Re. Certification rebuttal/follow-on

Subject: Re. Certification rebuttal/follow-on
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 29 Dec 1995 13:59:07 LCL

Dan Martilloti provided useful critiques on my proposal for
certification based on "past work". For the sake of
clarification, Dan is on the right track... I provided the
outline, and I'm hoping others will jump in to help resolve
some details. But to respond to Dan's questions:

1. Recent graduates could be graded on their coursework or,
alternatively, be listed as apprentices until they produced
their first work. Apprenticeship systems have advantages
(e.g., you can start work without a certificate) and
disadvantages (e.g., problems with exclusionary guilds);
one big advantage is that apprenticeships could formalize
mentoring, something that smooths the transition into the
work environment.

2. I suggested that several pieces of work might be
required for a "senior" certificate; as Dan noted, one
large work might be even better proof of skill than several
small pieces. I'd certainly consider it as such.

3. Identifying someone's contribution to a team project
(such as a large manual) is the most problematic part of my
proposal. You'd have to work with the person's supervisors
and clients to identify this, or alternatively, interview
candidates to determine what design problems they faced and
how they resolved them. (This knowledge, with examples
provided by pointing them out in the published text, would
be more useful than a simple claim that you wrote the whole
thing; it would be hard to come up with spurious
constraints and solutions that would convince an
experienced writer... lies catch up to you eventually.) I'm
not 100% happy with this solution, but explaining how and
why you did what you did is a step in the right direction.
Any other alternatives?

4. If the work was edited or part of a team effort, the
same note applies. In this case, candidates would indicate
the problems the editor or team found and corrected, and
what they learned from this experience. After all, working
in a team, or with an editor, is part of the job, and
should be evaluated somehow. Problem: team members or an
editor might provide useful info, or might not, depending
on their feelings about the candidate (e.g., whitewash or
get revenge). Again, any other alternatives?

5. Good writing is indeed good writing, whatever the
circumstances, but you have to be realistic. I'm a good
writer, but the text I put onscreen to send to this list,
written in a minute or two per posting between the tasks of
my real job, don't hold a candle to what I can do in a few
hours, with a good library and time to rewrite properly.
Even excellent writers don't produce excellent work
consistently under tight deadlines; find a reporter in your
newspaper who writes news stories as well as a weekly
column to see the difference that a little time makes.

6. Peer review is a problem, because it is subjective. But
if you get turned down by one review board and approved by
the next, odds are that you're still probably certifiable.
Yes, this is a flexible standard, but perhaps there are
more objective criteria we could develop for the board to
use. For ex., STC has a list of reasonably objective
criteria that they use in their annual publications
competition; these might be a good start.

To close this longwinded response, I'm not coming out in
favor of certification; neither am I irrevocably against
the idea. But if someone does decide to impose it on us,
I'd like it to be on terms that _I_ can live with. Being
evaluated on the basis of my work is much more attractive
to me than whether I was able to complete a two-hour test

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of our
reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.

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