Worldbuilding is a unique SE site in that, users often spend as much, if not more time, to craft and moderate questions than answers.

A person that asks the question has to do research, formatting, moderating, answering comments and questions, and editing the question for clarifications.

Making a good, enjoyable, and clear question is difficult, and a lot of work. As a moderately experienced site user, I still have trouble every time I ask and maintain a new question! I'm not sure it's just an experience issue, either, as I've seen many users in the 40-100ks similarly struggling to evolve and maintain their questions.

The part that concerns me about this, however, is not just our moderately experienced users. It is the new users.

I'm not sure if any of you feel the same way, but I feel genuine pain when I see another new hours-old user who has spent hours of hard work researching, calculating, and formatting a question, end up with many downvotes and getting their question closed due to some potentially easy-to-fix mistake such as formatting/editing their question to meet our guidelines. To add salt to the wound, sometimes the answers for those questions are actually frame challenges, and have 3-10x the number of upvotes as the question itself. Ouch.

In these cases, I wouldn't be surprised if some of these new users never ask a question again. In my own case, the only reason I kept writing questions after multiple badly-written closed questions was because of the guidance of a few helpful old-hands of the site (Kudos to you!).

Usually when I see cases like this, and the question is either salvageable, has actually put in effort, or has a fun idea with great potential, I will upvote and leave a comment with the necessary resources to fix their question. Maybe follow it and case a re-open vote once they've fixed it up, but this is the most I can do.

Is there a reason we can't offer up bounties to the question askers, instead of just answers, as a form of encouragement or appreciation?

I feel that something heftier might give some new users the push they need to continue writing excellent questions for our SE. I want to be able to give bounties to users that spend the time and effort to fix their closed or downvoted question. Other times, some questions are inspiring and very crafty, bringing me a lot of enjoyment as well.

I understand if this is something limited by Stackexchange, but for our Worldbuilding SE, where questions often require high maintenance to evolve and keep at a high standard, I feel that bounties for questions might actually make sense.

Relevant topic from Meta with a lot of support:

Bounty-like facility for rewarding excellent questions

Some great points from it:

  • This feature request should be revisited now that there are a couple of SE sites (Code Golf and Puzzling) where being able to give a bounty to an excellent question would be a nice feature.
  • Jaydles acknowledged that on certain sites the questions actually provide more value than the answers

I do agree with the underlying premise here: On many of our smaller sites, good questions are the single most important bottleneck to growing stronger communities. And on a few more specialized sites, like Code Golf, questions actually take more work, and the askers are generating more value for the answerers than vice versa, which is the opposite of the norm.

  • So I think that since questions seem to generally get fewer upvotes than answers (as well as those upvotes being worth half as much as answer upvotes), there should be ways to award exemplary questions.
  • I think this suggestion might be particularly valuable for recognizing great questions in less-popular niche topics.
  • The problem with offering bounties on questions is it doesn't encourage any behavior from other users.
  • but it allows a reward for examplary behavior. It provides acknowledgement and attention to exemplary questions, which is currently possible only via question upvotes - a system which is far from thorough. We always want to encourage writing great questions

Another source about the importance of awarding questions similarly to answers: blog post about the change to increase question upvotes from 5 back to the original 10

Particularly interesting points:

When Stack Overflow launched in 2008, we gave equal points to upvotes on answers and questions. Three years later, a decision was made to devalue upvote reputation on questions. The idea was that this change would encourage people to focus on providing good quality answers rather than asking questions.

We can look back on this decision with the benefit of hindsight. This decision may have been the right call then with the information we had at the time, but we have seen the effects it has had on our community. We reward people who give answers at a higher rate than people that ask questions.

As a long time Stack Overflow community member I know, like many of you, that posting a good question is difficult! It requires thoughtfulness and an attention to how to best convey the issue you are having.

We believe that both question askers and answerers are a vital part of our ecosystem. We appreciate how much they have done to make this the largest store of technical Q&A in history, and we want to thank them for every contribution going back to the beginning of the site.


3 Answers 3


In the stack exchange model "questions are merely the sand that forms the pearl " of a quality answer.

