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A while ago I posted my first bounty, on this question: What are the key considerations to creating compelling environments?

There were two different things I didn't know about bounties that, if I'd known, would have entirely changed the way I would have handled that bounty.

Here are the two things not described anywhere that I needed to know:

  1. Bounty reasons are not editable. Everything else everywhere I can input something on the site is editable - even chat and comments are editable for a few minutes. If this isn't behaving that way, we need to be told first.
  2. Repeated bounties cannot be smaller, and are much larger than the first bounty. After now having placed a bounty on that question of 200, my next bounty must be 400. I don't know if this is a static amount for the second bounty, or just double 200. We need to know that this happens. We also need to know whether this amount is just double the previous bounty, and how third and fourth bounties work.

Our FAQ section on bounties doesn't appear to mention these significant and permanent repercussions, nor does the setting bounties privilege article, nor do the bounty-posting dialogs, though they all mention other very important things about bounties that I'm glad they describe.

I would have done two things differently knowing these things:

  1. If I had known bounty reasons were not editable I would have taken a lot more time to draft it, and bounced it off one or two people.
  2. As it was, I had four answers I wanted to reward, and I had actually planned to give three others smaller rewards of 100. 500 total? More than worth it. Those answers were fantastic.
    • If I had known subsequent bounties increase like that I would have planned ahead and worked with the system by starting my bounty at 50. That way, I would have been able to give a 50, then a 100, then a 200 to the three best answers - and maybe even planned for a 400 if I felt like four were worth it.
    • If the second bounty had to be 400 regardless of the first bounty's cost, then I'd have given 200 to the second-place answer and 400 to the first.
    • If I had only found out after starting the bounty I would have done the same - I would have given the 200 to someone else, then a 400 to either BESW or another answerer.

I don't like this situation one bit. I didn't get to act the way I would have if I'd known how things worked, and I don't get to reward the excellent answers I want to reward the way I wanted to reward them.

This stuff is really important. Please let us know about it.

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Personally I'd like to see a way to edit bounty text, even if it's just for 5 mins a la comments, and for the page where you enter the bounty to 1) display a preview, and 2) to inform you about the doubling of bounty amounts.

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Agreed:

  • That this is useful to know and would ideally be mentioned somewhere discoverable.
  • That a brief editable period for bounty text would be following the Principle of Least Surprise.

Disagreed:

  • That it should work differently otherwise.

    The asker of a question has only a tiny bit more authority over the question's answers and whether they're good or not. Being able to "reward the excellent answers […] the way I wanted to reward them" is exactly what the StackExchange engine is designed to prevent. If bounties were more flexible, then they would quickly decrease the relevance of the voting and the accepted mark to the point of being irrelevant. By making bounties difficult to use frequently, we're prevented from using them to make reputation into a currency or commodity of exchange. It also prevents granting repeated cheap bounties just in order to bump the question for nefarious purposes like skimming drive-by votes off the front page.

    Basically, bounties are a potential site breaker. They have to be pretty tightly constrained, or else we couldn't have a bounty feature at all.

    But yes, they could be better explained. I understand why they've gotten very little coverage though – they're a peripheral feature of the site, and giving them much more exposure than they already have would just give people the impression that they're more important than they are.

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I agree - I think there should be a link to FAQ for Stack Exchange sites, which is the master list of general how-does-it-work FAQs (the lazy man's version of documentation) in the standard part of our FAQ section. Even diamond mods can only edit the "What questions should I ask here" part however - the rest is off limits to us. Down at the bottom there's an 'other questions' thing but it just links to meta.rpg.

In the meantime I'll add a general post tagged faq that has that link in it so there's at least a chain, albeit several levels deep and at the end of things. Really the link to FAQ for Stack Exchange sites should be very prominent and near the top of all SE site FAQ pages.

Added: How does all the various Stack Exchange functionality work?

In there I also try to explain that no one gives us mods any additional info whatsoever on how the SE engine works that everyone else doesn't have access to and we have no control over site functionality or any means to request changes to it not available to others.

As a result, answers to complex "how does it work questions" generally run afoul of "beats the hell out of me, I guess I could go crawl Meta.SE to try to figure it out" and requests to change engine mechanics run afoul of "the only thing I can do is post it to Meta.SE same as you." Unless we just happen to know, we have zero additional information/documentation or control to change site functionality than any 1 rep user has access to.

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If you bounty a question, you used to be able to award it to an answer you posted (even a self-answer on a question you posted). You wouldn't get the rep from the bounty, but the added attention from the bounty could well get more rep than that from upvotes due to the question being featured. Furthermore, the blue "+ \d" notation would appear beside the self-bounty.

Nowadays, self bounties can't be awarded to yourself, but you can still draw attention to your own work that way. You can read more about the foibles of self-bounty awards here.

Also our site, as a matter of culture, doesn't tend to do self-promotional answer bountying much, if at all. We reserve that mostly for questions.

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