Looking for some feedback about Certification

Aaah, nothing like a good controversial topic to stir up a holy war
for the weekend.

I’ve posted two different requests for feedback on a project over at my
blog:


They boil down to this: I’ve been asked to help a university put
together a
continuing education program to teach Ruby. It will be a three course
series and will end with a Ruby Certification for the students
completing
it. I’d like to collect your opinions about two things:

  1. Is Ruby ready for/in need of a certification program?
  2. What should be in a program like this?

I’d like to collect the feedback in blog comments (easier to refer
to them, etc.), but I realize that just bringing it up here is liable to
cause a mailstrom of emails, news posts, etc. – please, at least
try to keep it civil if you’re going to reply here (for whatever value
of here is appropriate for the way you consume ruby-talk)

I’ll now slink away and hide in the corner for a bit.

pat eyler wrote:

cause a mailstrom of emails, news posts, etc. – please, at least
try to keep it civil if you’re going to reply here (for whatever value
of here is appropriate for the way you consume ruby-talk)

I’ll now slink away and hide in the corner for a bit.

lol

First of all, I’m in no means a ruby expert!

  1. I think it’s probably a good idea. I can only imagine that having
    something legitimate-looking that tells prospective employers that
    you’ve gone through the trouble of learning a non-mainstream (compared
    to Java) language like Ruby will impress them and increase your chances
    of getting a job? I’m still in high school though, so others will have
    more experience with this kind of thing.

  2. I’d imagine that someone who wants to write something like ‘certified
    rubyist’ behind his name should at the very least be able to comprehend
    and implement the ruby basics as covered in eg. Chris P.'s Learning to
    Program and Why’s Guide (comprehend the non-fictional parts anyway).

Just my 2c worth.

Cheery-o
Gustav P.
[email protected]

On 11/10/06, Gustav P. [email protected] wrote:

pat eyler wrote:

  1. Is Ruby ready for/in need of a certification program?

With the growing size of the Ruby community (and demand for Ruby
programmers) there will undoubtedly be programs of this sort. Of
course having said that, I personally consider certifications programs
(especially for programming languages) one of the worst hiring metrics
available. If you want to find a good programmer, looking for a
language specific certificate is a terrible mistake.

  1. What should be in a program like this?

A few questions first:

  1. Intended audience (experienced programmers, web designers, career
    switching accountants)?

  2. With or without Rails (is this web focused or general Ruby)?

  3. You mentioned 3 courses, how long is each course?

pth

Patrick H. wrote:

On 11/10/06, Gustav P. [email protected] wrote:

pat eyler wrote:

  1. Is Ruby ready for/in need of a certification program?

With the growing size of the Ruby community (and demand for Ruby
programmers) there will undoubtedly be programs of this sort. Of
course having said that, I personally consider certifications programs
(especially for programming languages) one of the worst hiring metrics
available. If you want to find a good programmer, looking for a
language specific certificate is a terrible mistake.

What about assigning each student to make contributions to ruby and to
the community, so that they have something concrete and visible to point
to? For example:

  • write std lib docs

  • write tests for std libs

  • write a brief article or blog entry, with newbies in mind as the
    readers

  • contact a project maintainer (on rubyforge for example) and ask for a
    suitable task (not SoC level, but not trivial, either)

On 11/10/06, Joel VanderWerf [email protected] wrote:

language specific certificate is a terrible mistake.

  • contact a project maintainer (on rubyforge for example) and ask for a
    suitable task (not SoC level, but not trivial, either)

I think this sort of metric would be much more meaningful than a
standardized test. You could call it like a ‘practical applications
lab’ or something of the like, and make it a requirement for the
course.

I’ve tried to respond on my blog to all the points made so far.
Thanks for the feedback so far (even if it’s just telling me that
certifications are the spawn of the devil).

  1. I think it’s probably a good idea. I can only imagine that having
    something legitimate-looking that tells prospective employers that
    you’ve gone through the trouble of learning a non-mainstream (compared
    to Java) language like Ruby will impress them and increase your chances
    of getting a job?

I have a hard time believing that someone who appreciates Ruby will want
a job where a such a certificate is impressive.

  1. I’d imagine that someone who wants to write something like ‘certified
    rubyist’ behind his name should at the very least be able to comprehend
    and implement the ruby basics as covered in eg. Chris P.'s Learning to
    Program and Why’s Guide (comprehend the non-fictional parts anyway).

Someone who wants to write something like “Certified Rubyist” behind his
or her name should not be coding in Ruby. Probably should not be coding
at all.


James B.

http://web2.0validator.com - We’re the Dot in Web 2.0
http://www.rubyaz.org - Hacking in the Desert
http://www.jamesbritt.com - Playing with Better Toys

Joel VanderWerf wrote:

course having said that, I personally consider certifications programs
(especially for programming languages) one of the worst hiring metrics
available. If you want to find a good programmer, looking for a
language specific certificate is a terrible mistake.

