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I just tried to vote to close the question How to measure the energy consumption class of a home appliance? because it is squarely about engineering and not about physics. However, it told me something like "questions with open bounties can't be closed". That seems like a odd rule. A bounty doesn't change whether something is off topic or not.

Perhaps the point is that it would be wrong to force the bounty to be wasted, but if that is really the intent then the bounty could be refunded when the question is closed. Actually in this case I think it could be migrated to EE, but that doesn't change the fact that it is off topic here.

Is this a unintended interaction, or is there really a logical reason behind this that I'm missing?

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    $\begingroup$ The question could be framed in terms of measuring the total power used by a very uneven demand, but frankly the answer is that you buy a off the shelf part. Not a lot of physics there. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Aug 26 '14 at 13:29
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    $\begingroup$ Question closed. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Aug 26 '14 at 17:08
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Checked on meta.SE, see Allow users to vote to close bountied questions and related posts therein. It makes sense. Essentially, it says that a bounty is a contract that offers additional exposure for additional reputation. Refunding a bounty should only be done in extraordinary circumstances and that exactly falls under the purview of moderator actions. It further says that having a VTC system set-up that auto-generates a moderator flag is a lot of work for something that is seldom seen. Bounties can be used to keep bad questions open, but it isn't frequent enough to necessitate new features. It is infrequent enough that it again is something aptly suited for the custom mod-flag.

But about the question in question, I agree it's not really about physics

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    $\begingroup$ So, the bottom line is that if a question with a bounty seems off topic, one should flag it for mod attention. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Aug 26 '14 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ Note that at least on most SE sites (all?) a question needs to reach a certain age before it can be bountied. If the moderation system works correctly, the question will be closed before it can get a bounty placed on it. $\endgroup$ – R.. Sep 1 '14 at 22:53
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Mods can cancel (refund) the bounty and close it. If enough people agree, I'll do it.

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  • $\begingroup$ I hope that one would get closed when it was first posted and still think it deserves it now. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Aug 26 '14 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that it's off topic. $\endgroup$ – David Z Aug 26 '14 at 15:47
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Allowing the community to refund bounties would enable some ways to exploit the bounty system. If the reputation was removed entirely when a question is closed, it would allow users to directly impact the reputation of another user in a rather large way. Not to speak of the edge case when a question gets then reopened. If the bounty was refunded, this would allow users to gain the attention for their question a bounty brings, and then avoid paying for it by getting it closed before the bounty runs out.

This situation is pretty rare because bad questions are usually closed in the first two days, and bounties can only be started after that time. Because of the low volume and the rather large consequences the decision has, letting only moderators make these decisions is the safest way.

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