This is purely anecdotal, but I have observed that people who have started participating on Codeforces have made it to, say, expert in a shorter duration of time compared to me. I also feel that my rating has risen without considerable improvement in performance, and I remember being completely overwhelmed by the peformance of division 1 users back in my early days. Now, it seems that anyone can become a candidate master (or even master with some improvement).
With all these considerations, how real is rating inflation, to what extent, and how far back in time did it start affecting ratings considerably? Looking for responses backed by evidence. Thanks!