Incoming questions are a universal constant, all around us in countless billions. But answers — truly brilliant, amazing, correct answers — are as rare as pearls. Thus, questions are merely the sand that produces the pearl. If we have learned anything in the last three years, it is that you optimize for pearls, not sand.

We feel that the world is awash in questions, but not answers. Answers are the real unit of work in any Q&A; system. Therefore, the only logical thing to do is to maximize the happiness and enjoyment of answerers. If this means aggressively downvoting or closing unworthy and uninteresting questions, so be it. Without a community of people willing to answer questions, it really doesn’t matter if there are questions at all, does it?

You can see this philosophy everywhere in the design.

  • Common VTC reasons. Every site closes questions that are unclear, too broad, too opinion based, off topic or duplicates, with the option to add additional custom close reasons as needed.
  • It costs reputation to downvote answers, but downvoting questions is free.
  • Strict requirements on what questions are permitted on s site, while the only requirements for answers are to answer the question, and be nice.
  • The ability for the community to close questions at 3000 rep, while deleting an answer requires users with at least 10000 rep, and scales with the popularity of the post.
  • For a long time upvotes on questions netted you half the reputation of an upvote on an answer.

Let's look at how bounties are described in the help center.

If you’ve asked a good question, edited it with status and progress updates, and still are not receiving answers, you can draw attention to your question by placing a bounty on it.

Their intent is to attract good answers to a question. A gift of reputation to someone who asks a question will not attract better answers.

What you're describing is not a bounty. A bounty is an incentive for some future behavior. What you're describing is a mechanism to reward users who ask good questions. It would need to be implemented across all of Stack Exchange. This has already been discussed on meta.se and rejected.

Ultimately, questions just aren't worthy of bounties. They're questions. They don't provide any factual information that would help others in the future. They're merely details to help others answer the question and a path for other users to find those provided answers, which are actually what helps them. This not-as-importance is already expressed by the half-gain of reputation on questions.