What about assigning each student to make contributions to ruby and to
the community, so that they have something concrete and visible to point
to? For example:

  • write std lib docs

Hey, what a great idea!

  • write tests for std libs

This, too.


James B.

http://web2.0validator.com - We’re the Dot in Web 2.0
http://www.rubyaz.org - Hacking in the Desert
http://www.jamesbritt.com - Playing with Better Toys

pat eyler wrote:

/ … snipping all but the meat …

I’d like to collect the feedback in blog comments (easier to refer
to them, etc.), but I realize that just bringing it up here is liable to
cause a mailstrom …

Wow! And I was there when it happened! A totally new word, and a rather
nice
one. “Mailstrom.” Too bad you can’t patent words, you might become rich.

I am not going to ask whether this arose form a typo, or represents a
misspelling of “maelstrom”, or some third possibility. It doesn’t really
matter. I was present at a birth. :slight_smile:

I’ll now slink away and hide in the corner for a bit.

Actually, you should gloat. You may not realize what you’ve done. Not
everyone gets to coin a new word.

(long pause) … rats. I see from a Google search that it isn’t
original.
It’s not common, but it’s not original.

Oh well.

Hi –

On Sat, 11 Nov 2006, pat eyler wrote:

together a
of here is appropriate for the way you consume ruby-talk)
I think it’s fine for the institution to offer a certificate in Ruby
programming, but I don’t think it has any implications for Ruby per
se. In other words, I would not call people who take the course
certified Rubyists, but rather holders of a certificate in Ruby from
such-and-such an institution.

David

Certification isn’t particularly useful in terms of finding a job. I
got a couple certifications at one point, they were utterly useless as
far as finding work. However, they were very useful in the sense of
learning the technologies in pretty extensive detail. If the exam
covers a lot of ground and costs a lot of money, your best option is
to learn the material thoroughly before you take it.

However, I’ve actually considered taking my certifications off my
resume because I don’t want the best type of employer thinking, “Oh,
he’s that kind of programmer.” I’ve also grown very skeptical of
the technologies I got certified in. There are some certification
exams which put a spotlight on the design flaws in their subject
matter.

That being said, I had a look at your blog entries, and if I
understand correctly, the system is three courses, each one pass/fail,
with a certificate awarded at the end, and the question is what
material to cover. So, I’d say currying, continuations, and compiler
internals. The three Cs. Extra credit if you can explain why Stefan
Kaes used abstract syntax trees to optimize Rails performance.

(Just kidding.)

pat eyler wrote:

cause a mailstrom of emails, news posts, etc. – please, at least
try to keep it civil if you’re going to reply here (for whatever value
of here is appropriate for the way you consume ruby-talk)

I’ll now slink away and hide in the corner for a bit.

OK … here goes:

  1. Microsoft certifications, Cisco certifications and Red Hat
    certifications should be the model. One of these says you are
    competent to perform certain tasks. I refuse to listen to whining from
    people who don’t have them about how meaningless they are. Were I
    hiring people who required these skills, I would clearly state in the
    job posting that applications/resumes from uncertified people would not
    be considered. That’s legal and fair.

  2. If I were hiring a programmer, I would look for an applicable
    college degree from an accredited institution, not a certificate based
    on a pass/fail set of courses. Again, if a degree is required, there’s
    no point in the weasel words “or equivalent experience”. That’s legal
    and that’s fair. With hundreds of applicants for a single position,
    employers can afford to be picky.

If there were a “Ruby vendor” I might answer differently. But there is
no Microsoft, Cisco or Red Hat for Ruby – there isn’t even a
Sun/Java-like standard. Ruby is a language built and used by a
community, not a corporation.

Now there are fine people – on this list – who run excellent Ruby
and Rails programming courses. If some university wants to attempt to
compete with them, fine, but if I were hiring Ruby or Rails programmers,
I’d hire competent programmers with the right attitudes and a background
in the application domain and send them off to the fine Ruby/Rails
training that already exists.

sigh, as is far too often the case, I did a really bad job of
explaining what I really meant, and someone else swooped in
with what I really should have said. Thanks David.

On 11/10/06, [email protected] [email protected] wrote:

Hi –

[my poor description snipped]

I think it’s fine for the institution to offer a certificate in Ruby
programming, but I don’t think it has any implications for Ruby per
se. In other words, I would not call people who take the course
certified Rubyists, but rather holders of a certificate in Ruby from
such-and-such an institution.

This is exactly what I was trying to get at, not some kind of
Novell/Cisco/A+ kind of thing.

[email protected] wrote:

I think it’s fine for the institution to offer a certificate in Ruby
programming, but I don’t think it has any implications for Ruby per
se. In other words, I would not call people who take the course
certified Rubyists, but rather holders of a certificate in Ruby from
such-and-such an institution.

Jamis’ comment on Pat’s blog, though, hit the nail on the head in
pointing out that anything called a “certificate” will carry linguistic
and work-culture baggage.

