Interesting post by Jason Jordan about grades and how statistical modeling could be used to analyze something like the 8a.nu database to better understand how people quantify and perceive grades:
The point is, if grades are understood as probability-ranges rather than discrete pegs, the acrimony of grading controversy would be considerably dampened. The ironic fact underlying Monte Carlo is: by accepting factors of chance as well as skill in climbing grades, by acknowledging them to be a range of probability rather than a definitive standard, they become more rather than less accurate.
Two things about this. First, I don’t really think there are actually that many grading controversies going on out there. Sure, for many of us arguing about grades is a fun topic to banter about over a few beers, but I don’t think anyone is losing sleep over whether or not Resident Evil is actually V10. Second, at the highest ends of the sport where there is “controversy”1, there are really so few opinions able to be considered about a given climb that rendering any sort of statistically significant conclusion is impossible.
Maybe this idea of a sliding range could work though, we could call it the Brave & Humble™ scale. All high-end climbs could be rated using it and anyone who goes for the high-end of the scale will be clearly presenting themselves as someone who is not very Brave & Humble™, and anyone who goes for the low-end can be a shining example for us all. Consider it done.
I’ve also always wondered what a smart person might be able to glean from the trove of data stored in a site like 8a.nu, which is why it is especially odd that the person who does have access to it, who is by all accounts a very smart person, seems to make up charts more often than actually basing them on the actual data he has access too. I’m also not sure how useful the database at 8a.nu would be for this sort of thing since I would guess the vast majority of grades entered there are simply what is in the guidebook and if they aren’t they are inherently biased by being based against what was in a guidebook. In other words, the grades being entered aren’t simply objective conclusions reached by each individual climber but in most cases are either just what the guidebook says or 1 grade on either side, ignoring the possibility that the originally suggested grade could be many grades off.
- Controversy that is good for business for both the climber and the climbing media ↩