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Node difficulty level

by hagus (Monk)
on Jun 04, 2002 at 06:03 UTC ( #171415=monkdiscuss: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

hossman pointed out in this node that it would be nice to have some indicator of user experience, so that you could filter out 'newbie' questions vs. 'expert' questions. He's right about one thing - sometimes you just aren't in the mood for the really basic stuff, and other times you're willing to devote effort to them. Don't you think?

Anyway, I raise here a point for discussion (no supporting code - sorry I don't have time!). What if along with a ++ or -- rating on a node, you could also (optionally?) rate its 'difficulty'. I guess this is especially relevant for SOPW more than anything else.

Hence when you're scanning newest nodes you can select what level of question you'll tackle. It might also give some guidance to newbies about where their questions fall in the scheme of things. If you haven't read Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments, do so. Quite often a newbie (in *any* area of life) will believe their problems are serious ones, or that their knowledge is very deep. Only when they become adept enough do they realise where they truly stand on a scale with respect to their peers. Interestingly enough, the more skilled they become, the more likely they are to *under-rate* how skilled they are. So you could interpret this extra rating as a way of placing a question on a peer-reviewed scale of difficulty, as well as the scale of 'quality' we have now.

Anyway, what it all boils down to is a bit more meta information about the node. ++/-- works well, but there is scope for more sophistication (optional sophistication, of course). I would personally be willing to invest time in rating a node with slightly more granularity than offered at the moment.

Ash OS durbatulk, ash OS gimbatul,
Ash OS thrakatulk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul!
Uzg-Microsoft-ishi amal fauthut burguuli.

Comment on Node difficulty level
Re: Node difficulty level
by Aristotle (Chancellor) on Jun 04, 2002 at 08:09 UTC

    Sorting non- vs newbie questions is easy enough just judging from the title - or should be, so if it's not, then the node should be considered. At least skimming the question should immediately reveal where it's at, with very little effort. It's what I do and so far I find no problems with it. So nay from that side.

    Giving a newbie (or non-newbie..) an idea of what level of skill they're at is an interesting and valid concern though. On the other hand, although I know no specifics of how Everything works, I can tell this will be a major task to implement. I have to wonder whether the effort is worth it.

    Makeshifts last the longest.

Re: Node difficulty level
by tadman (Prior) on Jun 04, 2002 at 09:36 UTC
    Or, you could have Seekers of Perl's Ancient Secrets as an alternative.

    Seriously, though. There is not really such a thing as a "newbie" question in a general sense. Sometimes the questions they ask are about something you're unfamilar with, and you can learn. Other so-called "expert" questions can sometimes be a simple error that is easily diagnosed by a "newbie" who probably refers to the documentation that an "expert" assumes they know what it all means.

    Still, you have my vote for sections called Obfuscated Questions or Getting Started.
Re: Node difficulty level
by Ryszard (Priest) on Jun 04, 2002 at 10:31 UTC
    IMO I'm not sure this would be very workable if it was an option open to every user (ex anon).

    My thoughts are around how subjective the area of rank is. For example a newbie (as you mention) will over rate the difficulty of their own problem whereby someone with extensive experience may underrate it.

    If then there are more experienced users than inexperienced users, it may be such that it takes more and more for newbie questions to achieve higher levels of rating. Also the converse may apply.

    If, however a rating system was governed by a set of criteria, (ie questions concerning map are a level 5 rating) it becomes less subjective and more objective. The problem with this approach, is there are numerous categories, and lots of grey areas. For example "How can I use map to generate HTML tables in"

    If it was made so that only the more experienced users could apply a rating level it may be more workable, however it would create more admin work. Also given the law of diminishing returns the more difficult the questions the more difficult it may be for a higher rating given the diverse experience of even the saints on pm.

    Additionally, what would consitute each extreme of the rating system, either level 1 or level 10?

    I guess at the end of the day its only a "guide", but even so, such a rating system may lead someone to miss a node they may normally read, and visa-versa.

    ++ for the idea and debate, but if it was put to the vote I would -- it.

by hagus (Monk) on Jun 04, 2002 at 12:03 UTC
    Hi guys,

    Just some additions to what I wrote, in light of many useful comments ...

    Screamer suggested that you can determine the 'newbieness' of a question simply via it's title. That's valid in many cases, but certainly not all. I would think that the difficulty of the Perl involved would only become apparent with a full reading of the question. Eg. if I titled a question "what is map doing?", maybe it would be a simple case of me not knowing how to use map, or maybe it would be me delving into the perl source code trying to ascertain why an esoteric use of map doesn't behave as expected.

    tadman & Ryszard both suggested that ratings may not be entirely accurate for various reasons. Well I would that if ratings are inaccurate then the whole voting system is likely to be inaccurate, for the very same reasons. When you have someone vote on the quality of a post, how is that different from them commenting on its difficulty? The fact that we allow any moderation at all is alreading admitting the possibility of misvoting.

    And I would also suggest that the kind of people who go to the effort of moderating and raising themselves through the ranks should be allowed to participate even if they're sometimes off the target. The real dumbos (if you'll excuse my pejorative) aren't likely to be deeply involved in the voting system, and hence won't pollute it.

