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Should bounty be returned if there is NO answer at all?

Yesterday, after earning the Tumbleweed badge, I placed a bounty on this question.

So far, I gained 9 views, 1 up-vote and 1 star.

I know it's still early to conclude, but what happen if no one dares to answer the question? I know already that will simply lose my invested rep. but I will be no further along than I was before. Putting another bounty? Are you serious?

If I got an answer for this particular question, the problem remains for others' unanswered questions.

So, in the general case of a question that doesn't have any answer at the end of the bounty period, wouldn't it be more appropriate to report the bounty for another week? or the user who placed the bounty could at least get a "loser" badge so everyone could see how gullible he is?

  • 5
    It probably is too early to worry. Remember that questions appear in the featured tab in order of when they're going to expire. As yours gets closer to its expiration date, it will reach the front page of that tab and get more views. Mar 30 '11 at 13:21
  • @Bill the Lizard Maybe, but what about the theoretical case where it does happen? I'm not that worried about this particular question, I just care about the community and how to improve the system.
    – DavRob60
    Mar 30 '11 at 13:26
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    On a related note, Within One hour of Meta exposure, I gained 20 views, 1 up-vote and 2 comment. That beat the bounty exposure!
    – DavRob60
    Mar 30 '11 at 14:18
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    The sad case of abusing meta, more like it. Mar 30 '11 at 14:58
  • @Hans Passant that was not my intend.
    – DavRob60
    Mar 30 '11 at 15:08
  • Maybe we need to start charging bounty for Meta-bounty posts.
    – hyperslug
    Mar 30 '11 at 16:21
  • @DavRob60, Any examples of questions with expired bounties and zero attempted answers? The SO team probably won't write code unless the problem is either widespread or urgent.
    – hyperslug
    Mar 30 '11 at 16:33
  • @hyperslug here an exemple, this is for scifi stackexchange, but a bounty was placed for it and no one answered it, twice.
    – DavRob60
    Mar 30 '11 at 16:39
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    Here's one of mine too - just too obscure I guess. I put a bounty on after two days and got a tumbleweed despite the open bounty. But I don't think this is a serious problem - I knew what I wanted wasn't on google and was willing to accept losing the bounty.
    – Rup
    Mar 30 '11 at 17:28
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    I finally found the duplicate: Should bounty be returned if there is NO answer at all? which was declined.
    – Pollyanna
    Mar 30 '11 at 17:41
  • @Adam returned? I'm asking it to be reported, or at least award badge for that case.
    – DavRob60
    Mar 30 '11 at 17:46
  • @DavRob60 Ah, I see. In that case it's a dupe of meta.stackexchange.com/questions/55616/… and there are several requests for a variety of badges related to bounties.
    – Pollyanna
    Mar 30 '11 at 17:57
  • Typically I don't get answers to my bounty questions until the last day or two of the bounty. Don't expect bounties to work miracles or achieve instant results. Further, you've only placed a 50 rep bounty on it. It's not a big incentive. Be more patient, it'll happen.
    – Pollyanna
    Mar 30 '11 at 18:01
  • @Adam As i said, I don't really care about this particular question, just the general case. I though there was something that could be improved there, that's it.
    – DavRob60
    Mar 30 '11 at 18:06
  • @Adam And since you found a duplicate, I voted to close my own question. I don't take this personal.
    – DavRob60
    Mar 30 '11 at 18:08

Bounty is not meant to be Paying for an answer. Its meant to provide additional incentive to users who might be able to answer it. It's better to think of it as an advertising fee than a guarantee of an answer.

If we allow the reputation to go back to the user who placed the bounty, then they get their question on the featured list for no fee, as long as they don't award the bounty.

The people who answered then become angry that the bounty was not placed in good faith.

In other words, bounties are ripe for gaming if the user can back out of them.

It is, at best, an advertising deep and incentive. Once paid, it's non refundable. The post is advertised on the featured list. If a good answer is received, then great. If not, well there never was a guarantee.

Only use bounties where you need to.
The are no refunds.

