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Unfortunately, the length of bounties is fixed in the software and we don't have the ability to change it.
Actually, most of the bounty questions that have appeared on MO are not great questions, but instead questions of such low interest that they had to have a bounty added to attract any attention at all. Thus, in my opinion, it is not something to be encouraged.
Yeah, but you did it because the questions are HARD, Gil.
@Bill Johnson: This does not appear to be Gil Kalai's only motivation, see http://mathoverflow.net/questions/4994/fundamental-examples
I agree 7 days is too short. I had a question which took a month to get an answer, and then got a very useful answer. Since then I haven't really had the time to follow up on the answer; it wouldn't surprise me if the paper that the answer will eventually help me in writing doesn't show up until sometime in 2013.
I strongly agree with other commenters that we should add "longer bounties" to the official feature request list (if such a list exists). It's certainly on my request list.
I agree. There should be no time limits for bounties.
IMO more or less however one changes this bounty system it will never be a good fit for MO.
On the one hand due to the relative small size of the site; it is perfectly feasible to roughly keep track of all questions that get asked so increasing visibility seems not that important; or if this is needed the current system works well enough and an expiry date is desirable.
On the other hand due to the nature of the subject. IMO the only type of question where a bounty is really useful is 'boring but somewhat tedious.' If I find something interesting and can answer it I will do so. If I can answer something easily I will do so. The question is what do I do if I could answer but find it tedious (where tedious is everything above several minutes); then those points might or might not be a motivation (actually that I'd gain the points would not be that much of a motvation but that somebody is willing to spend them might convince me of the relative relevance of the question and motivate me; yet then it is also sufficient I once saw them and then anything I can do but do not find the time to do within seven days is mostlikely so tedious I would not do it anyway).
@Quid: So we need a name other than "featured" for these, if indeed they will usually be "boring but somewhat tedious". Perhaps the honest name "bounty".