I recently posted a small bounty on a question. So far, the bounty hasn't attracted much attention, and my current bet is it still won't before the bounty expires.

There was an existing answer on the question before I posted the bounty, and it's fine, but it's not up to snuff (in my eyes), which is why I posted the bounty.

The only other answer posted, which is reasonable, in that it took the bounty stipulations of being authoritative to heart (if a little flat and lacking in color and character), was posted by a user who has since deleted his account¹.

If, at the expiration of the bounty, this is the only answer meeting the stipulations, what is best practice? I can of course award the bounty to it (at least I believe I can), the bounty having served its primary purpose of drawing attention to the question. But I feel that fails another, lesser, though not unimportant purpose: rewarding the user who rose to the task.

I'm pretty sure deleted accounts can't "hold" rep. And even if they can, it's still useless, as that rep won't do anyone any good.

What's best practice here²?

¹ Or anyway the account is one of those "user#####" accounts with no links to a profile, so it was deleted, but I don't actually know the user did it himself or something else happened.

² Of course, the question un-asks itself if someone else posts a better answer, which is canonical and authoritative, but also rich, colorful, educational, and perhaps even entertaining. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

I [almost] always hold out on awarding bounties til the last minute anyway, in order to maximize returns.

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    +1 for writing this question in order to increase the chances of an answer to the bountied question – Arm the good guys in America Oct 24 '18 at 2:14
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    I think you are confusing questions and answers with users. Users come and go while their posts remain on the site for the benefits of the community. As you often pointed out reps are not money you can spend but their are important in indicating the level of relevance and helpfulness of what users ask and answer. We have to reward the “songs, not the singers.” – user 66974 Oct 24 '18 at 7:17
  • @user240918 Thanks. And I generally agree about rep, but I feel the situation is somewhat more complex with bounties. Nevertheless, if the deleted user answer is the most bounty-able at the end, then, as you and the others have told me, so be it. – Dan Bron Oct 24 '18 at 11:57
  • Curiously, the same deleted user has currently also a standing bounty on one of their questions. Vanished!!! – user 66974 Oct 24 '18 at 17:37
  • @user240918 The formatting and layout of the answer they posted suggests meaningful experience with the site (or at least its Markdown; e.g. they could have experience elsewhere on the network). My gut says this was an established user who had previously "quit" and then come back (which, as you know, happens here with reasonable frequency). Or a current regular with an alt account for one reason or another. – Dan Bron Oct 24 '18 at 17:46
  • @user240918 Oh, looks like I was wrong. I had just assumed this user had kept a "user####" name from the get-go (like you prefer to do), and then deleted it. But from the question you just raised to my attention, it appears it was HeWhoShallNotBeNamed. I don't know why they should have deleted their account: that Q is pretty popular. But he does seem miffed in his recent edit (yesterday) to this answer of his: english.stackexchange.com/a/469245/55623 . Looks like he got some criticism (now deleted) in the comments there. Maybe that was it. – Dan Bron Oct 24 '18 at 17:53
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    @user240918 BTW, I just noticed you have a deleted answer on that Q! I know you like to delete, improve, undelete, and I very much hope you do that here. You answer provides a lot of useful information and color, drawing from other authorities which have already done their own comparisons on the word, whereas the accepted answer now only shows the various definitions and its own attempts at comparison. – Dan Bron Oct 24 '18 at 18:22
  • Hewhoshallnotbenamed is a banned user, second account was set up to circumvent ban. – Mari-Lou A Oct 25 '18 at 1:44
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    @Mari-LouA I'd been interacting with this user, Hewhoshallnotbenamed, for a while, and suddenly had a suspicion that they might be a previously banned user after seeing one of their comments in particular. I noted also that the writing style between the two were similar. I'm wondering how the moderators found out they are the same person. It's a pity, this user seems very good with words and has contributed a number of fine, archaic and apt words, and good general information. I'm not sure if I mean it's a pity that they were banned, or that they have much to offer but are a bit troublesome. – Zebrafish Oct 25 '18 at 4:09
  • @zebrafish if I told you how mods can pick up illegal accounts, I would then have to kill you. Joking aside, they have tools which help them identify sockpuppets, but I suspect mods feed on anonymous tips or basic gut feeling. The banned user will probably resurface, have their account deleted again and further justify the year long suspension. There's absolutely nothing we can do or say that will help this user (and I tried). It's too late. – Mari-Lou A Oct 25 '18 at 4:15
  • Hethatshallnotbenamed lives on in chat archives chat.stackexchange.com/users/377433/… (interesting, I thought deleted accounts also appeared so in chat) – Mari-Lou A Oct 25 '18 at 7:32

You can award the bounty to a deleted user's answer, but deleted users don't have rep, so the only thing that does is put the blue bounty amount next to the answer. (See also here.)

(This isn't what happened, but I guess I'll also mention that if a question is migrated any answerers without an account will look like deleted users except they might have a username. Awarding a bounty to such an answer should increase the answerer's rep when they create an account.)

Having that little blue bounty counter next to the answer sends the signal that the answer is good, so if you don't like the answer, you shouldn't award it the bounty. But ultimately it's your choice.

If nothing changes and the bounty expires nobody will get any of the rep because none of the answers score above 2 (see FAQ).


I'd say award the bounty to the deserving answer, if there is one, regardless of whether it's by a deleted user. Even if nobody earns rep, the award will still serve to show future visitors what a good answer looks like.

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