Certification & improvement - responding to Arlen

Subject: Certification & improvement - responding to Arlen
From: Grant Hogarth <GRANT -at- ONYXGFX -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 2 Jan 1996 17:38:30 -0700

> Given (and this is an assumption - the parental unit of all screw-ups)
> that a significant number of managers and hiring types are *not
> qualified* (and that's a whole 'nother issue) to judge minimal
> competency, and as a result lump the good in with the awful,
> setting a standard is * one* way to improve the general
> opinion of the profession.

> And there's the nub of our disagreement. Who are you (who am I, who
> are we?) to decide a hiring manager isn't competent?

Yup. As I said, it's an assumption; a "first premise" if you will. If
you don't buy this one, the rest becomes somewhat moot.

> Why not? In the first part I am stating what it should be in
> an initial state;in the second, I am describing what I think
> it should become. The two, in my mind, are not mutually exclusive.

> What it will become? I've already sent something in about what *I*
> think it will become, and it ain't pretty.

Yes, you did, and I think that you are being somewhat of a cynic.
Which is your right, and I'm glad that you are doing it, because it
forces us optimists to think through our positions. Hopefully we are
also causing you to review your positions as well. :-)

> Thanks for not being offended.

Not a problem. Inteelgent discourse is seldom something (IMHO) to
take offense at.

> The bottom line is the dilemma about where to set the Certification
> bar. Too low, and it serves no purpose and it may as well not exist.
> Too high and it excludes too many otherwise qualified people. Our
> difference is based on the fact that you think there's a height
> which is high enough to avoid the first but still low enough to
> avoid the second. I don't.

Bingo. I think we may have to agree to disagree. :-)

> You're willing to admit that the certification process will tighten
> up as it advances. (At least that's what I'm getting from your "what
> it will be" statement.) Thanks for the concession to reality. I
> agree; I think it will, too. Unacceptably. Even providing an
> acceptable level for the bar could be found now.

I think that we have an impasse here.
What (short of actual experience) could cause you to think that there
*might* be an acceptable level for the bar?

in your reply to Tim you state:
>1) It is often put forward that certification serves as an indicator
>of quality, and that companies interested in quality will pursue
>certified people. Therefore, certification will become a prerequisite
>for many jobs.

It is already. Generally, if you are going to write about computers,
you need knowledge of computers, if you are writing about nuclear
reactors, you need expereince in the field. What is not true is that
there is no *formal* certification at the moment, just a "seat of
your pants" "gut-feeling" about whether someone can write.

> 2) As has already been discussed, what was being used by some people
> as a quick and easy yardstick for judging a person's qualifications will
> quite often spread to more and more firms, to the point where it becomes
> a practical requirement. It won't be imposed upon employers; the herd
> mentality will take care of that without any need for outside imposition.

That is possible. Is it so wrong?
Would you want the same lack of standards to apply to Bus Drivers, Pilots, or
school teachers?

>3) I haven't seen it during this go-round (I've deleted most of this
>cycle's postings unread) but in every other go-round, Certification
>has been touted as The Way to Keep The Riff-Raff Out Of Our
>Profession. [snip]

Hmmm...I'll admit that there are some exclusion/isolationists, but
they are the radical fringe <grin>

>All of these scenarios put stumbling blocks in the way of writers
>entering the field from other fields.

How so... I don't buy that it does, any more than trying to
transition from a writer to a programmer, say, or a sysadmin; there
are hurdles to be jumped there as well.

> If you had a relatively satisfying career with a good company, you'd hardly
> be likely to throw it over for the possibility that someday you might get to
> work for a good company as a writer. You'd be more likely to try to migrate
> into a writing job at your company, wouldn't you? But your company (having
>bought into the certified is better line) doesn't hire non-certified
> writers, so you're cooked.

Hmmm... I don't buy this analogy, Arlen...unless you are positing a
company that is so rule-bound that managers have no leeway for
personal judgement.


> My worth as a tech writer is inherent in my skills.


> It is not inherent in any certification program, no matter how many years ago
> I was certified. My skills and my ability will change both before and after
> certification. [snip]

Don't conflate the map and the territory. Certification is a means
for external judgement and a communication of group expectations.
It is not a skill in and of itself.

> I'm sorry, but I have to question whether
> such opinions reflect a concern for our profession as a whole,
> or whether they're simply "every man for himself."

> Both, actually. Every profession begins to ossify when pieces of paper
> become more valuable than the people themselves.

Again, agreed. However, there is no inherent value in quicksand. :-)
And when structures become too rigid, they become brittle and crack
under their own weight.

> And I'm a prime candidate for exclusion under the certification regime.
Why? Because you can write clearly and articulate complex thought
patterns with wit and verve? I think not.

Maybe we are looking at the wrong models for our "approval".
What about something similar to the polar societies, or the British
"Collegiate" model?

It seems like what a lot of us on the "pro" side are looking for is
some recognition that what we have is a valued skill, not just a task
that any trained monkey could do.


Grant Hogarth, Information Developer
Onyx Graphics Corp. Midvale, UT
www.onyxgfx.com ftp.onyxgfx.com
#include <std_disclaim>

"Men are not prisoners of fate,
but only prisoners of their own minds."
-Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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