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This question is motivated by this example. In it, several users (including myself) posted answers, none of which were complete and satisfying. However, they did receive varying amounts of upvotes.

To stimulate a better answer, a bounty was posted. This did stimulate a nice new answer. That answer got some upvotes, but not as many as some of the previously posted answers. Whoever posted the bounty did not award it to anyone, and the time approached where it would be auto-awarded.

Specifically in order to award the bounty to the new answer, one or more users gave my answer downvotes. I'm not worried about the points (neither the bounty nor the downvotes). However this is a distortion of what votes are supposed to mean. The comments to my answer suggest that this distortion presented a moral dilemma to the downvoter(s).

This leads to two related questions:

  1. Is there some way to measure how often this happens, i.e. downvotes within the final hours of an expiring bounty that affects which answer receives the bounty?
  2. Is there some change to the bounty award mechanism that could solve or mitigate this problem? Perhaps award bounties proportional to total votes, rather than to just the highest-rated answer.
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    $\begingroup$ "Specifically in order to award the bounty to the new answer, one or more users gave […] downvotes." That doesn't make sense. Only answers posted during the bounty period are eligible for an automatic award. Well, perhaps somebody didn't know that. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Nov 5 '15 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielFischer, this is tangential; what if both answers were posted during the bounty period? The dilemma faced by the downvoters remains. $\endgroup$ – vadim123 Nov 5 '15 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Daniel: I think a lot of people don't know that. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 5 '15 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf You think there are users who don't know every little crook and nanny of how the site works? That's unpossible! $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Nov 5 '15 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Daniel: Not impossible, improbable! :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 5 '15 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ "However this is a distortion of what votes are supposed to mean." No it is not, some users generally use up and down votes to sort competing answers by perceived usefulness. See meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/10474/downvoting-to-order for detailed discussion. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 5 '15 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: And if it results in downvoting answers that might well be useful to someone with a different background, it’s vandalism – permitted by site rules and possibly even well-meant, but still vandalism. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Nov 7 '15 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott A dictionary definition of "vandalism" is "willful or malicious damage or destruction of the property of another" Personally, I fail to see what damage or destruction to somebodies property is done by the downvote in such a context. But anyway, vandalism or not, my point was not so much to promote the practice here (I do not even do this myself, at least I have no recollection of it and certainly do not with any relevant frequency), but rather to highlight that the action described in the post can and does happen also absent any bounty. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 7 '15 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ Let me add that I can see why somebody might not like the practice, but "vandalism" does not capture it in my opinion. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 7 '15 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ @quid: Knowingly downvoting a correct answer is intentional defacement. That falls within the meaning of the term. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Nov 7 '15 at 23:00
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott I don't think an answer being incorrect is the only possible reason to downvote. $\endgroup$ – Morgan Rodgers Nov 8 '15 at 7:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Morgan: I myself see no reason to downvote. If there’s something wrong with the answer, I find it much more useful (and helpful) to leave a comment. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Nov 8 '15 at 8:02
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: a negative comment forms part of a debate while an unexplained downvote is just an offensive gesture (the offence being to assume the right to denigrate the work of others without justification). $\endgroup$ – Rob Arthan Nov 8 '15 at 22:42
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    $\begingroup$ @RobArthan: I certainly agree that usually comments can be useful, however it is possible there are already comments, it is also possible some OP has a track-record of reacting badly to explanations, etc. I would also like to insist that there is in my mind a difference between "without justification" and "without providing a justification" that you somehow blur. You seem to mean the latter, but as I said there are some users that I know just do not react well to explanations; there is not much point in engaging them. Generally, a comment is for the author, a vote a sign for the readers. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 8 '15 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ @RobArthan I'd say it depends on the situation. If I see a question with two answers both no votes, and I up-vote one and down-vote the other than I do think this will influence the perception of part of subsequent readers. If my judgment was sound I'd say those readers are also helped in this way. Likewise, if I change which answer is the top-voted one this might also have some influence. Same for various related situation. By contrast, in a case were there is a unique answer with solid positive score than a single down-vote with no explication will in and by itself not have much effect. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 9 '15 at 7:17
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To stimulate a better answer, a bounty was posted. This did stimulate a nice new answer. That answer got some upvotes, but not as many as some of the previously posted answers. Whoever posted the bounty did not award it to anyone, and the time approached where it would be auto-awarded.

Bounties are the responsibility of the person posting the bounty. When you post a bounty, you are taking responsibility for judging it and awarding it appropriately. You don't get to fire and forget. Even assuming the votes correctly sort the new answers and find the one most deserving of the bounty, that answer will still only get auto-awarded half the bounty value.

The purpose of a bounty is to attract answers with some property (e.g. "I want answers that explain [X]" or "I want answers that cite sources"). If those answers go unrewarded, the natural response is to distrust the bounty poster next time they post a bounty (i.e. "Oh, this bounty was posted by that person who doesn't actually care about his/her bounties. I'll go find a different question to answer, since I'm obviously not going to get fully rewarded for this one."). In the long run, the bounty poster may find their bounties less effective.

People can vote any way they like. But the model is you upvote good answers and downvote bad answers. Downvoting a good answer because somebody else failed to responsibly award their bounty seems rather unfair to me.

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with downvoting a bad or incomplete answer even if that answer happens to be correct. A poor explanation is still unhelpful even if it is 100% true.

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  • $\begingroup$ BTW, people that puts bounties on post gets notified of every new comment and answer on the question. $\endgroup$ – Braiam Nov 18 '15 at 2:01

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