I found general consensus in the Code Golf chat that unchallenging questions are detrimental to the site. If this is incorrect, stop reading and provide a voice for the worth of such questions. If the goal is to eliminate them, a mechanism for scoring difficulty seems necessary. I would like to propose such a system.

This was brought up in 2011, but an answer was never accepted and I am not satisfied with the conclusion of the highest voted answer that a subjective scoring system is a bad one. Keep reading to find out why.

Who Assigns Difficulty

The beauty of StackExchange is that much of the heavy lifting moderation is crowdsourced. I think users above a low minimum rep (equal to what is required to flag or vote to close) should be able to assign a difficulty level to questions. If the average difficulty as voted falls below a minimum, the question is not challenging enough for the masses.

If only high rep users are relied on to review difficulty, then we will have introduced another burden to a small group of users. I have faith that 10 below-average users can assign a quality score, even if the individuals themselves would otherwise assign poor scores.

What Scale Do We Use

I think it will ultimately boil down to an subjective description, which have been tried and true for grading the writing portions of standardized tests in the real world. For example, it could look like this:

  • Par 3
    • Requires between <x> and <y> minutes of effort to complete. Could be solved by the average college freshman or sophomore. Require a minor amount of knowledge outside of programming, such as Mathematics or Science.
  • Par 5
    • Requires between <x> and <y> hours of effort to complete. Could be solved by the average professional with <z> years of experience.

I think the scale should be posted in the Help page. I'm not incredibly familiar with the site, so this may be a poor suggestion.

How Do We Assign Difficulty

A simple drop down next to a question that I can use to assign a difficulty level to a question would suffice. Perhaps even a question mark next to it with a tooltip that contains the scale. I don't know who has the power to introduce such a widget, so alternatives may be necessary. Right now, we sandpaper question in a sandbox. At the very least, I think we should start assigning difficulty scores there and graduate to a full-blown feature later.

Please don't read this post as "high-scores are better". A Par 3 is pleasant. A Par 5 can be frustrating/tedious but so satisfying. This post is meant to deal with obvious Par 0's and 1's, and leave the Par 2's in the grey area.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ These would be meta-tags which are widely discouraged over the Stack Exchange network (with occasional exceptions). I am often happy to think of CodeGolf as an exception to the rules, but not in this case. And yes, I know that you are not proposing a "tag" in the SE UI sense, but this mechanism would serve the same purpose. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 11, 2014 at 16:37
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I am a bit hesitant equalling challenging with difficulty. It is often the case that e.g. quite basic questions give rise to interesting approches - and more than once starting a exciting golf-battle for every single byte. Any often it is not obvious when the question was asked where it would end. \$\endgroup\$
    – Howard
    Mar 11, 2014 at 17:52


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