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TPJ Article on Perl Certification Available for Download

posted by pudge on 2004.01.09 20:14   Printer-friendly
YUMPY writes "Did you miss the panel discussion on Perl Certification at TPJ 7.0, which ended with the audience voting strongly in favor of the development of a certification procedure for Perl programmers? Did you miss the October article called "Is it Time for Perl Certification?" in The Perl Journal? If so, thanks to the generosity of the TPJ folks, you can now catch up on these developments by reading the TPJ article for free. By doing so, you'll learn how veteran educator and SPUG/Seattle.pm leader Tim Maher thinks a certification procedure could enhance the employability of JAPHs and the prestige and market share of Perl, and why it's important to have this in place by the time Perl 6 arrives."
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  • Surprised (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RobertX (3759) on 2004.01.10 12:19 (#27202)

    I was surprised to read in the article that some people were actually vehemently against such an idea.

    I think this is a great idea myself.

    • Re:Surprised (Score:3, Interesting)

      You can't satisfy all the people all the time. Sometimes I think having a major corporation backing Perl would reap some benefits, especially in the area of strong decision making. I also think certification is the right thing to do. Perl clearly needs this!
  • Certification is an artificial incline, usually created by those who stand the most to profit from it. After the initial sunk cost of getting employers to believe in this artificial slope, such a corporation then gets to sit back and rake in dough based on the now artificially created demand for certifications and certification support (trainings, books, infrastructure, and so on).

    I think Stonehenge's ethics are higher than that. At the moment, I don't see any purpose in creating an artificial slope for Perl Programmers to climb just to pad our bottom line. I've worked too hard over the past decade to help this community in as many free ways as I can, and get paid for the things that I have to get paid for so that I can put food on the table and pay for my net access.

    Although brian doesn't speak officially for Stonehenge [stonehenge.com], I like what he said in his weblog just recently [oreillynet.com], so be sure to check it out. I especially like his take on the legal aspect with regard to liability, and anyone considering creating certifications should want to understand my particular disdain for lawyers and thus wanting to avoid any more court appearances.

    Certification: an idea whose time has not come. It won't help the strong, it'll artificially promote the weak, and it will only pad the pockets of those who are selling the idea, at the risk of upsetting the industry that can already rely on experts to distinguish the good from the bad.

    --
    • Randal L. Schwartz
    • Stonehenge
    • So the next time I need a doctor, I should google their reputation and not give two hoots about their degree? References and reputation go a long way, but in most respected disciplines having some form of degree/certification is essential. (Note the word 'respected') You're the exception. It's not entirely fair to the rest of us who have neither the desire nor the personality type to post thousands of times on perlmonks and moderate newsgroups!

      brian's argument is weak, whether you agree with him or not. H

      • For a discipline like being a doctor, there is a clear formal education requirement to be able to "practice medicine", but yes, to some degree, you must rely on public reputation and personal experience to know how to pick a particular doctor.

        So we "certify" the formal part, and the reputation part fills in the gaps.

        But when's the last time there was a formal body of education required to be a programmer in general? I've never known any two programmers who got their education the same way. Ever.

        And,

        --
        • Randal L. Schwartz
        • Stonehenge
        • No. This is a rediculous statement.

          "Many people may want a Perl certification, but how many people want to be the one who is legally liable for the certificant who messes up?"

          The only one liable is the "certificant". Otherwise we wouldn't have any other certification process out there. There wouldn't be a CISCO, JAVA, MICROSOFT, LINUX+, A+, et al. if there were legal ramifications to the certifier.

          That is a bad argument. If you don't want a certification process that is fine. Trying to throw "but we m

      • I bring up Stonehenge because that is a lot of my Perl experience. We do not have anything to lose because we have exactly none of the certification market now.

        My argument is simply my experience as the person who actually seriously investigated doing this, seeking the advice of my attorneys and accountants. All I see anyone else doing is theorizing. I do not see anyone doing their homework.

        You don't ever hear about anyone suing Sun, Microsoft, and Cisco because really big companies would lawyer the plaintiff to death. However, you do not base future risk on past performance. If you are serious about the endeavour, you have to evaluate the risk. Anyone who ignores that is asking for trouble. All I see are people ignoring the risk.
        • brian, is there any case law you can share with us that bears specifically on the subject of software testers being held liable? I've done a fair bit of homework on this subject myself, and I find the advice you're getting from your attorneys rather hard to swallow. For example, if testing agencies in general are really taking on so much liability, why wouldn't the deep-pocket Dept. of Motor Vehicles get sued every time a licensed driver causes an accident? It's simply because passing a test doesn't guara
          --

          Dr. Tim Maher
          CEO, Consultix
          Perl and UNIX Training [teachmeperl.com]
      • References and reputation go a long way, but in most respected disciplines having some form of degree/certification is essential.

