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If I would like to reward a question with a bounty award, not an answer to the question, is there a way to do so?

If there is not, is it acceptable to gift reputation to a user for their question via a bounty on some other post they made, with appropriate commentary?

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No, there is not.

This was posted as a feature request in 2012, and marked on meta.se:

Amongst the reasons for starting a bounty, one can select:

Reward existing answer

One or more of the answers is exemplary and worthy of an additional bounty.

Why not enable one to reward excellent questions in a similar manner?

SE staff animuson offers this explanation for declining the feature request, summarized in its first paragraph:

The problem with offering bounties on questions is it doesn't encourage any behavior from other users. When users see a bounty available on a question, it encourages them to provide a detailed answer in an effort to be rewarded the bounty. Even if you are "rewarding an existing answer" it is still possible that someone else may find something even more useful than the answer you originally wanted to give the bounty to, which is one of the reasons why the time limit still exists.

Bounties are for answers and should only be used for answers.

The bounty system is designed for encouraging a particular type of engagement: answers to questions. This is what it is for, and this is what it should be used for (more on the intent behind the design of the bounty system can be found in animuson’s meta post linked in the previous section). Using the bounty system to “gift reputation” for anything other than bounty-worthy answers is reputation that the recipient did not earn, since it is reputation gained via unintended methods. Now, if the recipient already has 25k reputation this isn’t that big of a deal, but below 25k rep, site privileges are locked behind reputation thresholds, and I’d really prefer reputation thresholds be met by gaining rep the intended way.

That said, if you still really want to award a particular user for a great question, go find a bounty-worthy answer of theirs. But please be sure it’s actually bounty-worthy. We can’t read your mind, and this works on the honor-system, but we will know something is up if you award a bounty to a clearly low-quality post.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the explanation. I think that the justification given is falling short - rewarding questions on a given topic or of a certain area of interest might well incentivze behaviour from other users, to pose that kind of question. But from this answer I understand, that it is not possible to do so, and that one should not use bounties to do so other than to reward answers. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 17 at 11:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin Yeah, that’s essentially the objection you’ll find echoed in the comments on animuson’s answer. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 17 at 11:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin Note that if the question you like has not yet attracted a good answer, you can add a bounty to it to help the asker get a high quality answer. While this doesn't reward the asker with meaningless Internet points, it does reward them with something even better: a good answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    Jan 17 at 13:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage Yes, that would work. In this specific case however, the question attracted an accepted answer by Nobody the Hobgoblin, so I'd rather avoid this, both to not appear as a shameless self-promoter, and to not create the impression I think my answer is no good (I think it is fine). \$\endgroup\$ Jan 17 at 18:36

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