Now, to start with, the only time I searched Ravelry with a difficulty filter it was to find "easy" glove patterns for some knitter friends who had expressed desire but trepidation with regards to knitting a pair. "look," I said, "here's a whole list of 'easy' glove patterns! Start with one of these!" For the rest, I've looked at how many people have knit a pattern and how happy they've been with the results. The things I am relucant to make (socks, sweaters, intricate lace patterns) have nothing to do with doubts about my technical skill but rather a reluctance to finish one and not the other, put all that effort into something that may not look good/fit right when I'm done, or have to block something. The actual knitting isn't the problem.And while I've not looked closely at difficulty ratings, I've made things and I've rated things, and I can't recall seeing something that has an average difficult of more than medium.
I've seen patterns that are incredibly intricate, lace horror stories with ripping out rows and life-lines, and recalculating, things that take months and months to complete. I've done them, and I've ranked them "mildly challenging." I've knit patterns that ten years ago would've had me in tears and thought, "that was easy!" and ranked them accordingly. How then can I tell a beginning knitter, "these patterns are all easy - try one!" and expect it to end in anything but tears?*
I think there's a lot of ego in the ranking system. If you found a pattern easy, it's not because you're a highly skilled knitter, it's because the pattern is easy. If you rank things as challenging, as difficult and everyone else said it was a quick, easy knit, then it must be because you're a bad knitter. If it requires keeping three pages of instructions spread before you, as in the case of my current project (a page of directions, and two different charts) or if people have had to email the creator to ask for clarification, surely that qualifies as challenging? Surely it's not something you'd mark as a 3 on the 1-10 scale of difficulty.
So I am trying to rank things with an eye, not to how much I struggled with the pattern, but based on whether or not I'd recommend it for someone who just finished their first scarf or their 30th, whose most ambitious project was a bulky raglan sweater or a pair of intarsia mittens on size 2 needles. I will try to help novices and intermediates find patterns that will reward, not frustrate them. I will decide that I am a 7 (out of ten) in skill and that things I find somewhat challenging must be around a 7 in difficulty. I will try to make Ravelry the kind of place where it's okay to say, "I am talented" and "I found it challenging" rather than everyone sitting around, modestly insisting "it was easy" and "anyone could've done the same".
*for the record the friends who knit the easy gloves seemed happy with their results, but I think they will low-balling their abilities.