Is it appropriate for a moderator to publicly praise a specific user and award the maximum bounty as a thanks/prize for their contributions to the site over the year?
There are certainly some benefits:
- This is obviously done from an extremely kind and heartfelt place, which I admire. The moderators are compassionate people who care about maintaining a high quality of the site. They have a tough job filled with lots of negative interactions for which they receive very little (or no) thanks. Having a little positive interaction keeps them going through the tougher parts of the job, and we owe them a big thanks, as the site wouldn't run the same way without them. (Thanks mods!!!)
- The site has no "examples" page with exemplary answers, so highlighting one answer in particular can help other users learn how to write exceptional posts.
- Offering rewards for super-users keeps the high-quality users motivated to continue using the site.
A possible issue might be that bounties seem to be intended for single questions/answers. When a moderator uses one to say "thanks for your work over the year" and assigns the bounty the max point value (500 pts), he/she appears to be extending the site's pre-created bounty function and effectively creating a secondary purpose: awarding users who do good work over a sustained period. We could imagine an extreme scenario where a moderator creates his/her own annual year-end award/prize, based on his/her own criteria. Would this extreme case be appropriate? Is a single bounty saying "thanks for all of your great posts over the year" appropriate? If I'm wrong about the site's intended use of bounties, please let me know--that would answer this question very quickly.
The site's philosophy is that moderators do "as little as possible". Does this agree with mods picking users to win large bounties as a special reward for their annual contributions? In general, where does proactive encouragement fit within the Music.SE mod philosophy?
Many will recognize that a specific example exists which triggered this question in my mind, but I don't want to ask about that specific example. In that particular case, I think the answer that will receive the bounty is extremely worthy and I upvoted that answer myself. This really is a general question about the role of moderators in proactively encouraging certain users as a thanks for their extended efforts. This is not a question about that case. This is not an attack on the mods in general, any mod in particular, any user, etc. There are many deserving users who work very hard to make this site awesome, just as all of our faithful mods do.