# Difficulty rating on questions

I've noticed that some users downvote questions that seem too easy. But I believe everyone is on a different level with regards to puzzle solving and what might be too easy for some, might be enjoyable for others. So this leads to my proposed suggestion:

The feature is to have a difficulty rating on each question, perhaps a star system from 1 to 5. The rating could be set by the person posing the question (or potentially by the community through a voting system on difficulty).

Users might then be able to sort problems by difficulty level or filter the problems that match their level.

What do you people think?

Do you like the concept, do you think it could be feasible technically?

• If this is implemented, I suggest not using stars as the symbol, as those are associated with quality (or favoriteness), rather than a value-neutral scale like difficulty. – xnor Nov 9 '14 at 6:50

And who's supposed to judge the "difficulty rating" of a puzzle?

If it's the original poster of the question, that's almost certainly going to be subject to lots of bias. "Oh, I don't want beginners to see my question and annoy me with too-easy responses, so I'll just rate myself '5 stars.'" "I made this puzzle and I think it's really good, so I'll use 5 stars." "I know the answer to this puzzle; therefore, it must be very easy." (You know those puzzles where the answer is really obvious when you see it?) Etc.

A "community-judged difficulty" system has a number of problems as well. What happens before a difficulty has been decided on? How do you decide the difficulty? How do the votes work; is it just "hard" or "easy"? Or if it's 5 stars, how does that work? If the people rating it haven't solved the puzzle, how are they supposed to judge its difficulty? And when they have solved the puzzle, again, the answer seems really obvious so it must be "1 star," right?

Regardless of who chooses the rating, "difficulty" is still extremely subjective. The simple fact is that a really easy 15-minute puzzle for Person A might take hours to solve for Person B, but Person B is excellent at solving, say, Rebus puzzles, and he can breeze through those while they're extremely difficult from Person A's point of view.

Oh, and for the record, tags are an absolutely terrible system for this kind of situation. A "beginner" tag would be considered a meta tag, and from experience, those almost never work out in a beneficial way for the community. (I'm not going into more detail about this because the linked blog post explains it better than I ever could.)

• You have posed lots of questions that have many solutions but the way your post is written makes it sound as though you believe the issues you have raised are unsolvable. (1) If community votes, then before anyone has voted on difficulty, the problem will have no difficulty rating. When someone presses 5 stars, the problem will have a difficulty of 5, when someone else presses 3 stars, the difficulty will be averaged to 3. – Kenshin Nov 8 '14 at 15:28
• If posters set the difficulty, I don't think there is any logic to setting a puzzle to a difficulty level greater than what it really is. You mention they might want to scare away beginners, but if it really is an easy question I don't see why they need to. I think this particular point that you raised is definitely grasping at straws. – Kenshin Nov 8 '14 at 15:32
• I want to explain that if person A finds the puzzle easier than person B, it makes sense for A to rate the problem as easier than B rates the problem. If the majority of people are like person A, then the problem will have an easy rating. Yes person B found it difficult, but this just means that person B found an "easy" question to be difficult. It is a reflection on person B's sub par problem solving skills relative to the average, and thus person B will know in the future to click on low level difficulty problems. – Kenshin Nov 8 '14 at 15:37
• @Mew The real issue is that if we find a need for this, we're going against the fundamental purpose of Stack Exchange and need to reevaluate our question criterion instead of our question sorting method. Stack Exchange is a home for expert answers to expert questions. Classifying questions has been raised as an issue before, and there are numerous problems with it which I can go into if you'd like; but the most important one is: we shouldn't be sorting by difficulty based on the philosophy our site should strive to attain as part of the Stack Exchange network. – user20 Nov 8 '14 at 19:07
• @Emrakul One additional point. Tags have existed for that very purpose; classifying questions. We don't need garbage titles cluttering up the screen that don't really help people, especially people not from SE. – yuritsuki Nov 18 '14 at 16:28
• @thinly Tags for categorizing question difficulty would be a meta-tag; not actually describing something in the question, but describing metadata about the question. If an [easy] tag shows up, it won't live long. – user20 Nov 18 '14 at 16:29

I don't think it benefits anyone to display any 'difficulty' metric on posts whatsoever - subjective issues of what defines difficulty aside, I feel users should be driven towards puzzles that are interesting, not puzzles with a flag that makes it look as if they can solve them (or can't)

For example, if I posted a puzzle and called it 'Elephant In The Room (Very Hard)', I'd probably get more views/votes than if I just called it 'Elephant In The Room' and left it at that, regardless of the actual difficulty of the puzzle.

• It's not about upvotes personally, but I agree with your 1st P, that difficulty metrics are always artificial and vary from user to user. – yuritsuki Nov 18 '14 at 16:29

I agree with mau, we should add tags like "Simple", "Intermediate", and "Extreme"

• And what good would this do? Introduce artificial difficulties that change from user to user. So if I find a puzzle tagged as simple, but I find it extreme, do we change it to extreme? Or do we tag it simple extreme? But that doesn't make much sense. And what happens if another user runs in and finds it intermediate? See the issue now? – yuritsuki Nov 18 '14 at 16:30

Harder puzzles and cipher puzzles are beyond my reach at least currently. I would love to find easiest puzzles. And a rating scale could be highly helpful.

I would just add a new tag, "very easy". It's always difficult to estimate the difficulty of a puzzle, so the less we add the best.

• "So the less we add", so why are you adding "very easy"? That's not really "adding less", that's just "adding more filler" – yuritsuki Nov 18 '14 at 16:31
• because less does not mean nothing, I thought it was very easy. – mau Nov 18 '14 at 17:36