any answer.

If bounties did not cost rep, all questions would have 500 point bounties :P

Perhaps you could get your rep back if no answers get any upvotes or something..

  • Blogbeard, If I start a bounty and get no answer that works then I'm crazy to accept one aren't I ? We WANT god quality answers, don't we ? – Tim Williscroft Jul 8 '09 at 5:20
  • @Tim: And if you don't get one, what are we supposed to do? You still have to play by the rules. – GEOCHET Jul 8 '09 at 11:01
  • @Tim, I agree it's not ideal that a "failed" bounty costs you points, but think about this: I start a 500 point bounty, and get an answer that helps me. I should accept this answer to give the answerer the 500 points, right? But what if I could get my points back by not accepting any answer? A lot of people would do that, and bounties would end up being worthless. – Blorgbeard Jul 9 '09 at 1:19
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    @Blorgbeard, What about the case where a bounty question gets a single late answer that isn't any good. The answerer is bounty-sniping. – Kelly S. French Jul 29 '09 at 20:32

I have used a bounty only once, and it was specifically designed so that other people working on plotting SO via code_swarm would dust off their code and post it. Three people did, and now there's usable code to make the videos happen, see this question.

I probably would not post a bounty if it was obvious that nobody had an answer to my question. I'd only post a bounty if I need sample code, or need someone to hold my hand a bit in comments while I try what they suggest.

People on SO like answering questions if they have the knowledge to do so. If all you see is tumble weed after a few weeks, there's a very good chance that nobody feels confident enough to offer you an answer.

So, posting a bounty in such a cirsumstance will do one of three things:

  • Cause someone to spend an hour researching it and give you a good answer
  • Cause someone to give you an answer that they're not sure of
  • End up automatically giving the bounty to an existing dubious answer, if its the highest rated one.

For instance, I really want to know where glibc does its PID caching in TLS (down to the relavent chunk of assembly) .. but that's a question best suited for the glibc developers, not SO.

99.95% of those who ask questions on SO will have a good experience, I think that's pretty admirable. With bounties, that number becomes 99.99 .. I don't think there could be a 100% perfect system.


Seems kinda mean. Perhaps the points should be given back...or maybe only a portion of them.

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    Why? The bounty is voluntary. Those are the rules of the bounty. – GEOCHET Jul 8 '09 at 1:47
  • @Rich B - true, though I think this is asking if those rules are fair! – user3788 Jul 8 '09 at 2:06
  • @rascher: That might be a possible question, but that is neither this question nor is it in this answer. – GEOCHET Jul 8 '09 at 2:08
  • I'm asking if the end result was the desired one. – Tim Williscroft Jul 8 '09 at 5:15

Really short-sighted idea. How can StackOverflow / ServerFault become a repository for all questions if they only promote the popular ones?

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    If you promote all, without discrimination, you become a junk-yard. – Sampson Jul 8 '09 at 1:25
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    I think that means as in for all (on topic) subjects, not all qualities. – Tom Hawtin - tackline Jul 8 '09 at 1:49
  • If you promote all, without discrimination, you're not promoting appropriately. You're effectively abusing the promotion / demotion system. – moobaa Jul 8 '09 at 2:32

We have a tumbleweed badge for this...I don't see why we would implement a punishment for something we give a badge for.

  • Depending on how much bounty you put up, that badge may not be too appealing :) – Sampson Jul 8 '09 at 0:57
  • I think I must have misread the question. – TheTXI Jul 8 '09 at 1:03
  • I misread it the first time too. I read it as a feature-request...thought it was crazy :) – Sampson Jul 8 '09 at 1:09
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    If you put up 500, get an answer that's not helping and end with nothing, you don't even get a tumbleweed. Note that tumbleweed badges seem belong to users with low rep in general. – Tim Williscroft Jul 8 '09 at 5:17

Should Stack overflow just be for mainstream questions of dubious value and or merit [tat]? Seems at the moment we are noob-centric. More obscure subjects should be encouraged, IMO. Of course questions ignored because they are rubbish is another matter, but then they wont get upvoted either.

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    He's speaking English English. (Cue Austin Powers Segment) In more American-Cousin freindly language: Should Stack overflow just be for mainstream questions of dubious value and or merit. – Tim Williscroft Jul 8 '09 at 5:10
  • Are we against noobs, or just against people who didn't try googling for their answer? – Andrew Grimm Jul 12 '09 at 1:38
  • Andrew, I am against newbie-only, and against forever noobs who can't read the docs and are persistently clueless. There's a huge difference between those that expect spoon-feeding and those who ask the occasional thoughtful questions whilst they get on with it. – Tom Hawtin - tackline Jul 12 '09 at 13:47

The biggest problem for me is that the question is shown as answered, not that the bounty is given away.

  • you may need to wait weeks or months for obscure questions to get answered. Alternately, take this advice: stackoverflow.com/questions/26049/… – Jeff Atwood Jul 12 '09 at 2:02
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    also, it's unlikely anything will be auto-selected on your question because of the "must be answered after bounty starts" and "must have 2+ upvotes" auto-accept rules. – Jeff Atwood Jul 12 '09 at 2:03
  • Yes, and the problem is that in some cases obscure questions will have bad answers auto-selected, thus giving wrong information to people and giving less incentive for people to provide answers if one is auto selected... – tim Jul 12 '09 at 5:06

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