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One of the more popular suggestions from We're not a Q&A site. But what should be done about it? was to improve the wording of the bounty reasons or maybe change some of them altogether. We've been asked to flesh this out in a separate feature request so that SE can look into whether they'll make these changes for us.

So you don't have to follow the link above, here is the relevant part of the body of that proposal:

When starting a bounty, people here almost always use either "reward an existing answer" or "draw attention", occasionally "improve details". That's because none of the others make any sense here (and the descriptions of these could also be improved):

  • "Authoritative reference needed Looking for an answer drawing from credible and/or official sources." This is simply not a thing here.
  • "Canonical answer required The question is widely applicable to a large audience. A detailed canonical answer is required to address all the concerns." For challenges this doesn't make any sense either. It might be useful for the odd question about golfing tips, but that can probably be covered with "improve details".
  • "Current answers are outdated The current answer(s) are out-of-date and require revision given recent changes." Not a thing here - with our current rules, new languages/features aren't even allowed to be used.
  • "Draw attention This question has not received enough attention." Yep, this works. (Although I'd rather read "challenge" in that sentence.)
  • "Improve details The current answers do not contain enough detail." The idea of this works in a broad sense, but we're not really looking for "detail" in answers here. Maybe this could be reworked into a bounty reason to improve the score (overall winner, or language-specific solutions).
  • "Reward existing answer One or more of the answers is exemplary and worthy of an additional bounty." This works verbatim. :)

We could also think about whether we could use other bounty reasons here. E.g. bounties are often offered for bonus/side challenges. Maybe we could get a specific bounty reason for that?

So this post is here to discuss what bounty reasons we could really use and how they should be worded. There are of course several parts to this discussion, but it will be easier to keep everything in one place. Hence, I would suggest limiting answers to suggestions for one of the bounty reasons, so that the votes can more accurately show which suggestions have the community's support and which ones don't.

I assume that answers will fall into three categories:

  • Suggestions for rewording one of the existing bounty reasons.
  • Suggestions for removing one of the reasons completely. This should only be done if we really have no use for it, because this will be a fairly permanent change.
  • Suggestions for adding a new reason. If we get any of these at all, we should probably make a strong case that we'll actually need this quite regularly and that it isn't just a special case of the other reasons.
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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't really about a bounty "reason", but the bounty system could be improved by allowing the giver to choose a length of time for the bounty. Built-in functionality handling indefinite bounties would be great. Whether or not this would fit with the existing "featured" tab could be discussed further. Maybe this could be in a separate meta question. \$\endgroup\$ – mbomb007 Feb 7 '17 at 19:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mbomb007 That is already on the same list of feature ideas this suggestion was taken from. And it's definitely a different (and much more significant) feature request than what we're discussing here. (I do agree that it would be nice to have though, but if we'd actually get software changes like that from SE, then there are several requests on that list that seem a lot more urgent than support for indefinite bounties.) \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Feb 7 '17 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ One should keep in mind that only the explanation of the bounty is shown, and not the title. I saw some bounties reading "This question has not received enough attention." and though this meant something like "The bounty is only awarded if a certain attention level has been reached, which hasn't been reached yet." So maybe this could be made more clear to avoid confusion. \$\endgroup\$ – Laikoni Feb 10 '17 at 15:27
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In general, I see three ways in which bounties are generally used on this site:

