Based on some disappointing early experiences with bounties, I asked this question. I'm new to Meta and didn't structure the question well for my goals, but with some help I've come away with a new suggestion for discussion which I hope better fits the mold.
In many responses to questions and feature requests relating to bounties, we hear that bounties are like advertisements — that you are paying for exposure, and that there is no guarantee of ROI. What follows is a distillation of my thought process upon being introduced to that comparison.
For clarity and brevity, a couple terms, some of which I may have made up:
- Benefactor: a person offering/paying a bounty (from here)
- Bountee: a person seeking a specific bounty by answering a question
- Publisher: a StackExchange site listing a question
- Consumer: a reader/user of the site.
Comparison to real world counterparts
In the real world, bounties and advertisements are very different things.
- exists for the purpose of incentive
- can be offered for as long as the benefactor wants to do so
- can have its terms or amount changed at any time
- costs the benefactor nothing until someone wins the bounty
- pays the bountee, not the publisher
- exists for the purpose of visibility
- buys a fixed amount of exposure
- costs up front with no promise of return on investment
- pays to the publisher, not the consumer
People come to SE with an existing knowledge of the world. It would be good if that knowledge carried over smoothly into SE.
StackExchange bounties are a confusing hybrid of both
Given the way a bounty works today, this makes some sense: you have to "buy" being listed at the top, but you also need to incentivize potential bountees.
I find this conflation of the two topics to be both confusing and less than ideal: if I'm paying for exposure, why am I paying the bountee? Shouldn't I be paying the publisher? If I'm providing an incentive, why must I pay even if I never get a satisfactory answer? Those are very valid questions, and the only answer I've seen today boils down to "because that's how it works."
From the help:
Part of what you’re “paying for” with the bounty is to get additional attention for your question, over and beyond what a normal question gets. In that regard, a bounty does not guarantee a response, and reputation refunds are not available if no answers are received as a result of the bounty.
I disagree; it's not part of what you're paying for. It's all of what you're paying for. You might also get some upvotes or helpful answers, and the latter is almost certainly why you paid, but it is quite clear based on spending a couple days reading everything I can find on Meta about bounties that it is not what you paid for.
To be clear: I am not saying that the existing system is hard to understand. It's quite easy and clear. What it isn't is obvious or intuitive.
I propose that bounties not be treated like advertisements
I am seeking possible paths to that end, as well as discussion on the merits of my thinking.
I have a potential solution in mind. To clarify that my idea is just one of several possibilities, I'm going to post it as an answer rather than part of the question, so that people can agree/disagree independently with the problem I've outlined and the details of a proposed solution, and so that others can post their own solutions.
I understand that making any change along these lines would likely be nontrivial, and that the current system has been in place and working for several years. I do not feel that either of those factors is a worthwhile reason to dismiss this suggestion without discussion.
What do you think of this idea?