2

The help center makes it very clear how Community awards bounties:

If you do not award your bounty within 7 days (plus the grace period), the highest voted answer created after the bounty started with a minimum score of 2 will be awarded half the bounty amount (or the full amount, if the answer is also accepted). If two or more eligible answers have the same score (their scores are tied), the oldest answer is chosen. If there's no answer meeting those criteria, no bounty is awarded to anyone.

The bold emphasis there is mine. And yes, an ulterior motive prompted this question, but I'm genuinely curious what other people think about the process in general.

I understand that the point of a bounty is often to attract new attention to a question, and I assume that this is the logic behind awarding the bounty to whatever answer received the most votes after the bounty is posted. But at the same time, if a user doesn't award their own bounty, that often suggests that they didn't get an answer that satisfied their expectations from anyone. In essence, their attempt to earn a certain kind of attention for a question failed.

My suggestion is to award the bounty to whatever answer gets the most upvotes since the bounty was posted, but regardless of when the answer was posted. This would still prevent old answers from easily earning abandoned bounties because of their high vote counts unless those old answers earned the most upvotes even after the bounty was posted.

This is essentially a discussion question, but since it also involves a suggestion, feel free to downvote if you disagree with the suggested approach and prefer the way bounties are awarded now.

6

If the person offering the bounty wanted it to go to an existing answer, they can award the bounty immediately. If they don't do that, I think it's safe to assume they aren't particularly thrilled with the existing answers, even if the rest of community likes them. If the bounty poster is unable to log in and award the bounty for some reason, it doesn't seem right to award it to an answer they could have awarded it to when they posted the bounty, but didn't.

I think the community bot awarding the bounty is just there to prevent the system from being exploited. For example, I want attention for my question so I offer a bounty, a bunch of folks put effort into answering, and I get lots of good information, but I never distribute the bounty I promised because I'm lazy or think if I don't award it, I will get it back.

The existing system favors new users and active users a little bit, which is a good thing. Old answers getting up-votes because of the increased attention from the bounty is already giving those answers a boost; when a bounty is abandoned, the person offering the bounty doesn't care who gets it, so why not reward the folks that responded to the bounty instead of the folks that just got lucky and answered a question that ended up having a bounty placed on it?

On the other hand, I think if someone edits an existing answer in response to the bounty, their answer should be in the running for the automatic bounty award with only votes after the edit being counted. Tracking the timing of the bounty, the edit, and the votes might be tricky, and abandoned bounties seem fairly rare to me, so it might be more work than it's worth however.

  • I think if an existing answer is edited and improved in response to the proposed bounty, it would gain more upvotes than it otherwise would during the bounty period, so there's that. Also, +1 – NVZ Mar 5 '18 at 3:51
3

I do not think this proposal would really be a positive change for Stack Exchange for a few reasons:

  1. This does not guarantee that the best answer gets the bounty, because the existing answers probably have the advantage of being sorted, and hence read first. If people get bored of reading the answers and leave before they even get around to reading the new answers, then they will not be able to vote for them, even if they would like those answers better. This system would still favor existing answers of equal value, and we may perhaps even risk favoring answers of lesser value than the new ones because of this.
  2. It may discourage posting bounties in the first place because the bounty starter who allows a bounty to lapse is probably dissatisfied with the existing answers. It risks a bad answer being rewarded in the mind of potential bounty starters. I sure would be disappointed to see my hard earned points go to an answer that I have personally voted against if I ever was to start one, and your system poses a greater risk of that.
  3. Despite claims to the contrary, I do not believe that it is merely more attention that we seek, but the contribution of more information to the website. An existing answer does nothing to contribute new information, unless a substantive edit is applied, and I doubt that the community bot is equipped to rate the quality of an edit. Giving a slight edge to newer posts which do make such contributions and add cross-references to the website makes sense to me, even if those cross-references are disagreeable.

The first two considerations make it so that the change is of questionable benefit and potentially harmful, whereas the third shows that the system as it is currently may even be beneficial, so, at least for now, I think things should stay as they are presently.

  • Rightly said, all three points. – NVZ Mar 4 '18 at 3:41

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