    Since difficulty is a subjective concept anyway, the best way to determine it is by voting! If more perl monks think it's a difficult question, then so be it. Perhaps it could be skewed somewhat by giving higher ranked monks more powerful votes on the difficulty (what about this for the standard voting system as well ?!)

    Ryszard also raised the issue of more admin work. This is a valid point - it is more work. But how much more? Selecting a value from a drop down along with either ++/-- is not that bad to me - especially since that activity will probably take far less time than it took to read the node!

    I do believe that *some* attempt to categorise questions in this fashion will yield a positive outcome overall. If someone can suggest another rating category aside from 'difficulty', then please do. I'm sure other meta-information about nodes would be just as valid to include as difficulty (or as something to replace difficulty entirely).

    ANYWAY! It's all thoughts just thrown up in the air. So chew it up and spit it out if that is your fancy, but hopefully the seed of new ideas might be triggered in people's heads, and that would make any lost XP worthwhile :)

    Disclaimer: I have had several glasses of red wine. I cannot held be reshponsible for any shpelling stuff.

    Ash OS durbatulk, ash OS gimbatul,
    Ash OS thrakatulk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul!
    Uzg-Microsoft-ishi amal fauthut burguuli.

      I do believe that *some* attempt to categorise questions in this fashion will yield a positive outcome overall. If someone can suggest another rating category aside from 'difficulty', then please do.


      Please accept this input (from a newbie) as a genuine attempt to provide positive feedback; I am in no way trying to accumulate xp.

      In fact, I feel pretty embarrassed, at the way my posts have accumulated positive votes; especially as I have not posted any useful code at the monastery as yet.

      My suggestion is that the wise Monks consider some kind of 'voluntary' type rating system; this could be a separate category; it could possibly be included as part of the tutorial section.

      The users themselves, based on guidelines, would select their 'skill level' ratings. This skill level would be based on voluntary 'self marked tests' or knowledge guidelines, that the users would participate in.

      Some "checks" would have to be put in place, to prevent a user assigning themselves a higher rating that what they deserved, and abusing the system.

      This would allow advancement in the Monastery, based on, Perl knowledge, as well as user participation and xp.

      It may be possible to set this up so that the ongoing admin work would be minimal; it would probably be major work to first set up.

      Perl 'knowledge level' could show up on a button, on all post made.

      Skilled Perl practioners, who are NEW to the Monastry would be able to assign themselves to a skill level, when first joining the Monastry.


      The dogs bark; but the caravan rolls on.
          The users themselves, based on guidelines, would select their 'skill level' ratings. This skill level would be based on voluntary 'self marked tests' or knowledge guidelines, that the users would participate in.

        It occurs to me that The Seven Stages of a Perl Programmer would make easily recognized skill ratings, and amuse people.

        (Perl adept, working on hacker)

        The hell with paco, vote for Erudil!
        /msg me if you downvote this node, please.

Re: Node difficulty level
by Marza (Vicar) on Jun 04, 2002 at 19:51 UTC

    A nice idea but I don't know if it would work. In a "perfect" world, people would think "Hey this is really slick, I'll give it a 10!" However, the world is far from perfect and even farther are the people.

    The rating system would probably get abused. There are people here that would down rate anything that they perceived as being a waste of their time. There are people that would downrate because they think that person is a complete moron. Heck some people would even downrate stuff because it is an area they don't like(unix vs pc for example).

    How many times have you seen people post something silly or argumentative and get blasted?

    If rating was to get installed, I would think it would be a "balanced" group of people that would vote the ratings rather than the open community.

    Some questions might be a waste of somebodies time but to a bunch of noobs, the information is priceless.

    So ++ for the idea but I would probably -- the vote as I think it would only create more elitism then solve a problem.

Re: Node difficulty level
by BUU (Prior) on Jun 05, 2002 at 02:23 UTC
    ++tadman, what is an 'expert question' but one that you dont know the answer to? And a newbie question is an 'easy' question b/c youve done it so many times you know it by heart. Im sure there are many examples, such as the realms of cgi vs other 'specializations'
      As to what an "expert" question is versus a "newbie" question?

      I'd define "newbie" question as relating to something that is part of the core Perl language, or a popular library set. The area is well travelled by many, and understood, at least superficially, by most. Still, there are occasions where a "newbie" has wandered off this golden path and into some giant ball of snakes, which might be a bug, an unsual application of a feature, or something of that nature. Even "experts" might be a little surprised by the answer.

      An "expert" question can be one relating to an obscure module, something really "core", or an advanced programming concept that most don't necessarily even consider workable. While everyone who uses Perl is likely to use a regex, an array, and a hash at least once, not everyone is going to write their own DBD driver, or neural network engine. Still, there are opportunities for a "newbie", someone without any particular prejudice against using certain techniques, may actually help the "expert" by providing fresh insight, or actually doing the job of RTFM.

      It is the "intermediate" people that know the rules and try and stick to them while they learn the ropes. The "newbie" has no concept of the rules, and so, has no idea how to adhere to them. The "expert", likewise, knows exactly what the rules are, and can use that to their advantage. This is yet another similarity between the "expert" and the "newbie".

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