First a polite request:

I think most active users are people who mostly answer questions and don't ask questions. As a result I think a lot of the "culture" among administrators & moderators promotes things that reward "answerers" as opposed to "askers." I am writing this opinionated post because I believe the system is broken for "askers." If you predominately answer questions, and you rarely ask questions, then I think it would be helpful to the community as a whole if questions like these (pertaining to improvements made for askers), are taken with an open mind.

In my opinion, the bounty system could use a lot of work. Most of the time when I put a bounty on a question of mine, it goes unanswered and I lose the bounty that I placed on the question. I see no reason why this should be the case, as it just "penalizes" putting bounties on questions that are hard-to-answer. Ironically, these questions are typically exactly the types of questions that deserve to have big bounties (as they typically require additional rewards to draw out less common experts to answer them).

I think it's a shame that questions that are highly advanced usually get one or two upvotes and will never see a single answer. Answering a difficult obscure question currently have way less of a payout than more popular questions like "why does stirring my soup make it cooler?" And I think if someone genuinely wants to have their question answered (even if it takes months of time), there should eventually be a way of having a high enough value for answering the question that people take the effort to answer it.

Here are some suggestions for improving the current bounty system:

  • Reputation points charged for Bounties that doesn't receive any positively-received answers are not only refunded to the user, but the question automatically receives 5 upvotes and the question goes back on the featured list but with a higher bounty
  • Reward multipliers for unanswered questions. For instance, a well-received question that hasn't been answered for 2 years and has recieved multiple bounties should have a HUGE payoff for answering. Every time a question goes unanswered after a bounty-session, the question should have a multiplier that rewards answering that question.
  • More "prestige points" are awarded in the form of medals related to placing bounties. (I think way too many "power users" hoard their reputation points, which could be used to highlight questions that require more expertise)

Maybe these proposed solutions are not perfect, but I think this issue should be taken seriously as I feel that this platform can have a much better system for helping

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    $\begingroup$ Requests for changes to the bounty system should go on the mother meta (Meta Stack Exchange) because the proposal would affect the whole network. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Sep 27 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ That said, I agree that offering a bounty on Physics is a bit of a Hail Mary without a high expectation of payoff. I think this is influenced by at least two things. First, as a medium sized site we are big enough that things can get easily lost but small enough that there may not be many users who are experts in the subject you're asking about. Secondly, physics certanly has it popular subjects and it's less popular ones. Less popular subjects get overlooked a lot. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Sep 27 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ What about medals? Are there no physics-specific medals? Are there no physics-specific "knobs" that can be turned? $\endgroup$ – Steven Sagona Sep 27 at 22:55
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    $\begingroup$ I’ve placed nearly 100 bounties, and many without good results. Often the trick is to offer another, larger bounty, or to sharpen the question. Expertise is rare and valuable, we can’t expect a measly 50 fake internet points to always tease it out. $\endgroup$ – knzhou Sep 28 at 6:13
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    $\begingroup$ All sites in the network support tag badges, but I believe those are the only site specific badges. However, tag badges are consequential because the gold variety conveys the power to unilaterally close duplicates (colloquially called the dupe-hammer). $\endgroup$ – dmckee Sep 28 at 6:14
  • $\begingroup$ The other thing is that people from your subfield, which is extremely popular in general, don’t seem to use this site much. That’s just an accident of history. There are many other sites that are also ostensibly for all of physics, but in reality are completely devoted to your field and its neighbors. $\endgroup$ – knzhou Sep 28 at 6:16
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee silver and gold tag badges are awarded through long-term activity in the tag (200 & 1000 answers, respectively), not for single posts. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Sep 28 at 7:30
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    $\begingroup$ Changes to the SE engine are not accessible to us. We can change how we as a community interact with it, but the site's software is shared with the 130+ sites in the network. If we want changes to the software, then it needs to be done network-wide (so the proposal belongs on Meta Stack Exchange), or we need to argue why Physics is so special that it deserves the creation and maintenance of a site-specific version of the software. Given that SE is currently cutting back on differences between sites, including plain formatting, to make them more maintainable, changes like this one just won't happen. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Sep 28 at 7:37
  • $\begingroup$ That said, it could well be worth having a list of formerly-bountied newly-answered questions, whose answers could well be worthy of fresh bounties. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Sep 28 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ Related by OP: Why won't you spend your reputation (on bounties)? $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Sep 28 at 7:42
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand the non-sequitur in the first actual paragraph. It has nothing to do with the rest of the post. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Sep 29 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ Also, OP needs to recognize that low-level questions, such as the stirring one, are more accessible to all members whereas deep subject-matter queries will be accessible to far fewer people. Falsely assuming they're equivalent leads you to bogus proposals and solutions to distinct post types. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Sep 29 at 17:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Kyle It's rather worse than that. The cooling-coffee question's score is inflated by a phenomenon that dwarfs even what the pre-time-limits HNQ sidebar could get up to in its worst days - it was linked from xkcd/what-if. Its score is simply not a useful metric for anything, unless it's compared with other posts with similarly high-profile links pointing in from the outside (of which, to my knowledge, there are none). $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Oct 1 at 22:29

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