It seems it's now possible to place bounties on other people's questions. I noticed a certain user placing a lot of bounties recently, including one on a question of mine which already had an accepted answer with over 30 upvotes. Even stranger, the person who wrote that answer and the person placing the bounty are the same. This happened on another question as well. Here are the questions I'm talking about: 1, 2. I don't really know what's going on with this particular user, because she had some strange bounty behavior earlier in the week related to questions of Porton. Perhaps she's playing around to learn the system better. But it raised two questions for me.

First, what happens when a bounty of the sort above expires? I assume her answer will win, because it's already the optimal answer. So she'll get back the reputation she wagered and also whatever happens to you when you win a bounty (badges I guess). So in the end the bounty won't produce any new math and won't lead to a transfer of reputation from one user to another. It will however lead to more publicity for the question and answer, and that leads to lots of upvotes. Hence my second question: is this the sort of thing we want happening on MathOverflow? The same thing happens on a lesser scale when someone edits an old question, but the front-page turnover rate is fast so those only stay for an hour or two. Also, there's a disincentive because if you bump your old question/answer too many times it'll become CW. But a question with a bounty stays advertised for a whole week. I feel like using bounties to promote your best answers from the past is a misuse of the system, and I wonder if others agree and if there's anything we can do to dissuade that method of using bounties.

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    $\begingroup$ There is a discussion at tea.mathoverflow.net/discussion/1622 . I guess I should have started it here rather than there, I’m not sure what is the intended topic separation between meta, tea, and chat. $\endgroup$ Jun 28, 2013 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ Note that you cannot award a bounty to yourself. If nothing else happens, the bounty points will simply be wasted, which is (per the tea discussion) F.J.’s intention: to dump her reputation. The bounties to Porton’s questions used a more elaborate scheme with the same purpose (set up a bounty, create a new account, post an answer to the question from the new account, award it the bounty, delete the account and the answer). $\endgroup$ Jun 28, 2013 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ Why don't you ask her via email why she posted a bounty on your questions? $\endgroup$ Jun 28, 2013 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ @BillJohnson, I don't actually know who she is, and her email address is not listed on her profile. I only know it's a she because her previous user name was Rebecca something (as can be seen from the comments on my linked question). Emil, I didn't realize there were three different places for meta style question. Any chance they'll be merged at some point? $\endgroup$ Jun 28, 2013 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidWhite I would not assign much relevance to the user name at that time (indeed Scott Morrison's contribution on 'tea' rather suggests you are wrong); from the top of my head I could give you more than five names that person used as display name. (This is not meant negatively against the user, to the contrary this is one of my favorite MO colleagues; knowing nothing about them though just from their presence here.) [I might latter say something more on this subject.] $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Jun 28, 2013 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe I'm somehow naive here, but I though the answerer thinks there is still room for an improvement, and she wishes to see other points of view. Putting a bounty seems a perfectly fair way to do mantein the attention on a topic (that's bounty are made for). Btw, it is not uncommon that a question that raised wide attention (high score and dozens of comments), immediately loses any interest as soon as it receives a complete answer. People tend to like more questions than answers... $\endgroup$ Jan 15, 2017 at 9:10

2 Answers 2


@Emil's comment above essentially answers the question. The reputation simply vanishes if the bounty is awarded to yourself.

In this case, Frictionless Jellyfish is performing something of a stunt, successfully drawing some attention (c.f. this question, and everyone's general confusion), but perhaps not actually conveying their actual purpose (explained via email) of criticising the reputation system.

I am personally satisfied that this episode constitutes at worst eccentricity (hi, FJ!), but not any abuse of the system. It's also quite strongly self-limiting; there aren't so many users with Frictionless Jellyfish's combination of a large reputation with no regard for throwing it away.

If we see further instances, or I'm wrong about it being 'mostly harmless', I'm happy to ask anyone involved to stop.

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    $\begingroup$ "not actually conveying their actual purpose" in my opinion it was completely clear if one paid some attention to the details and the general history of the account. $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Jun 28, 2013 at 18:35

Here are the logistics of bounties:

  • The owner has a 24 hour grace period after the bounty duration (7 days) to award an answer. Any answer, including one that existed before the bounty.
  • If the owner fails to award an answer, the highest-voted answer with a score >=2 that was posted in the 7-day period will be awarded. If there are no such answers, it evaporates.
  • The owner cannot transfer the rep back to himself through the bounty.

So, in this case, unless she gets another answer, the bounty will just evaporate (unless she awards it to the other answerer in #1)

In case of abuse (or when they want to close the post), mods can undo active bounties.

  • $\begingroup$ Suppose there is an answer other than FJ's posted during the 7 day period, whose score is $\geq 2$ but less than FJ's, and FJ does not choose to award the bounty manually. Does the bounty disappear or does it go to that answer? $\endgroup$ Jun 28, 2013 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidSpeyer It's awarded to the other answer. Autoaward does not consider old answers, it assumes that they weren't good enough. $\endgroup$ Jun 28, 2013 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ That seems like the correct answer from the perspective of making the system do a good job, but incorrect for creating drama. It would be more dramatic if FJ were saying, in effect: "This rep is yours if you can write an answer better than mine, otherwise it disappears". But I guess that "optimize for drama" is not the best way to design a website. :-) $\endgroup$ Jun 28, 2013 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidSpeyer i.stack.imgur.com/4SOZ0.jpg $\endgroup$ Jun 28, 2013 at 19:03

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