Reputation is supposed to be a reflection of your contributions to the web site - very loosely a measure of how much the system/community "trusts" you (whatever that means). However, I've noticed that more people these days seems to be viewing rep as a commodity or currency to be traded in exchange for something.

Is this because bounties are actually bought using reputation?

One thing that bothered me when I offered up a bounty on a question on Super User, where I have very little rep is that I effectively reduced my rep by 75% to do it... which stripped me of several earned powers as well reducing as my perceived "trust level". On Stack Overflow, where I am most active, this is somewhat irrelevant; however I note that, rather perversely, SO is where I least often need help and yet can best afford to ask for it.

It makes me wonder if perhaps bounties should be simply allowed, and the amount of rep you have should be used to restrict both how frequently you can add a bounty and how much bounty you can offer. Or something like that.

I am not suggesting (yet) that bounties be free, but I am offering up food for thought to the community to see if there is a better way to garner attention for hard questions than the current bounty system - bounties do not seem to me to work well, and they don't seem to fit well with the rest of the site.

What do you think?


2 Answers 2


I actually kinda like that reputation is what is used to pay for bounties. It adds weight and worth to it - it doesn't alter the meaning of reputation but simply appends extra value. If you post a large enough bounty that you end up losing privileges, you're basically saying "A good answer to this question is worth it for me to sacrifice these privileges, it's very important". Something of a more literal version of putting your honor at stake.

Thrice on Stack Overflow, I've braced myself to expend so much bounty I would not be able to post another bounty. I really wanted a good answer, some good discourse on my options. Of course, all 3 times my question was answered extremely well before I even got the opportunity to offer a bounty, so maybe I'm just lucky.

Unfortunately, there is the whole problem where a bounty is not a guarantee. Despite what many people expect of it, a bounty is actually closer to playing a game at a fair, rather than paying to post a mark on the public board. It's a risk that doesn't always pay out, and may even result in quite the black stain with a question that can never have an accepted answer.

To me, this gambling nature of bounties weighs more in my decisions than the actual reputation cost. This is actually what makes it harder to get attention for difficult questions - the mere thought that it can only be done once, and on failure it shall sink into the depths of obscurity and never be answered.

Just announced on the blog, there's a new bounty system! Bounties are no longer one-shot deals and no longer tied with accepting an answer. While it has reduced the great amount of deliberation before posting a bounty, I don't think this has devalued reputation. It has certainly made it easier to reward those who provided some level of help.


I find the bounty system fine as it is, but I agree with your point that the site you can easiest afford to set up a bounty on, is usually the site where you least need it.

Being able to start bounties off your reputation gained on another site would be a really, really nice feature.

It may trigger "exchange rate" problems in the future with SE sites on which it is comparably easy to gain reputation... But that's a problem for later. As it stands, I would find it great if it were possible to set up a bounty on Superuser with Stack Overflow rep.

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