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Why can’t I just offer a bounty for a question right off the bat?

Some of the questions I ask get no interest or traffic and only after a bounty is offered are answers posted. I think that questions that have no answers after some shorter time period should be allowed to have a bounty before the 48 hour timeframe.

Even if we could drop the wait to 6 0r 8 or 12 or 24 hours that would be preferable.

The arguments I have seen for similar questions against allowing immediate bounty don't really hold much water.

  • 2
    Don't hold water how? Why is your question not a duplicate?
    – devinb
    Jul 21, 2010 at 18:01
  • @devinb The ostensible reason is that it would detract from users answering other questions. That is not likely to happen, especially with esoteric questions. For example: stackoverflow.com/questions/3301845 - Some users answer easy questions, others answer harder ones, and some scour the bounty questions. Not everyone puts bounties on questions and I don't think most people would put bounties on right away. It's not like I am new to SO/have no idea what I am talking about. I would use this for cases where it is warranted.
    – tim
    Jul 21, 2010 at 18:27
  • @devinb - as for the first answer in your duplicate - I did post my answer during business hours EST/EDT. Yet - nothing. No answers at all. So, this argument does not apply to this (or other) questions that I have posted in the past. This question is exactly the deep, esoteric question that I assumed SO (and the bounty system) was for. Most people don't know anything about it.
    – tim
    Jul 21, 2010 at 18:31
  • @Tim, I've written a (hopefully =D) comprehensive response. It doesn't fully cover your situation, but basically, the addendum would say that the regular methods of improving and keeping up with your question should tide you over until you can add a bounty.
    – devinb
    Jul 21, 2010 at 18:39
  • @devinb - thanks for all the clarification. But I disagree. 48 hours is an arbitrary and overly long time to wait when I KNOW that this question is going to languish and there is nothing to do to improve it. THe problem is the lack of audience.
    – tim
    Jul 21, 2010 at 19:06
  • 1
    @Tim, if the audience doesn't exist, then a bounty will simply attract more amateurs. People who can't necessarily tell you anything that you don't already know.
    – devinb
    Jul 21, 2010 at 19:17
  • 1
    @devinb - Again, if that is the case, then it means bounties are not worth having AT ALL.
    – tim
    Jul 22, 2010 at 13:41
  • @tim - I didn't suggest them. But I'm fine with bounties because they allow you to generate extra interest without circumventing regular site usage. The 48 hour wait allows for the normal question to run it's course, and then you can hype it with a bounty later. The downsides I highlighted all apply to bounties in the first hours after a question is created.
    – devinb
    Jul 22, 2010 at 14:02

1 Answer 1


As was said in George Stocker's answer on this question

In Podcasts #26 and #34, Joel and Jeff talked about this. They didn't want a bounty to interfere with the 'normal' method of asking/answering questions. If you're allowed to offer it right away, then it has the potential to create an economy where people only focus on questions with bounties.

I think this is a perfectly valid concern. Without bounties in the first 48 hours, we have a StackOverflow economy that is based on providing timely, quality, relevant answers to questions. That is, your are gaining reputation from your peers. The community will reward your answers for their quality.


Cash Economy

If we allow bounties in the first 48 hours, we have created a cash economy, where people will only answer the questions if the reward is rich enough. Answers with more than 5 upvotes are not that common, so the minimum bounty is higher than the rep-reward you'd get for answering a normal question.

Class System

We would also be stating that the people who have higher rep have more worthwhile questions because they can offer higher bounties on them, or at the very least, low bounties on all their questions. The goal of StackOverflow is to judge technical questions based on their technical merits, all questions should be treated equally. It shouldn't matter that the user has a high enough rep to pile his question to the top of the list.

There is no urgent tag

It has been said before. StackOverflow is not for people to come with time-sensitive questions. Most questions get answered very quickly, but it is not a guarantee and it shouldn't be relied on as such. Allowing setting a bounty in the immediate moments (or even a few hours) after posting the question is implicitly saying that this is okay behaviour. "If your question is urgent, just post a bounty on it! It will get bubbled higher than the questions of all the plebs beneath you." This is not what the bounty system is for.

The Purpose Of bounty

Bounties were created as a method to attract attention to questions which were missed on the initial run-through. The StackOverflow community did not answer the question initially, and the OP (hopefully) went through the correct steps.

In the words of the FAQ

What if I don't get a good answer?

In order to get good answers, you have to put some effort into your question. Edit your question to provide status and progress updates. Document your own continued efforts to answer your question. This will naturally bump your question and get more people interested in it.

If, despite your best efforts, you feel questions aren't getting good answers, you can help by offering a bounty.

Notice that even the FAQ says that "despite your best efforts" that means if you've waited a few hours with no response, you can't just buy your way out of it. You should still be making an honest attempt to help the site by improving your question.

Final thoughts

Bounties do not improve questions, they attract attention to questions which may have been ignored for a reason.

Bounties do not encourage equality, they say that possessing more reputation means that your questions are more worthy of being answered.

Bounties do not encourage quality, they encourage people focusing on questions with higher reward rather than the ones which are better written, and better for the community.

  • 4
    You seem to characterize bounties as undesirable - so in that case, why have bounties at all? My experience with my bounties has been that I get no useful answers anyway on the ones that I put bounties on. I would just like to get to that point sooner. 48 hours seems arbitrary and far too long.
    – tim
    Jul 21, 2010 at 18:39
  • @tim I think that is covered in "the purpose of bounties". Basically, because SO was meant to be a repository of all computer-related knowledge, the goal is for all questions to have answers. This means that the questions which are missed by the first run-through AND have been improved as much as possible, need to have a way to attract more attention. This is what the bounty is for. After the question has had some time to attract questions in the normal fair way, and it is unlikely to have someone answer it, they can add extra incentive. But not before those critera are met.
    – devinb
    Jul 21, 2010 at 18:42
  • 1
    It is pretty clear to me that at this point if an hour has gone by ans there are no answers at all (normal working hours in the US) then it is likely not to get much attention.
    – tim
    Jul 21, 2010 at 18:43
  • Editing the question is not likely to help. It is esoteric and probably so limited to a tiny number of people. This is not to jump to the front of the line. This is to get to the functionality provided for by the bounty sooner. It is easy to predict the way this question is going to go based on the short time it has been on SO - it will get no responses. I have seen it before. It has nothing to do with the question itself
    – tim
    Jul 21, 2010 at 18:45
  • 2
    @Tim Not everyone is as addicted as you or I. The experts, who would have [obscure-tag] in their "Interesting" or followed tags, might check in only once every day or two. If you can't wait more than a day for your answer, then perhaps SO is not the place to ask it. You should ask it, but you should continue to work to answer it for yourself. StackOverflow cannot be guaranteed to be the silver-bullet unless the question is already answered.
    – devinb
    Jul 21, 2010 at 18:45
  • @Tim, I understand your plight, and it's not that I necessarily feel that you would misuse bounties. The reasons I've highlighted are why I feel that it would be a generally bad idea.
    – devinb
    Jul 21, 2010 at 18:47
  • I think the arguments against creating a cash economy and a class system are moot anyway, since there are reputation points and badges given to users. These don't need to be given for there still to be a voting system for questions. Everything else on the site is done by gaining a perk through certain actions, and being able to offer bounties earlier would seem to be in line with everything else - why not need a number of questions answered or how frequently you visit the site, or whatever, to signify that you're worthy of a perk? It's arbitrary at 2 days.
    – ian
    Apr 14, 2013 at 15:40

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