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Why are there leaderboards?

I understand that the idea of the site is to learn by solving problems. Not to compete with others but try to improve your own skills. But the leaderboard is there, so people try to improve their rank too. But for weeks i only see the same people on the leaderboards, and it's impossible to improve because the same people just solve all problems week after week after week. People who are signing up now will probably never be able to get on the leaderboard, unless they solve problems quickly at the beginning of the week and that will only be for one or two days because by then the big guys will have solved the same problems too. Anyone else having the same issue?

Note by Michael May
3 years, 2 months ago

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What is your guy's opinion on for a short term fix, changing the leader boards so that the rankings are based on problems solved so far this week, with ties broken by who has the fewest lifetime points?

I feel like it would be fun to throw a little bit of variety into the lineup. And make the leader board more about introducing who the new people who are really getting into Brilliant are. Peter Taylor Staff · 3 years, 2 months ago

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@Peter Taylor Well, since my assumption was wrong in terms of the leaderboards, I would like to share this idea I have.

I will point out each point and explain why I think it would be optimal.

  • The number of problems solved

Not much to add here, just a plain good method of determining people's spots on the board. However, a problem arises whenever we reach a tie when it comes to the number of problems solved.

  • The difficulty of the problems

As we all know, problems award more points when their difficulty goes up. This would be a very useful thing to manipulate if a tie occurs. The person with more points earned for the certain amount of problems solved wins and gets placed higher on the leaderboard. However, this might be a problem if people solve exactly the same problems or even solve all of the problems.

  • The speed of solving the problems

This refers to the time interval between the moment you hit the "Begin weekly challenges!" button and a certain moment after that. If \(2\) people solve the same number of problems with the same difficulty, the person who solved them faster wins the tie. Therefore, people could be distributed along the leaderboard and rewarded for their efforts accordingly. Another thing that would be really good about this is the fact that time zones have absolutely no interference whatsoever in this, since you choose when you'd like to start doing the problems and have your clock start ticking. So in essence, a person could easily get their name on the board even at the end of the week. If they do a good job, that place could even be in the single digits.

So in essence, this system would start by checking the status of every participant in the certain set of problems for the factors given above, in the given order. So it would be basically checking the number of problems solved, then if it's a tie their difficulty, and if it's a tie yet again it would check the speed and finally determine the place of the given individual on the leaderboard.

I think that the current "life-points versus life-points" system does not work good because of the fact that people who have a lot of potential but just started subscribing are simply unable to compete in any way against the people who have been here a long time, even if they solve all the same problems, as Michael stated. The only way they can technically get an edge over them is if the old-timers can't solve a problem, which is very unlikely to happen.

I think this system would be a lot more accurate and as Peter said, it could promote or perhaps motivate new comers to Brilliant.org.

Edit: I forgot to mention, in my opinion any solution that has got anything to do with lifetime points is kind of unfair due to the fact that there is absolutely nothing that could be done to guarantee you a spot on the leaderboard, regardless of how good you do that week. Ivan Sekovanić · 3 years, 2 months ago

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Sorry to weigh in here so late.

Michael is right that our leader boards are getting pretty stagnant. The system of having it be most problems solved, with ties broken by lifetime points worked really well, when we were a tiny site that was brand new.

In our opinion the purpose of the leader boards, is to make it feel a little competitive in a constructive way, and also exhibit who the people all over the world using Brilliant are. As Michael points out, the current boards do neither of those, due to being more or less the same group of people every week.

It is an open question to us what we should do with the leader boards, in the sense that we feel that rankings are neither the most interesting way to encourage good competition, nor an interesting way to see who else is on the site. That said, people do like being ranked and care a ton about leader boards. We can think of fairer, more accurate, and more comprehensive ways to rank people, but are undecided as to whether doing so would be a good idea culturally. Peter Taylor Staff · 3 years, 2 months ago

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@Peter Taylor I think peoples opinions would vary for wanting leaderboards or not. But it seems that you would like them to bring exposure to brilliant users. Possibly you can toss the leader board, rename it, and have it be a nice list of users who have solved all of the problems in a certain set for this week. In order of when the last problem needed was compleeted. This will allow those who are doing well get their name up there, and earn it at the same time. Christian Lee · 3 years, 2 months ago

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I think that your spot on the leaderboard is generally based on several factors:

  • The number of problems solved
  • The speed of solving them (from the moment you click on the "Begin weekly challenges!" button or whatever it is called, to the moment you are done with the problems)
  • The difficulty of the problems you have solved thus far

It does not matter when you start solving the problems, it matters how fast you manage to do them. I personally do not see it as a competition, but rather as "honoring" the more ambitious users.

If you'd like to be on the leaderboard that much though, there are several things you can do in my opinion:

  • Increase the speed of your problem solving in order to be faster than the rest. This could probably set your spot on the leaderboard to be in single digits.
  • Start solving more complex problems first. Considering people would instinctively go for the easier ones first, you'll have an edge over the rest. You will then earn a spot on the leaderboard at least for a few days.

In essence, if you and another person have solved the same amount of problems with the exception of you having solved them quicker than the rest, I believe you earn a higher spot on the leaderboard.

This is the way I see it. Ivan Sekovanić · 3 years, 2 months ago

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@Ivan Sekovanić And I would instantly like to correct myself, read this thread:


So, if this is true, from what I have said the only things that are valid are the first and last points. I am not sure if there is a way to get ahead on the leaderboard if you have solved the exact same amount of problems as someone else who has more life points than you do.

Although I am not sure if that is valid, due to the fact that I currently have all my Geometry and Combinatorics problems solved, and most of the people on the leaderboard have less lifepoints than I do. So my first assumption may be correct after all. Ivan Sekovanić · 3 years, 2 months ago

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