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One of the SE features I like is the notion of privileges:

Privileges control what you can do on Mathematics Educators Stack Exchange. Gain more privileges by increasing your reputation (points you receive from your fellow users for posting helpful questions and answers) https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/help/privileges

For example, if you have 500 points, then you can cast close/reopen votes. To me this is a nontrivial privilege, and one that should be earned by asking/answering good questions. 500 points means 50 up-votes on your answers or 100 up-votes on your questions or some combination of the two.

However, there is also a bounty system on SE (another feature that I like, in general) in which a user can put out a bounty of up to 500 points on a single question.

More precisely, one user can use the bounty system to bestow the privilege of casting close/reopen votes on another based upon a single response. For a recently opened site like MESE, it also gives the impression that the bounty-recipient has some high level of expertise: 500 points alone would put someone at the top of page two of user reputation at the time of this posting.

Many details are omitted here, and I can see many possible lines of argument with regard to offering bounties, but here is my question: Should those offering a bounty be expected to try it first with a reasonably small number of reputation points (e.g., 50 or 100) or is it fine just to go for the max (500)?

For a more general question: What are some factors to consider when designating a bounty size?

(Please note that this meta post is motivated by the current question with a 500 point bounty, but not explicitly directed at that question. I am asking about the situation more generally.)

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is a valid probklem and especially now, when the site is forming. In an established site you need 3000 rep to cast close votes. $\endgroup$ – András Bátkai Apr 7 '14 at 6:45
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    $\begingroup$ One point to note for this bounty is that the question can only be answered well by someone experienced in secondary education. Such people are currently underrepresented. $\endgroup$ – Brian Rushton Apr 7 '14 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ @BrianRushton Noting that "answered well" can be quite subjective (perhaps even more so on MESE rather than, e.g., MSE or MO), usually the 500 rep privilege is gained after a user's many answers/questions are evaluated by many others as being "answered/asked well." The situation here is that a very strong privilege can be gained based on a single user's subjective judgment. $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Apr 7 '14 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ @BenjaminDickman Note that a user who offers a bounty has earned the reputation points that they are using for the bounty. This is what gives them the right to make the subjective judgement that you refer to. $\endgroup$ – Jim Belk Apr 7 '14 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ @BrianRushton FWIW I think, in this specific case, the bounty was well awarded. My question (what factors should be considered when designating a bounty size?) remains a concern, but I re-emphasize that I ask in generality (and not about your post in particular). $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Apr 9 '14 at 22:53
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    $\begingroup$ @BenjaminDickman I understand that, and I have to admit that I didn't realize how much a large bounty counts in beta; going by privileges, 500 points is equivalent to 3000 points in a graduated site! $\endgroup$ – Brian Rushton Apr 9 '14 at 22:55
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From each user's point of view, I think it's fine to go for the maximum allowed bounty. Having bounties increases interest in the site, and highlights good questions that could use more attention. It would also be fine to start with a +50 or +100 bounty -- this should really be up to whomever is offering it.

That being said, I think it's a good point that the maximum bounty should arguably be less on beta sites. This is perhaps the sort of issue that should be brought up on either the Area 51 Discussion Zone or Meta Stack Overflow. (I don't know if I agree that bounties on beta sites should be less, but it's certainly worth a discussion.)

But as long as the maximum bounty allowed by the website is +500, I would be against having any informal rule or community understanding that bounties should be smaller. It seems to me that such a rule would be unenforceable, and has the potential to result in a lot of unnecessary arguments. The size of a bounty should be entirely at the discretion of the user who is offering the bounty.

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  • $\begingroup$ I didn't expect anyone to declare an informal rule, but I thought this post might help shape community understanding. Observe that there have been several recent posts on meta.MESE with regard to community understanding. For example, you recently posted about how down-votes are used on meta. It's true that your post is based on SE policies, but there are still no rules to this effect; one could continue to down-vote posts simply out of disagreement. Though a rule disallowing such behavior would be unenforceable, I think a community understanding of how down-votes should be used is important. $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Apr 7 '14 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ To this end, I found your post about meta down-voting useful, even if the recommendations cannot be enforced. I hope that a post about setting bounties can follow in a similar vein. (That said: The more general question remains as to what factors ought to be considered when setting a bounty...) $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Apr 7 '14 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ @BenjaminDickman I agree that community understanding can be useful, and I think your post raises some excellent points. As a result of your post, I would personally be much more hesitant to offer a +500 bounty myself, for many of the reasons that you mentioned. At the same time, I feel strongly that the right to offer bounties should be essentially inviolate, and I'm very hesitant to exert even mild social pressure on anyone to offer bounties according to any particular rules or norms. $\endgroup$ – Jim Belk Apr 7 '14 at 21:16

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