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Rate questions' difficulty by votes, and distribute rep based on that
How about a difficulty rating for questions?

Answers to "hard" questions are awarded more

I suggest that users can rate the question as "hard" in their opinion, as they can upvote it now. If somebody answers such question, they get some minor extra reputation for every "hard question" vote. That would have some positive effects:

  1. it would probably help to eliminate number of unanswered question (and/or perhaps the time in which harder question gets answered). That is because extra reputation bonus would mean some extra motivation to answer harder question.
  2. some users now focus on answering quickly (and clearly to be fair to them) a lot of simple question. They earn A LOT OF reputation. Thats because a lot of other people read such question and they would upvote good answer. That is right but those easy question would be answered anyway, maybe few minutes later. I think SO users that really earn they reputation are those who answer questions that nobody else can answer. They don;t really get much reputation for that. Those answers are usually long and hard to read, not many people read it and they do not get upvoted. My suggestion would make the reputation system little more balanced and more fair in my opinion.
  3. there could be a "hard questions" list than, I guess I would become interesting learning resource even for SO users with high reputation. That is in line with claimed SO's "we believe in learning".
  4. as a result more balanced rep. system and more answered question would make SO even more popular and more used and more awesome - again learning is profit.

New users don't need it and should not be allowed to use it

I suggest that the option to mark question "hard" would be available only for users with certain reputation (lets say 400). The "hard question" control would not be visible to users with less reputation. That is for this reasons:

  • new users need simple interface with just basic options. The difference between upvote and "hard question" may not be clear to them. Once they learn how to use basic SO features and how to use them they are ready for more.
  • users with lower rep. are less trusted to be able to judge if the question is hard. That is just another application of basic SO (and wiki) principle.


Some have pointed that bounty is intended to do the same think that I suggest. They have a point - bounty is intended to eliminate number of unanswered question. That is my point 1. I stil think that "hard question" would even better then bounty to eliminate unanswered questions mainly because there would be no need to spend reputation.

But is not covered by bounty is 2. ! Bounty does not make reputation system more fair.

I suggest this empirical proof: Read some random accepted answers of top reputation users in your favorite tags (so that you are probably good in that field). Count how many of them you would consider really hard ? I counted 4 from 21 answers. Some 10 answers I would be able to answer myself with no or little web seach. But majority of them are upvoted really high! I get impression that the more basic question the more upvotes.

Now if I do the same think with random accepted questions from same tags that has less the 4 upvotes I get oposit score - most of I either don't even understand or consider really hard.

This question was asked because of observation: I have asked quite some questions during last year at SO. After some experiences I was quite ashamed every time I got perfect answer to my question from somebody with rep. 100k+ I knew than that it was really easy so I should know without asking. My really hard questions that took days and a lot of comments, edits and text to answers got accepted answers from users with no special reputation.

Is this really fair to those hard working people ?

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marked as duplicate by Shog9, random Mar 16 '11 at 2:52

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

(Response to title) This is basically what a bounty is. –  jjnguy Mar 15 '11 at 16:01
see also meta.stackexchange.com/questions/78568/new-badge-hard-question/… (not sure if that qualifies as a dup or not?) –  Spudley Mar 15 '11 at 16:05
A bad idea for all the reasons noted in previous discussions. Difficulty is a relative value. –  Shog9 Mar 15 '11 at 17:11
@Shog9: I expected this reaction. I consider it to be no argument at all! SO is based on relative values as any comunity. Upvotes are relative. Whole reputation system is relative. –  drasto Mar 15 '11 at 20:09
This makes sense, because the questions that are easiest to answer seem to garner the most votes. It would be nice if the harder, more obscure questions could be worth more. –  Gabe Mar 15 '11 at 20:23
@drasto: so why do we need another relative score then? relative + relative*.1 still == relative... –  Shog9 Mar 15 '11 at 20:37
@Gabe: you might as well say, "It would be nice if The Art of Computer Programming sold as well as For Dummies" and then go on to suggest that books be priced on a logarithmic scale relative to how hard they are to read. –  Shog9 Mar 15 '11 at 20:42
@Shog9: In college, the courses that were more work were worth more credit hours. On tests, simple answers to trivia questions were worth less than essay questions. It doesn't seem unreasonable to extend that model to SO. –  Gabe Mar 15 '11 at 21:37
@Gabe: there's no college board writing and rating questions. Just folks like us. If it'd been up to me, I'd have given myself a lot more credits for the one writing course that sucked away at my time than anything else... Again, hard is in the eye of the beholder. For all you know, the questions you knock as easy and over-rated are the ones keeping the most coders up at night. –  Shog9 Mar 15 '11 at 23:44
@Shog9 I never said that it should not be relative. It must be... You said that there is something wrong with "hard question" being relative so I argued thet rating is also. Well the difference would that while both are relative they would use different criteria that users should consider before voting. So relative+relative=still relative but better split, more fair –  drasto Mar 16 '11 at 6:34
@drasto: you're assuming they would use separate criteria. This also assumes there's fixed criteria at work in the current voting system. But folks vote for all sorts of reasons. Furthermore, the site doesn't even encourage users to vote for things they think are clever, or difficult... The suggested criteria are simply, "Is this useful" and "Is this not useful". Which should at least hint to you that perhaps fiendishly difficult but useless questions aren't really what the site is aiming for in the first place. –  Shog9 Mar 16 '11 at 15:26
@Shog9 - sorry, I did not really want to suggest that there are any criteria for voting now. Current voting criteria is are clearly subjective - you upvote something and the criteria where up to you (it might have been difficulty of question as well). I suggest alternative voting system that consist from 2 parts: 1) current rating system where the criteria are your choice 2) difficulty voting where criteria is given to be difficulty. Now-days people do not choose question difficulty as criteria for upvoting very often. That has consequences mentioned in my edit. –  drasto Mar 17 '11 at 0:16
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3 Answers