I really like the idea of a school offering a formal path of Ruby study,
and I suppose that, at the end, you would get something that indicates
success or failure by the standards of the course. You know, a
certificate.

Overall, there are worse problems to have than people abusing the notion
of Ruby certification. You’d think more people had seen The W.ard of
Oz, though.

On 11/10/06, James B. [email protected] wrote:

Jamis’ comment on Pat’s blog, though, hit the nail on the head in
pointing out that anything called a “certificate” will carry linguistic
and work-culture baggage.

Except that a certificate is also a well-known and frequently used
term that’s used as David uses it above:

http://flightline.highline.edu/cg/network.html#unix

for example

Hi –

On Sat, 11 Nov 2006, James B. wrote:

Jamis’ comment on Pat’s blog, though, hit the nail on the head in pointing
out that anything called a “certificate” will carry linguistic and
work-culture baggage.

I guess I’m coming at it from having been involved for many years in
an academic department that packaged groups of courses into
certificates – so, for example, if you took a certain sequence, you
would have earned the Computer Graphics certificate. This was partly
done because we were a big umbrella department (Communication) and it
was hard to tell what someone had actually studied when they were a
Communication major.

I really like the idea of a school offering a formal path of Ruby study,
and I suppose that, at the end, you would get something that indicates
success or failure by the standards of the course. You know, a
certificate.

Overall, there are worse problems to have than people abusing the notion of
Ruby certification. You’d think more people had seen The W.ard of Oz,
though.

It does seem too bad to have the baggage associated with one word
stand in the way of what might be a beneficial and effective learning
experience.

David

James B. wrote:

Jamis’ comment on Pat’s blog, though, hit the nail on the head in
pointing out that anything called a “certificate” will carry
linguistic and work-culture baggage.
And in some corporate cultures, certification is a political necessity.
By the way, while we’re on the subject of certifications and corporate
cultures, am I the only one who thinks someone who has an “ABD” – All
But Dissertation" PhD is really only a Master of Science?

> > I really like the idea of a school offering a formal path of Ruby > study, and I suppose that, at the end, you would get something that > indicates success or failure by the standards of the course. You > know, a certificate. > > Overall, there are worse problems to have than people abusing the > notion of Ruby certification. You'd think more people had seen The > Wizard of Oz, though. Well, as Pat and I have both pointed out, there's a tremendous difference between the Cowardly Lion's medal and an RHCE. I know this from experience; I've flunked the RHCE exam twice now! :)

M. Edward (Ed) Borasky, AB, MS, FBG, MNLP, NST, ACMC (provisional) and
PTA

On Sat, 11 Nov 2006, M. Edward (Ed) Borasky wrote:

  1. Microsoft certifications, Cisco certifications and Red Hat certifications
    should be the model. One of these says you are competent to perform certain
    tasks. I refuse to listen to whining from people who don’t have them about
    how meaningless they are. Were I hiring people who required these skills, I
    would clearly state in the job posting that applications/resumes from
    uncertified people would not be considered. That’s legal and fair.

I have several IBM certifications on AIX and related products. Given
the
complexity of some of the products, I think it’s not an unreasonable
thing
to ask for. The certifications aren’t a gaurantee, but it is something
I
can point to, particularly when talking to recruiters. I want to get
Red
Hat certifications, but they’re expensive enough that I haven’t wanted
to
spend the money out of my own pocket.

  1. If I were hiring a programmer, I would look for an applicable college
    degree from an accredited institution, not a certificate based on a pass/fail
    set of courses. Again, if a degree is required, there’s no point in the
    weasel words “or equivalent experience”. That’s legal and that’s fair. With
    hundreds of applicants for a single position, employers can afford to be
    picky.

I’m not so sure about that. Computer Science degrees often don’t teach
software development and are sometimes intended to just be a stepping
stone to advanced degrees. And they really don’t teach the things that
are covered in “Ship It!” from the Pragmatic Programmers.

Hiring a programmer without at least a simple coding test is probably a
really bad idea.

already exists.
Knowing about and beleiving in things like source code control,
automated
build environments and, most importantly, peer review are probably the
top
things I would look for.

– Matt
It’s not what I know that counts.
It’s what I can remember in time to use.

To increase validity and assure authentication, the certification
process should be proctored by an independent agent.

Hi –

On Sat, 11 Nov 2006, M. Edward (Ed) Borasky wrote:

James B. wrote:

Jamis’ comment on Pat’s blog, though, hit the nail on the head in
pointing out that anything called a “certificate” will carry linguistic
and work-culture baggage.
And in some corporate cultures, certification is a political necessity. By
the way, while we’re on the subject of certifications and corporate
cultures, am I the only one who thinks someone who has an “ABD” – All But
Dissertation" PhD is really only a Master of Science?

When I was AbD I was a Master of Arts :slight_smile:

David

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