        So you are saying that Perl programming, not having such a thing, is therefore not one of the most respected disciplines? Fine by me, I guess.

        You're the exception. It's not entirely fair to the rest of us who have neither the desire nor the personality type to post thousands of times on perlmonks and moderate newsgroups!

        Excuse me, but you're actually making the argument th
      • IMHO The Perl Community (and its constituent JAPHs) have more to gain from Perl Certification than anybody else; that's why I'm proposing that we do it ourselves.

        Tim, since you started this campaign last summer, all you have offered are your personal opinions on why certification is a good thing. You have not offered any proof, nor have you have you offered a concrete proposal for Perl Certification -- just vague notions, unfounded assertions and misleading annecdotal "evidence".

        [C]ertification wou

          • ... the proof is in the pudding ...

            I do not see how your continued histrionics about the word "proof" are the least bit meaningful here.

            You have offered boundless optimism at a future with certification, with no support that certification will bring about the goals you hope to realize. For example, you have failed to demonstrate that significant numbers of hiring managers are clamoring for Perl certification. You have failed to demonstrate that hiring managers who are not hiring Perl programmers to

  • ...and then there's polls.

    I'd like it if someone would post, verbatum, what it was we voted on that day. I remember it being worded very, very, very weakly. Something along the lines of "Do you think we should investigate developing a Perl certification?" ie. something you really couldn't vote against. It certainly wasn't a strong message for certification and I don't like seeing it spun that way.
    • During and after OSCON, I asked Damian and others about the details of the vote, to check my recollections, and they agreed with me that the first question was "How many are against the development of a certification program", and the second, "How many are for the development of a certification program". (Damian asked the questions.) And given the context of the preceding discussion, it would have been clear that we were talking about the Perl community developing the program.

      All the panelists (along with Nat, who instigated the vote) were shocked at the large majority of "for" votes: approx. 100/7 (also confirmed, see details here [teachmeperl.com]). I understand that some people are having difficulty adjusting to this result, but we need to accept this reality and decide what to do about it! My thoughts are presented in the TPJ article [teachmeperl.com].

      --

      Dr. Tim Maher
      CEO, Consultix
      Perl and UNIX Training [teachmeperl.com]
      • People vote for all sorts of things when they get caught up in the fever of a conference. I do not have enough fingers and toes to enumerate all the good projects I was a part of at a conference, and never heard from again a month later.
      • Well, I was one of the folks who raised hands to the "for" question, but my diary notes that the question was:

        "How many of you are for continued discussion, and possible development, of a certification program by the Perl community?"

        and I also remarked that it's hardly possible to vote against such a wording. Again, my comprehension ability for spoken English may be at fault, but I remember several people who expressed similar sentiments about the wording.

        • "How many of you are for continued discussion, and possible development, of a certification program by the Perl community?"

          Thanks, Autrijus. That's about the wording I remember. That question is so weak, you really can't vote against it. About the only thing I'd conclude from the poll is that people aren't so rabidly against the idea that they think no further work should be done. Not exactly a rousing chourus of consent.

          But the poll was just a very minor part of the show, and I'd be the first person to say that you do the work first, look for consensus later. We all know that the best projects are the ones that plow ahead to get something concrete done. The worst are the ones that have nothing but vapor and plans and grope around for approval. Fuck the polls. Write up something concrete and then you'll see a real response.

          The real meat of the discussion was in what form such a certification should take and there the real problem is revealed. Most folks are horrified at the thought of some sort of multiple-choice Brainbench/MSIE/A+ style cert because it doesn't really test how good a programmer you are. The other revealed problem was the fear of a "one size fits all" test. That any cert must recognize that there's different styles of Perl programmers and administer different tests. Sysadmins, testers, big app/OO, web, GUI, etc.

          Most folks have had bad experiences with the existing certifications. The most important problem in putting together a cert program is convincing us that its a credible measure of how good a programmer one is. If you can do that, then people will accept it. You can go on all day about how it will benefit businesses, generate jobs, blah blah... but the bottom line is this: do I want to be working with someone that was hired based on their cert?

          But before anyone will really accept it, you have to have something real. Vapor convinces no one. Concentrate on generating a real certification program. You don't need a huge group to do this. Like most other Open Source projects, most of the work will be done by a small group of people who believe it will work. Give us something concrete, else we'll just wank all day about it posting messages like this.

            • Well then there's nothing to worry about. With a plan as dependent on gaining approval before doing any work as that, we'll never see certifications.

              Allow me to reiterate the core problem in big, bold letters: you will never get support for a Perl certification program from the Perl community until you can convince people that your cert is a valid measure of one's Perl programming abilities. And you'll never convince anyone until you have some solid picture of what your certification program looks like.
                  • I am a lot closer to No than I am to Yes or Maybe. If I had to pick one, it would be No. I just dislike coming to firm conclusions; I prefer to leave the door open unless there is a reason to close it, and I personally have no reason to close it. But if you must count my vote, it should be a No.