  • $\begingroup$ I see. If that is the case, I can kind of understand why it feels like most long-term users don't like asking questions then. This kind of strategy makes obvious sense in stackoverflow, which is populated with spam, but I'm just not sure this is the kind of strategy we want on worldbuilding, which only has a very small dedicated community of people (<1000), and very little population growth... $\endgroup$
    – Enthu5ed
    Sep 12, 2022 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ The phrase you reference from SE that 'questions are only the sand that forms the pearl of a quality answer' is also in itself thoroughly discouraging. How can we expect people to stick around worldbuilding, where hot network questions take hours just to maintain, but they're just treated as the sand so someone's answer could become the oyster? $\endgroup$
    – Enthu5ed
    Sep 12, 2022 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Enthu5ed We do not want questions if they're not a good fit for this site. That's the entire purpose behind empowering the community to VTC questions. We want those questions closed as fast as possible, until they're suitable for this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Sep 12, 2022 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not referring to closed questions, just the disappointing emphasis on answers. You've answered my question just fine, I'm just disappointed that people that spend the effort writing good questions in the worldbuilding stackexchange will ultimately never stick around in this system. I bet if we use the sql to extract what percentage of higher-rep users (>2000) actually ask questions, we'd come to an unsurprising conclusion. $\endgroup$
    – Enthu5ed
    Sep 12, 2022 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ In our tour we promise this structure to every new user of this site. We're very clear that we're opinionated, and that questions must be written in the right way to be suitable. Removing this structure, would remove what makes this site unique from many other more permissive QA sites. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Sep 12, 2022 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ I understand. All I'm saying is that keeping the same structure as something like StackOverflow, for such a small community focused on spending high effort on every question, is not sustainable. Nobody new wants to stick around, and nobody established wants to deal with the pain. Again, just want to clarify that I'm not being argumentative, just sad that a great resource like worldbuilding has its path to growth sealed off. Thanks for providing some of these answers. $\endgroup$
    – Enthu5ed
    Sep 12, 2022 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ If you're just here to ask questions, hopefully your questions are answered and you can go on with whatever you were doing before you needed help building your world, writing, DMing, creating art, or whatever else inspired your question. Hopefully you'll be able to search through our archive of questions to find an answer to a query without needing to ask a new question at all. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Sep 12, 2022 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ not exactly... I ask questions on the site because I want to interact with the community. I don't do this out of some other purpose. This is why understanding exactly what SE espouses hits me so hard. Is it really worth putting in all this effort to ask questions and interacting if every question has to have 3-7 internal-consistency experts that don't read your question, only to get a few frame-challenges and three duplicate answers? Idk. I really don't. I'll probably stick around for one or two more weeks more, and then see.. $\endgroup$
    – Enthu5ed
    Sep 12, 2022 at 18:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Enthu5ed It's been working on this site since 2014. We're not a forum. To quote from the tour "Ask questions, get answers, no distractions". There should be minimal interaction, outside what is necessary to request clarification and suggest improvements. I suspect that the interactions you're describing are explicitly prohibited by our comment policy. Note again how we lack a lot of features to enable more sociable interactions. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Sep 12, 2022 at 18:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ that may be true. Perhaps it's been because I've been responding to comments that are prohibited by the comment policy (answers in the comments, primarily). I suppose a good start is to ignore and flag them instead of responding. Answers in the comments are probably the biggest waste of time I've had to deal with on the site. $\endgroup$
    – Enthu5ed
    Sep 12, 2022 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ someone shared this topic with a lot of relevant opinions: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135469/…. Interestingly, there is a general consensus that good questions are also important, especially for niche communities like Worldbuilding. Feels to me like not every stackoverflow-centric guideline is the right fit for Worldbuilding, especially with users having completely different goals in mind. I'll keep it in mind while flagging unhelpful flags, and maybe share this strategy with other question-askers as well. $\endgroup$
    – Enthu5ed
    Sep 13, 2022 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Enthu5ed If you look you'll see that the question has been tagged [status-declined]. Stack Exchange's response (which I linked to in my answer) explains why they declined the proposal. While people may disagree, this feature has been considered and rejected by Stack Exchange. More recent attempts to propose similar features have been closed as duplicates. This feature runs against the goals of the SE model and will not be implemented. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Sep 13, 2022 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ I understand. The feature has been declined, but there is enough support to show that other methods may be implemented. After all, you may find interesting opinions in this blog post about how the points we get from questions has increased from 5 to 10. I'm sure they'll continue to roll out new features to make it less painful for new users to ask questions. $\endgroup$
    – Enthu5ed
    Sep 13, 2022 at 18:21

Love your idea, impossible to implement

Bounties are part of Stack Exchange. What you're proposing would be a network-wide change. Based on my own experience over on Meta.stackexchange.com, this won't fly at all.

But your idea is also unrealistic

We have a number of behaviors here that get in the way of new user enjoyment.

  1. We're not fans of people who break the "mindless social fun" prohibition in the Help Center. There are plenty of people who use this Stack and have fun using it, but pretty much everyone who's just here to be here ends up causing us more problems than they solve.

  2. We have a policy asserting that changes to questions that invalidate answers are verboten. I personally disagree with this policy which is contrary to SE's encouragement to edit questions to make them better. But, there it is. Combine this with...

  3. We have a fair number of users on this Stack who will answer anything as quickly as they come across the question. Which means it doesn't matter at all how much time we try to give new users, for all practical purposes, they're in the deep end of the pool from the moment they step in.

Is this fair? No. Can we do anything about it? No. Is it bad that we can't?


Everyone here gets the truth that down voting and closing questions will always be taken personally, always hurt, and always turn people away. But they have a purpose. They are both the most effective and the fastest way to help the new user become more proficient.

Closing the question and closing it quickly is the only possible way to help improve a question before that first answer is posted and it's no longer possible to significantly improve the question. One suggestion I heard that's better than yours is imposing a no-answer time period allowing us to help new users improve questions before answers roll in. (a) Network wide solutions accommodating the unique needs of Worldbuilding won't fly. (b) Hoping we'll all choose to abide by such a rule is grossly unrealistic. (c) People have a nasty habit of answering in comments. And (d) It's not our software. It's Stack Exchange's software. Sometimes it's our job to meet their expectations.

