Friday, October 13, 2006


I just had to sign a few of these. You know, the kind saying 'John Doe has successfully slept through "Incompatibility obfuscation complication library"'.

I could hardly keep a straight face through this. For, first thing, I just basically gave a talk along some slides, and, unaware of the certificates beforehand, I did not do any tests. (Wouldn't have if I knew, either.) Only indication of achieved understanding were the questions I got underway, which for some people were interesting, for other largely nonexistent, which again has many possible reasons.

And what does 'successful' mean? Has been there and awake the whole time? May be able to clone the demo examples? Has grokked the purpose and intent of that library? They first two are somewhat easy to verify; the third would take me many hours. But only that kind of understanding is useful, only it does not come immediately when presented with the whole set of concepts; it usually takes time to 'get' it.

And foremost, what are these certs good for? Since they are generally only vaguely correlated with true understanding, they are only useful for people who have no idea on the matter themselves (think recruiters-using-grep); in an job interview you could more easily find out by asking a few questions if the candidate knows that library or would easily learn it.

But in this case the course topic was a proprietary library that no one outside the company uses, so the certs are as shiny as they are exactly useless.

Also you wouldn't really want to work for someone who asks for the cert instead of asking you whether and how much you know the topic. They show that they don't trust you, and instead they risk getting someone who learned just for the cert. If you ask for crooks you get them.

The only advantage gained by looking for certs is the same as by buying software: you have someone else to blame if it doesn't turn out so good. John Doe should have known the iocl; Microsoft should have delivered a working Word, it's not my fault. Unfortunately finding the guilty doesn't help you at all (unless you are SCO). It covers your seat, but even your seat would have been financed from the project that just went down the drain.

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