I use dreamhost for my hosting provider, and when you contact their support via an online form they allow you to choose your technical level.

  1. I have no idea what's going on.
  2. I sort of know what this means.
  3. I understand the Jargon
  4. You can talk technical to me, I know what I'm doing.
  5. I know more about this than you do.

It got me thinking. Sometimes when answering a question on SO you are unsure of the OP knowledge level, while you can sometimes judge this from their question, it might be that they have no idea about or but they are a whizz at .

Would it be in anyway useful for people to be able to rate their own knowledge in all the tags they use?

Example of how it would work.

Perhaps on the user page a user could select 1 - 5 stars for each tag they use.

  1. No Clue, not even sure what the letters stand for.
  2. Beginner, but getting to know some stuff
  3. Know my way around, just looking for a solution to my problems.
  4. Really know what I'm doing .
  5. I wrote the language/book/library!

This info could in someway be attached to the tag icon on the QA page. If a tag had'nt been rated, an answerer could ask for the OP to mark their knowledge level so the answerer could give advice at the right level.

I think this could be an interesting addition to SO, though I'm sure many will think its a terrible idea.

  • 6
    Why? Won't the contents of the question reveal this information?
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 9:14
  • Not always and they may have very high general knowledge or not but there is no way of knowing this.
    – Toby Allen
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 9:14
  • 2
    This would change over time. If someone started as a novice and then became a lot more experienced I can imagine people wanting to remove this from the question to disguise their earlier innocence. Also, it could potentially be considered "negative" information by a candidate searching for a job. Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 9:25
  • @Ben Spot on. Personally I generally play dumb when asking a question in real life, because that's the best way to get people to help you (with the adequate level of dumbness) but if I was looking for a job I would probably start my questions with "I'm the best there is in this field but there is this insignifiant detail on which I don't know everything". Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 9:34

4 Answers 4

  • This would give more insight about the modesty or asking strategy of OP than about his real level of knowledge regarding the problem.

  • But the greatest problem is that a SO answer isn't for OP but for everybody, especially people having a similar problem later. So everything making the question more specific to OP should be considered bad.

  • And last point : we probably don't want to encourage people coming in here saying "I have no knowledge at all" because, provided there are programmers, this would just mean they didn't do the due research. If somebody legitimately doesn't understand a specific part of the problem, he can precise it, this would be more useful than a general "don't understand the problem".


I can see how it can be useful, but I don't think it's really needed. First, these levels are highly subjective. They are not only subjective because the user choses a level for himself. Let's say the user asks a question about C++, and states his level as "Beginner, but getting to know some stuff". Another user, willing to answer, sees that. Now what should he assume? "Some stuff", what on earth is that? Does "Some stuff" include at least basic knowledge of Boost? Does "Some stuff" include the knowledge of the linking process? Based on how do you approach the learning curve, and the language, you can think that knowledge of the linking process is either "Basic" or "Advanced" stuff.

So my point is, such things will not really help much to determine the level of the question-starter. And obviously, the question-starter is not going to list all the technologies that he knows with in-detail information.

Another point is that we have comments. Comments are there for a reason, their main purpose is not to leave a witty note for the OP to understand how stupid his question is in the eyes of a Guru. Comments are there exactly for this: to ask if the OP does or does not know something, in order to understand what solution to propose, and how to put it.

So overall I don't think we can't live without it. It may be better for new users than for users that have some SO experience, though.

  • A well argued answer
    – Toby Allen
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 9:22

Although not visible in the question itself, the user's profile already has a measure of their knowledge of different subject tags by mentioning how many non-wiki questions they have asked, and how many they have answered per tag. It also provides a score for these questions and answers. What I think would be better would be to better define what that score means.


This would basically require SE employees to interview applicants of this feature to verify trust.

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