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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?


Aside:

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.

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Mods get to use the site just like any user, with the exception of non-binding hold votes (and certain flags). (Of course, you're only supposed to vote to put a question on hold if you're sure, so whether or not your vote is binding shouldn't matter.)

In other words, as long as a bounty isn't being used to abuse users/viewers/the system (preventing closure, transferring rep between sock puppets, etc.) then it's allowed, whether it comes from a mod or not.

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    Thank you! This is a very helpful way for me to think about it. In my mind, I give more weight to certain actions when they come from mods, but maybe that's not right. For example, if I'm not sure whether a given question is off-topic, & I saw a comment from a mod saying the question is off-topic, then I might give that comment more weight than if it came from a different user. I wasn't sure if bounties by mods were similar & held different status--it seems like they don't. It also sounds like bounties rewarding a particular user's annual contribution is well within the purpose of bounties. – jdjazz Jan 5 '18 at 21:16
  • It can definitely be hard to avoid thinking that when seeing the diamond, but unfortunately we can't configure whether that's shown on a particular comment (unlike how Reddit admins can post without their mod highlighting, for example). And ideally the user would select one of the user's best posts to reward an annual contribution, but yep it's within the purpose. – Matthew Read Jan 5 '18 at 23:23
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I've done this since 2014 which was before I was elected a mod. I'm a user of this site like anyone else and I enjoy reading good answers as much as like participating in the site. This is a way I like to give back to the site at the end of the year regardless of whether I'm a mod or not.

The bounty message is also not seen after the bounty is awarded nor the person who gave the bounty only the answer that received the bounty. So after this week the only thing you'll see on that question is the awarded bounty. The only way you can still see who gave out the bounty is look in that user's profile to see what bounties someone gave to which questions.

There are also other sites that do official awards and this one is very unofficial.

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Although mods are supposed to do 'as little as possible' when it comes to interventions, they are also supposed to engage in community building and driving the success of the site. So from that point of view, rewarding users (especially newish users who represent the growth of the site) could be seen as a good thing.

Having said that, I don't think I'd really want to get a personal points 'thank you' from a particular user for any other reason than giving a good answer to a particular question. Humans being what they are, I might feel somehow indebted to that particular user - and that could be unhelpful on a site where people are supposed to be assessing each other's questions, answers, and actions on their particular merits.

It's also arguably slightly unhelpful given that stack exchange holds moderator elections from time to time. Being friendly is good, but having that friendliness cross into influencing site actions perhaps isn't so good. Music.SE has many wonderful things about it, but it's been observed by a number of users that it can seem like a bit of a cliquey friends' club; again, being friendly is great, but there shouldn't be any feeling that that friendliness applies only to a certain subset of users.

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    Agreed. That said, some sites do run seasonal competitions, announcing a target (e.g. Highest votes, or upvote posts on particular tag etc) and then mods and high rep users donate rep in the form of bounties. Travel and Mechanics have both done this well. I think your concerns are valid, though, around it needing to avoid being a "club" – Doktor Mayhem Dec 26 '17 at 11:43
  • @DrMayhem, in these seasonal competitions run by mods, do you think it's important for there to be a "target"? Would it be acceptable for the criteria to be partially vague or unknown to users? – jdjazz Dec 29 '17 at 20:52
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    Personally, I think it might encourage people more if they know there is a competition, rather than a surprise award to an individual - mostly down to visibility, but in terms of what bounties can be awarded for: well, anything really. – Doktor Mayhem Dec 29 '17 at 22:00

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