                    Some other thoughts I've had as I've read through more comments:

                    • I think Sun is right-on to say they do not certify that the certification actually means anything. It's true. You cannot say with any real cer
                    • Although I admire your respect for the concept of statistical significance, it's meant to be a guideline for accepting or rejecting hypotheses, not an iron-clad rule that prevents sensible consideration of imperfectly collected data.

                      No. In fact, the 200 people ARE NOT MORE VALID than the 14, as a represenative sample of X. They are not. They cannot be.

                      I maintain that if you've got two non-random samples from the same population, and you're interested in coming up with a provisional best guess about t
                  • It's a bit hard to come down on either side. The debate has quickly become 'The sky is falling" vs. "How can we live without this". For me, it comes down to risks. What are the risks, positive and negative, what is the need, and does this ease or cause any pain. Personally, I favor certification programs like PMI that require work experience rather than simply tests, and build a professional society that is recognized and respected. I have not yet reached conclusions about the value of a perl cert, and
  • We can all certainly agree on one thing -- the idea of certifying Perl programmers is surely guaranteed to elicit some lively discussion!

    But the pattern of responses is always the same -- a few well-known JAPHs coming out against it, and the rank-and-file community members taking neutral, or strongly favorable positions, because they don't want to convert to Java/C++ etc. just to gain employment, and certification might help there (see my TPJ article [teachmeperl.com]). As I've argued in that article, and in postings on the perlcert.perlocity.org Wiki site [perlocity.org], objections traditionally center around the notions that a) certification cannot be done well, and is therefore a disservice to the community, or b) it's generally a scam perpetrated by greedy vendors on a helpless population of job-seekers.

    I've argued that a voluntary certification program with well-defined and realistic goals could be of benefit to some job-seekers, and to Perl's image, and that if we were to make a profit by providing the service, having those funds flow into the coffers of TPF could be used to build our community further (by funding Perl Mongers, e.g.).

    It's interesting to see that the people here attacking the idea most vehemently are those who have already proven their Perl expertise most clearly. But not everybody can write a book or publish a magazine, so the less accomplished JAPHs out there deserve the option of using a standardized testing procedure to substantiate their knowledge. The existence of several crummy Perl certification programs already demonstrates the need for the service; all I'm proposing is that we create a good one, and by so doing take control over this process, and this aspect of Perl's future.

    C'mon Randal and brian, you're educators! Certainly no testing regimen is perfect, but don't you believe that objective testing procedures can differentiate between the students who learned their lessons well, and those who didn't? All I'm proposing is that we help would-be employers make that same distinction, and incorporate that test result into their hiring formulas, along with other sources of information.

    Why shouldn't JAPHs have the same options as Java or C++ programmers in this respect?

    P.S. Please read the TPJ article [teachmeperl.com] before jumping to any further conclusions.

    --

    Dr. Tim Maher
    CEO, Consultix
    Perl and UNIX Training [teachmeperl.com]
    • I read your article.

      There is no need to devolve this debate into personal attacks. Let's stick to arguing the mertis.

      You still ignore my most important concern, and the one I have expressed for years---who is going to take on the legal laibility. No one has ever answered that. Cisco, Sun, and Microsoft know how to answer that question because they have legal departments and deep pockets.
      • Personal attacks? What attacks? I merely directed some questions to some real people, who like me, know a lot about software training, a discipline that's closely related to testing. I didn't mean any disrespect, if anybody was offended. Let's try to let the discussion heat up without getting inflamed along with it 8-} Regarding your "liability" concern, I addressed that in detail in a separate message (probably posted after your request for comments on it).
        --

        Dr. Tim Maher
        CEO, Consultix
        Perl and UNIX Training [teachmeperl.com]
    • Tim Maher asks if I beleive that objective tests can work.

      I cannot agree that any test is objective.

      Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man is an interesting read for those who have not come to despise tests yet.
  • Alright for some (Score:4, Informative)

    by TeeJay (2309) on 2004.01.12 9:35 (#27256) Homepage Journal
    when I first started looking for work after graduation there was talk of certification for perl. There are already certificates (not meaningless, I mean I struggled with some of the questions at the time) that you could take on line. Brainbench - although not a written paper was OK (although obviously it had flaws).

    I would probably get a certificate now if it was affordable, and I knew that the fees would have some benefit to the perl community. Thats after writing an article and several perl modules on CPAN.

    A side effect of certification, like any testing is that I would be able to find the weak spots in my knowledge and work on them.

    Another side effect is that we could say to employers that we have $bignum certified programmers that can get the jobs done.

    As for liability - base the project in a country outside the US where it is safer from meritless litigation. The UK has both sensible (on the whole) courts and a large section of the perl community.

    --

    @JAPH = qw(Hacker Perl Another Just);
    print reverse @JAPH;