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So, I issued a bounty on a question. One answer presents all the building pieces needed to solve the problem but doesn't really actually solve it and another answer puts all those pieces together and provides the actual solution. I could either give the bounty to the answer that corresponds to the difficult work of finding the solution or I could give the bounty to the answer that parallel the boring(?) work of putting the pieces together and actually make the problem solvable. Now I wonder:

  1. What would you do, and why?
  2. I would really prefer to give them half of the bounty each since in my opinion the first person who only provided the pieces only did half the job. Can I do that?
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    you could also have two bounties on the question one after the other, and award both to different answers. – Jeff Atwood Sep 16 '11 at 7:36
  • Don't agonize too much. All the answerers on that question are over 3000 rep (and thus have editing and voting privileges) and are well known contributors to the site. At that point get a 50 rep bounty isn't really all that significant. – Caramdir Sep 16 '11 at 18:07
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    @Jeff: Though that does conflict with the new bounty doubling mandate. – Caramdir Sep 16 '11 at 20:47
  • @caramdir it just means both bounties must be 500 rep to be equal in sequence -- how much do you love your answers? :) – Jeff Atwood Sep 17 '11 at 5:03
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  1. I'd do like this: give the "hard", answer the bounty, and accept the complete answer. This is completely fair and valid -- you don't have to award the bounty to the highest-voted answer, or to accept the bounty-rewarded answer.

  2. Not possible under current Stack Exchange rules. You would probably find much more information about bounties here (bounty-splitting issue is also covered).

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I don't know how others would react, but this is how I think I would react/think if I were an answerer in this situation.

  1. The bounty is not significant as a bounty. When I see a question with a bounty then the amount doesn't matter. What a bounty says is that here is a question that someone is really, really interested in the answer for. So if I answer that question then I have a chance of helping someone a little more than the average question. That does make me more likely to answer it, but the actual bounty itself is irrelevant.

  2. A similar thing goes for the accepted answer. My goal is to help people and also help myself by learning TeX at the same time. If my answer is accepted, then that's great and I've helped someone. If someone else's answer is accepted, then I can look at their solution and learn how to do it better next time. But it's nice when an answer is accepted (whether mine or not) since it then I know which of these two attitudes to adopt!

  3. If I didn't get either the bounty or the acceptance then it would still be nice to have some acknowledgement that my answer was helpful (assuming that it was). A comment suffices for this. Even if it turns out not to be helpful, a comment saying, "Thanks for trying, but ..." can soften the blow a bit!

To sum up so far: the bounty and the acceptance are yours to deal out as you will to whatever criteria you have chosen. So long as you are polite and explain yourself (briefly) then I certainly wouldn't get upset or feel hard-done by. (To be clear: I'm not involved in this particular question, I'm speaking hypothetically.) (Also to be clear: you shouldn't feel that you need to explain yourself if you think it's clear already why you are awarding things the way you are.)

So what would I do?

I think that the acceptance should go to the answer that is most complete. If one of the answers provides code that can be cut-and-pasted into a document then that should be the accepted answer. Although accepting an answer is meant to be a personal matter, when divided (like this) it can help to think what would be most useful for someone else who had the same question.

I think that the bounty should go to the answer that shows the most "inspiration". It is often the first idea that is the hardest to come up with. Once that's in place, the rest is just "grunt work".

But, to conclude, the disposition is yours and you should not feel obligated to act one way or another. If you leave comments saying, "This answer helped a lot but I'm giving the bounty to the other because ..." then I think you'll find that others will see that and vote for that answer as well so in terms of reputation and acclamation, it's not something to worry about.

(And in case it's not clear, I'm agreeing with Martin Tapankov but in a long-winded way.)

  • Ad 1: I think many people here see bounties as sort of a challenge marker that marks questions that are solvable but require some non-trivial ideas. – Caramdir Sep 16 '11 at 18:10

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