What is the reason to lose the reputation of a bounty when there are no eligible answers? Sounds as if it is lost for nothing. Maybe there is some logic in punishing those encouraging good answers of others, if nobody reads the questions or knows an answer? For what purpose? To award only easy questions? To avoid impossible questions?

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Possibly the bounty is not returned in order to prevent people from offering them to attract interest while having no intention of actually awarding the bounty? –  Scott H. Jan 15 '13 at 8:40
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Not an answer but it is documented: Please note that once a bounty is started, the reputation is non-refundable under any circumstances. –  cgnieder Jan 15 '13 at 10:40
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It's not lost for nothing. When you offer a bounty, it's like paying for an advertisement: You don't pay for getting answers, you pay for exposure of the question. As a side-effect, this should ensure that you put enough work into the question to make it interesting and answerable before using the "easy way" of paying for a bounty. –  Jake Jan 15 '13 at 10:44
    
@cgnieder, I know,I know ... the only question is: why? –  Fran Jan 15 '13 at 11:04
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@ScottH. But this is already prevented because you cannot cancel the bounty. So you can only accept an answer or wait to see the auto accepted answer. Right? –  Fran Jan 15 '13 at 11:18

2 Answers 2

up vote 27 down vote accepted

It's not refunded because you got the benefit that your question was visible for 7 days on the featured tab. You gave the bounty for getting attention, and you got it. It's not a payment for an answer. Even if an answerer can possibly win it.

If it would be refunded, you could keep questions featured forever, without additionally spending points, placing again and again. Now, if you would like the question to be featured for another week, you have to place a new bounty.

Getting special attention to questions should be a bit expensive so that we don't have too many, which would reduce the visibility again. For example, on a bigger site, with the current rules, there are currently 349 featured questions on stackoverflow.com.

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It's a compelling argument. I agree. –  Fran Jan 15 '13 at 20:57
    
Good points, but I can see the user's confusion. The usual usage of bounty connotes reward, and rewards aren't usually given in advance. Wikipedia notes that "By definition bounties can be retracted at any time by whomever issued them" unlike StackExchange bounties. I'm not saying we should change the name but we can try to make it more clear, perhaps by formatting on the bounty-setting form. –  Matthew Leingang Jan 23 '13 at 14:39

I think that people already answers in the comments: When you know you lose the points, you think twice before offering a bounty, and hence people know you are serious about it.

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