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Are bounty reputation points, being assigned to unanswered question, returned back to the issuer of the bounty? If "yes" - when? If not - why? Alternatively (instead of direct "refunding") in the case, when there are no answers at all, the issuer's may be should be given the option of counting this "spent" points towards doubling the bounty or towards transfer of that bounty to another question? Another option could have been extending the time on the bounty?

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No, points placed as bounty on a question are not refunded in the event that the question receives no answer.

On the reason let me quote myself from another discussion about the merits of refunding bounties.

The reason that a bounty costs points is two-fold. On the one hand the points are a direct incentive for somebody to answer. Yet, on the other hand, the bounty gives significant additional visibility to the question.

The second point seems at least as important as the first one. It is this additional visibility for which you have to "pay" no matter what.

Bounties need to "cost" something to stay effective. If they would be free, somebody could put a bounty on essentially unanswerable questions all the time, under-cutting the effectiveness of bounties.

On your specific proposals:

[W]hen there are no answers at all, the issuers maybe should be given the option of counting this "spent" points towards doubling the bounty[...]

This proposal seems like a reasonable one to me. A point to consider though is that "no answers at all" is a criterion that can cause problems (e.g., askers complaining more about not satisfactory answers because it makes them lose the "no answer" option). It may also not be needed. It will not be that common that something is answered to an asker's satisfaction and they still want to prolong the bounty.

or towards transfer of that bounty to another question?

By contrast I do not like this one, as it will inflate the number of bounties.

Another option could have been extending the time on the bounty?

Maybe, but I prefer the doubling idea.

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  • $\begingroup$ That discussion was mainly focused on the "unsatisfactory" answer situation, rather than on the case where there are no answers at all. $\endgroup$ – Alex Feb 11 '16 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ To me "no satisfactory answer" includes "no answer," and the answer there was written in this spirit. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Feb 11 '16 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ Such interpretation is quite a stretch - I see a huge difference between such two cases :-) $\endgroup$ – Alex Feb 11 '16 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ The first comment on the question there explicitly mentions the situation that no answer is given. (Besides, I said what this means to me, and in which spirit the answer was written, which I know for a fact as it was me who wrote it, in case that was missed.) $\endgroup$ – user9072 Feb 11 '16 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ That comment is unclear in stating what exactly is the commenter's position on the situation when there are no answers. To me it sounds that this commenter would not mind if the points would be returned back to the bounty issuer in such cases. I think this case deserves a separate discussion and my question could serve as a vehicle for such discussion. $\endgroup$ – Alex Feb 11 '16 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ I do not see what you are getting at. You asked if it is refunded; the answer to which is "No." This answers the question you asked completely. For general information I linked to a related discussion, but just ignore it if you find it not relevant. If instead of seeking information about the situation, you want start a discussion about this, feel free to do so, but state it clearly. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Feb 11 '16 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ So let us discuss it - I added request for discussion into my question. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Alex Feb 11 '16 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ The analogy with sales advertisement in my view is not quite adequate. In the case of sales advertisement, there is a clear beneficiary of the "payment" (the newspaper). Bounty is another matter - in its traditional meaning it is just a promise of payment and its realization is due only upon the response/action. $\endgroup$ – Alex Feb 11 '16 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ The analogy may not be perfect. However, the main explication is not based on this analogy. It is more an afterthought. The intent is to safeguard against inflationary use of bounties. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Feb 11 '16 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ I think that such "safeguard" is counterproductive in the case being discussed here. $\endgroup$ – Alex Feb 11 '16 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ As to the "significant additional visibility" a question gets from a bounty, my impression is rather that the number of additional views a question gets after someone has placed a bounty on it is just about that the question would get after merely editing it -- though it would would be interesting to have this statement either confirmed or refuted by statistical data. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Feb 11 '16 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl it may be true that the added visibility is not that big, but still it is the intent to give visibility. But personally I do not find bounties for small and mid-sized sites, like MO, overly useful or effective either. This is bit orthogonal though. The point still stands: would bounties be for free it would likely lead to an inflation of bounties. (And "no answer" or "no satisfactory answer" exceptions are opening a can of worms.) $\endgroup$ – user9072 Feb 12 '16 at 0:14
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    $\begingroup$ There is a huge difference between "no satisfactory answer", which is subjective opinion and "no answer", which is an objective fact. $\endgroup$ – Alex Feb 12 '16 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Alex Such things occur less rarely than you might think. Anyway, a process that will (rarely or not) need moderators' judgment to work qualifies as a can of worms. And, this for precious little in return. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Feb 12 '16 at 1:52
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    $\begingroup$ I have definitely placed bounty on some questions that have not received an answer. I still think of these as points well spent. $\endgroup$ – Lev Borisov Feb 20 '16 at 22:34

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