  • +1. People need to stop whining about lost bounties.
    – Pekka
    Mar 30 '11 at 16:08
  • I don't have any problem with this behavior, as long as one answer is provided. Yes, they get their question on the featured list for no fee, but only as long as someone dare to answer it, even if the answer is not up-voted/accepted, not as as long as they don't award it. If there is no answer, there is nobody to become angry. I see this as a unpacked good, it's not a guarantee problem, It's unused.
    – DavRob60
    Mar 30 '11 at 16:15
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    @Dav I understand what you mean, but look at it this way: The bounty buys your question a slot on the "featured" page. Like in a newspaper's classifieds section. If your question is so hard and/or exotic that nobody can answer it, that stinks (and I wouldn't be against the possibility to extend the bounty by a week in that case). But the bounty itself is non-refundable, investing it is a risk you take.
    – Pekka
    Mar 30 '11 at 16:57
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    @Pekka Then, it's misnamed. A bounty is "a reward offered as an incentive for the accomplishment of something", not a "non-refundable advertising solution".
    – DavRob60
    Mar 30 '11 at 17:14
  • But what is the benefit of advertising a question that nobody answers? I don't think we're talking about questions that have non-accepted answers, just totally unanswered questions. Mar 30 '11 at 17:34
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    @DavRob60 Bounties on Stack Overflow do not follow the OED definition of the english word "bounty". "Reputation" has little in common with the english word reputation. If you expect every feature to be understood fully merely by the moniker given it, then you will be running into a lot of bad assumptions as you use Stack Overflow. However, if you can come up with a one word description for the "bounty" feature that contains both the promise of advertising, plus the possibility of a user receiving a chunk of rep for a good answer, without refunds, then I expect it'll be seriously considered.
    – Pollyanna
    Mar 30 '11 at 17:40

I suggest that bounty points be returned to the offerer at the end of the bounty period if no one has answered the question. I actually thought this was the current behavior, but your question makes it sound like I was mistaken.

I don't see this leading to abuse, and the offerer shouldn't be penalized for asking a question the community couldn't answer. Once the rep is given back, you have the option of adding the bounty again, possibly with a higher value.

One alternative is for the system to automatically add a bonus to the bounty when this happens (say +25% of the original value), as a consolation for not coming up with an answer. However, this has more potential for being gamed (for example, by encouraging answerers to wait until after the bounty-boost).

  • It also occurs to me that unanswered questions shouldn't affect your acceptance rate. Mar 30 '11 at 15:47
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    Questions with no answers, as well as closed and Community Wiki questions, do not affect your acceptance rate.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Mar 30 '11 at 15:50
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    this would absolutely lead to abuse -- since there is no risk (you get a refund!) then everything would be bountied / featured. When everything is bountied / featured, nothing is. Mar 30 '11 at 17:10
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    @Jeff - It would only get returned if there are no answers at all (I mean completely unanswered, not just without an accepted answer). From what I've seen, this is uncommon even among non-featured questions. Mar 30 '11 at 17:30
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    @justin this means really bad questions would be incentivized to get bountied. Questions that are not fundamentally answerable. I want people to only place a bounty when they truly believe they have a reasonable chance of getting an answer. If they get a "free pass" no matter how bad the question to slap a free bounty on it with no risk, that's BAD. Mar 30 '11 at 17:37
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    @Jeff - I get what you're saying about having a reasonable chance of an answer. But what would be the benefit of gaming it? Best case, the questioner gets his bounty back with no answer to show for it, so it's a zero sum. More likely, he gets at least one answer (which might be "this is impossible/a bad idea"). Gaming this seems risky and unprofitable to me. Mar 30 '11 at 17:43

I don't understand why the bounty goes away at the end of a week if the question hasn't gained any answers. Why not stop advertising it and just leave bounty to be awarded once somebody answers the question?

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    Stopping to advertise it but not awarding the bounty would be a nice middle ground, but what if the answer that comes in is crap? Or even malicious, answered just to get the bounty?
    – Pekka
    Mar 30 '11 at 17:08
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    @Pekka: Yes, I can imagine that in many cases people would just post an answer saying "It's not possible". I suppose the person offering the bounty can decide whether to extend it (unadvertised), award it, or forfeit it.
    – Gabe
    Mar 30 '11 at 18:21
  • that sounds sensible, I like it. Does a feature request to that effect exist already?
    – Pekka
    Mar 30 '11 at 19:42

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