What about adding a field to user profiles, called something like 'proficiency level'? (I haven't considered how this would work for multiple languages, it's just an idea)

This may be useful when a question gets conflicting answers, to help gauge how authoritative answers are likely to be.

I understand that this is normally something that 'the community' effectively decides through the process of voting and commentry, but it might still be useful for questions that don't get a lot of views.

3 Answers 3


Like others have said, proficiency levels are hard to define and highly subjective.

If we let people pick their proficiency levels themselves, there will be a lot of bias. Someone who rates him/herself "Expert" might actually be less proficient than (a more humble) person who rates him/herself "Intermediate". I think people in general are terrible at judging themselves.

Now, if we let others decide, we run into another problem: how do we determine the validity of their opinions? Or what if someone purposefully rates somebody else lower than they should, so they end up with a higher relative rating? This is not feasible either.

We kind of a system that handles this: reputation, which according to the FAQ:

Reputation is a rough measurement of how much the community trusts you; it is earned by convincing your peers that you know what you’re talking about.

While high reputation doesn't mean expertise, it's useful in gauging a user's contributions to the site and the helpfulness of their questions and answeres. Note that communication skills are important here: someone who is an expert but is unable to communicate their ideas clearly isn't going to be very helpful.

The system isn't perfect, but it's good enough. If you have better a idea, feel free to suggest it. Unfortunately an "expertise" field is not one of them, for the reasons mentioned above.


This is hard to pick, because I wouldn't call myself fluent, but I can carry on a conversation without problems and can hold a discussion on most topics, but does that make me fluent? I can also read and write. So the levels are kind of subjective and would be even worse for settling an argument! :)

I think location although still not perfect as there are plenty of first and second generation migrants who grew up with Chinese as their first language is a good indicator. The good thing about this site so far is we have a few people who are from China, I think they are as authoritative as we would like and have done a great job so far so. Hopefully we can provide some good quality questions to keep them here.


The problem, also underlined by xiaohouzi79 is: how do you tell the proficiency level? It's not easy and objective to determine.

What would you write? Fluent is not something fixed, I'm fluent in both English and Spanish, but it certainly is not the same kind of fluency, and not the same level either.

I think that the use of external references is more reliable than the self-defined proficiency on a user's profile.

  • Thanks for your thoughts on this. After considering the opinions of xiaohouzi79 and yourself, I'm inclined to agree with you both - perhaps adding this would do more harm than good!
    – Cocowalla
    Dec 16, 2011 at 11:28

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