  • Rewarding an existing answer; as mentioned in the OP, this one works just fine on PPCG, much the same way as it does on the rest of Stack Exchange, and doesn't need changing.
  • Requesting more participation on a question that's had few answers; currently we use "draw attention" for this and it's a fairly good fit, but it's not quite right. On other sites, "draw attention" typically means "I don't think people who know the answer to this have seen it". Here, the meaning is much closer to "I suspect most people have seen this question, but want to give them an incentive to actually put in the effort to write an answer". As such, we might want to consider rewording the bounty reason to make it clearer; I'd suggest "Encourage participation This challenge has not received enough participation" (changing "question" to "challenge" obviously, and "attention" to "participation" to show that what the bounty cares about is answers, rather than just pageviews).
  • Requesting a specific task be solved; this is pretty much unique to PPCG. On most SE sites, if you have a specific question, you just ask it, even if there's a general question on the same topic that doesn't have the answer you need. Here, if we have a "write a quine" question (we do), a "write a quine in Cubix" question is frowned upon and considered a duplicate. As such, if you want to incentivise people to answer a particular question a particular way, you need to set a bounty. I don't see a problem with the use of bounties for this purpose, but none of the existing categories are a good fit, meaning that people tend to set these bounties in random categories (I've seen "draw attention", "improve details", and IIRC even "canonical answer" used for this purpose). My suggestion here is to reword "improve details" to "Make specific request A user is willing to give a reward for an answer that meets specific criteria.". Incidentally, these bounties often go via the indefinite bounties thread (as there's often reason to suspect they won't be completed within a week), and thus are categorised as "reward exisitng answer" when awarded.

(There's a fourth method of using bounties that I occasionally see: as a reputation dump, when you care more about the loss of reputation than about the actual answer. I suspect this is not within the spirit of the bounty system and we probably shouldn't really take steps to support it.)

I can't see a need for more than three bounty categories here; if I were pressed to add a fourth, I'd split "make specific request", but I don't really think it needs splitting.

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    \$\begingroup\$ One thing to watch out for in the wording of the "specific request" reason is that it should not encourage people to go against the main winning criterion of the challenge. E.g. a code golf shouldn't get a bounty asking for a fastest-code solution. I think we had a meta discussion about that but I'll have to dig it up later. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Feb 7 '17 at 7:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ The "requesting a specific task to be solved" is (i think) one, if not the, purpose of the list of indefinite bounty, and such can generally be awarded as an answer rewarding one \$\endgroup\$ – Sefa Feb 7 '17 at 9:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ The other issue with the "requesting a specific task" is the automatic bounty award system. From the help center, "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). " So there is no certitude that the bounty will be awarded to an answer actually answering that specific, additional request. \$\endgroup\$ – plannapus Feb 7 '17 at 9:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ To specify what I mean, in your "Write a quine"/"write a quine in cubix" example, if nobody during the bounty period write a quine in cubix but other answers are posted (as the question is now in the Featured tab), if any of those new, non-cubix answers are upvoted 2 times or more they will get (half) the bounty automatically. \$\endgroup\$ – plannapus Feb 7 '17 at 9:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @plannapus: I agree that's an issue. It's also an issue at the moment, though, so this at least doesn't make things worse. Allowing bounties to be discarded / unawarded, and/or removing autorewards for "request task" bounties, might be a change to the bounty system worth discussing in a separate post. \$\endgroup\$ – user62131 Feb 7 '17 at 15:02
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Unfortunately bounties can only be given to answers. This is unfortunate for our site because more often than not a challenge would be worthy of a bounty in much the same way "exceptional answers" are.

I know it has been discussed before that making this a possibility would be too demanding because it is not standard behavior for a SE site.

However I would appreciate if this bounty reason existed and, when started by someone on a challenge, could be given either:

  • With the author posting a "blank" answer, which gets attributed the bounty. This shows that the challenge got a bounty but unfortunately "pollutes" the answers with one that is actually not an answer.
  • With the author posting a blank answer, which gets attributed the bounty, then deleting the answer (I think they keep the rep that way). This does not pollute the answers but does not show that the challenge got a bounty if you can't see deleted answers.
  • With the author posting an answer to their own challenge, which gets attributed the bounty. This does not pollute the answers (given that the author made an effort to provide a valid one) and show that the author got a bounty. It is ambiguous that the bounty was given for the challenge and not the answer, though that could be explicited in the body of the answer. Unfortunately this forces the author to post an answer to their own challenge (which might not be easy depending on the challenge).
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I like this. Abusing bounties on answers to reward challenges seems like borderline misuse of the bounty system and should probably not be encouraged by an official bounty reason. I would really like to see a bounty-like system for challenges, but that should probably be discussed separately from the current issues. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Feb 7 '17 at 10:35

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