The down votes indicate that all that research you're talking about in your post, above, didn't actually happen. Frankly, I dispute the blanket statement, "who has spent hours of hard work researching, calculating, and formatting a question." I've been on this stack too long to believe that statement represents more than 1% of new users. New users who meet that definition are celebrated! Lauded! Congratulated!

  • Most new users don't do any research. I've closed questions with the results of a ten-second Google search showing them the answer.

  • Most new users don't calculate anything. This is just a specialized case of the previous bullet. I can't count the number of times a poorly developed question came in tagged "Hard Science." Or, worse, tagged both "Science Based" and "Science Fiction" because your hard-working new users didn't bother reading the tag wikis.

  • And just an hour or two ago I reformatted yet another new user's wall-of-text question.

I sincerely appreciate the plight of new users. Not surprisingly, I was once a new user myself on this and a number of other Stacks. Like most new users, I didn't take the tour seriously and didn't read the Help Centers of any of the Stacks. I learned the hard way by being told I did things wrong and having my questions down voted and closed.

I also lived through it. Every stack has its own culture and with rare exception that culture has been built up over years of experience. Nothing is stopping new users from carefully reading through the Tour or carefully reading through the Help Center before asking their first question.

But they often don't.

In Real Life when you break the rules, you go to jail

We have rules. We try to work with new users, but I've had new users argue with me over the improvement changes I made. I've been ignored. I've dealt with new users who wrote their questions then went to bed and got online 12-14 hours later to a closed question and twenty comments begging for clarifications. I've given short improvement suggestions and lengthy improvement suggestions. I've pointed out rules including links to the Help Center only to have new users argue with me over why the rules shouldn't apply to them. I've had new users look me straight in the proverbial eye and tell me their crappy question met every rule and expectation. I've explained what they should have done in answers or pointed out the assumptions I had to make because they didn't provide details. I've even had new users complain that they intentionally didn't and wouldn't provide details because they were looking for a larger array of answers (violating the brainstorming/open-ended rules). And I've dealt with new users who didn't want a question answered, they wanted a discussion.

I wish all new users invested the hours you think they do creating new questions. Most don't.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree, something I also forgot to consider is moderator time involvement as well. It takes a lot of effort to educate new (and existing!) users on how worldbuilding questions should be formatted. I like your mention of a pre-answer period as well, but feel it probably won’t work for bigger SEs like stackoverflow. I feel the sandbox has a lot of potential as an alternative, but not sure if it could support every new user. Thanks for sharing your views :) $\endgroup$
    – Enthu5ed
    Sep 21, 2022 at 22:36

The incentive for posting a quality question is actually receiving answers

I'll grant that it can be a lot of work to craft a good question, although in my experience that's just as true on most other SE sites.

So why go to the effort? Because it is the only way to get answers.

If your question is garbage, it will get down-voted, or even deleted. It will not attract answers, or will attract only frame-challenges and unhelpful garbage answers. It will almost certainly attract critical comments. Nothing good will come your way, that's for sure.

The high cost of putting together a decent question means that I only bother with it when I really need an answer. One consequence is that this community is spared having to deal with a bunch of my half-baked musings that I'd post only as thinly-veiled grabs for sweet internet points. omg i ♥ internet points gimme gimme I suspect my experience is not unique.

Really, the core StackExchange mechanic provides the incentive: you can get other smart and creative folks to solve your problem for you, but only if you prepare it to their liking.

In light of this, adding an extra incentive for crafting a good question seems like giving somebody an award for receiving an award. We might as well suggest making every question-upvote grant 20 points instead of 10. I think that's equally unnecessary, but it would at least be simpler than inventing some kind of bounty-adjacent mechanic. I generally have a very dim view of any proposal to heap favors upon the already-favored.

"Not getting enough points for asking a good question" is only an issue for people whose goal is to farm points. I'd wager that in every case, the person who receives a satisfactory answer and clicks the green check mark leaves more than a little pleased with their experience here.


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