I really think this idea is far too subjective to be used effectively. Some would argue that they only ask hard questions, which would lead to users abusing the feature intentionally or unintentionally and ultimately diluting the pool of 'hard' questions. The bounty system already handles the supposed issue this attempts to address; if people want an answer to a question and they aren't getting, then they can put a bounty on the question to draw attention.

There's really no practical value gained by adding a mostly arbitrary 'hard question' feature.

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Upvotes are even more subjective as there are no exact criteria to for what should be upvoted and they are used effectively. This attempts to address other issues as well (mainly 2.) Bounty system does very little to solve that - bounty rep. is nothing comparing to what some users get from upvotes. See my edit to original answer. –  drasto Mar 16 '11 at 6:49
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As CanSpice mentioned, the bounty system helps take care of the "better" hard questions.

However, some questions don't have answers because the question is poor or there is not a real solution to a problem. Marking those items as hard won't really help. Although I do understand and agree with the root issue you present.

Comments based on question edit: The reason easy questions get more up-votes is that easy questions provide a greater benefit since more people have the opportunity to make use of them. More people look at the question and therefore up-vote. Also, bounties do use some reputation, however, because a question gets many more views when it has a bounty, the questioner or answerer end up getting more votes and might make up any losses.

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There's also the point that nearly every question is "hard", according to the questioner. If it weren't hard for the questioner to answer, they probably wouldn't be asking the question. –  CanSpice Mar 15 '11 at 16:15
Getting an answer to a "there is no real solution" question that documents how there's no real solution is very valuable. It saves lots more time than a "here's how you do it" answer since there's no upper bound on how long somebody can keep looking for one. It is however the kind of answer that doesn't get upvoted at SO. And only reluctantly accepted. People just leave a comment. Tough to fix, maybe it doesn't need to be. –  Uphill Luge Mar 15 '11 at 16:48
@CanSpice hard is subjective of cause. But lets take satistical (empiric) metrics: Question that can be answered by less people is harder. Now those people who are able to answer those "harder" question are more valuable are at least as valueable as those people who can answer perfectly and quickly a lot of "easy" question. Rep. system does not reflect that they do not get nearly as much reputation. –  drasto Mar 16 '11 at 6:43
see my edit to original question please –  drasto Mar 16 '11 at 6:44
@Drasto, updated thanks. –  jzd Mar 16 '11 at 11:09
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I don't understand how this isn't covered by the bounty system. If a question is hard, it won't get answered right away. If the questioner (or someone else) really wants it answered, they can offer an incentive for someone to take a good look at it by offering more reputation points than normal through the bounty.

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IMHO the highest flaw on the bounty system is it costs reputation to the one offering the bounty, so not all the good answers to hard questions will be awarded by a bounty, because it requires a high-rep interested user interested on an answer to that particular question. Other thing is sometimes people takes lots of time to answer hard questions without waiting for a bounty offer and this people is not fairly recompensed. Also, I saw some poor questions awarding bounties just because the OP is rich and wants to motivate lots of answers, mostly here on meta. –  jachguate Mar 15 '11 at 23:46
Please see my edit to the original question –  drasto Mar 17 '11 at 3:07
The revisions to the bounty system — particularly the ability to set bounties on others' questions — should help make this better. Not that I've ever actually wanted to set a bounty; my questions tend to be either already present (and indexed by Google) or so totally specific that they're of little value to anyone else… –  Donal Fellows Jan 18 '12 at 22:33
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