How could more plots win, if the challenges are sent out at constant intervals?
Every 9 seconds (I believe) a challenge goes out. One person wins.

Or am I mistaken?

Either way, I do not know what the value 2,160 means.

If it contained “3.14159”, or if it contained “867-5309”, it would still not tell me what that value means. If I see that number change, what does that mean to me or anyone else?

The difficulty is the self adjusting mechanism to keep blocks coming in at a stable rate over time.

To put it simply : difficulty is the mathematical requirement for finding a proof. A higher difficulty means lower probably of finding a solution. Think about it as drawing a random number and the difficulty being the “minimum” value of the found number : you have a lower probably to draw from 1 to 100 and get a number that’s above 95, than a number that’s simply above 80 or 50.

Difficulty changes with network size. The value will increase with the amount of storage on the network.

I think it’s been pretty much answered but I’ll add my 2 cents anyway.

Yes the challenges are constants, but if the difficulty is to low, then too many people would win a reward.
The difficulty rises and falls with the netspace, to make sure that the amount of XCH produced per day is more or less constant at 4608 blocks and 9216 XCH per day.

To stay in the lottery analogy:
If you hand out tickets with the numbers 1-100 and divide them among 100 people.
Then if you draw a single number, there will be one winner for each round.

But if 100 more people also get a number between 1-100 and you draw a single number, there will be two winners. (this would be the netspace increasing by more people adding plots)

So if you want only 1 winner with 200 people, you need to increase the difficulty. You draw a number between 1-50 one round and between 51-100 next round and now you will have only one winner per round again (on average).

The number itself it’s pretty meaningless for users. Unless you want to check the math of the blockchain an verify that it is running as expected.

I did not know that there could be more than one winner for each challenge.

I thought that, first, plots have to pass the filter (1 in 255), and out of those candidates, proofs are looked up – and the plot with the best proof (however that is determined?) gets the win.

But it sounds like the the replies I am reading suggest that a challenge could have more than one winner, in order to maintain a fixed(?) amount of XCH distribution.

The plot filter is 512 at the moment so 1 in 512 to qualify for the challenge.

In the case of Chia there can be multiple winners so it’s a bit more complicated than other blockchains. You can look on Youtube for explanations on how the proof system works for Bitcoin to get a better idea, it’s very similar in principle.

If there was no difficulty setting, the best proof would have to be set in stone, and there could be no variability in the amount of storage used. Difficulty allows to have a constant rate of new blocks, while the size of the network (number of plots/storage capacity) varies over time.

It’s very complicated. Somehow people think they can understand deep engineering concepts if they are explained to them in simple terms… but there’s a reason some things take years to learn! Cryptocurrencies is computer science, mathematical science, economic science, and a whole bunch of other sub-sciences, applied to achieve byzantine fault tolerance.

As I monthly mine typically 3-10 blocks, I thought that I might match that higher winning count to the period where difficulty was lower, so I could perhaps use that info in the future and temporarily leave the pool to have better rewards for mined blocks. (not very nice, i agree)

Unfortunately, I see no connection between difficulty graph and my winnings, it’s obviously pure luck.