Certification: Why?

Posted 26 Apr 2000 at 21:07 UTC by aaronl Share This

Advogato has an interesting feature which allows members to "certify" others.This clearly has potential as a way for knowing who has made the largest contributions, but is it really usefull? Is this functionality facilitating anything more than a popularity contest?

Advogato has an interesting feature which allows members to "certify" others.This clearly has potential as a way for knowing who has made the largest contributions, but is it really usefull? Is this functionality facilitating anything more than a popularity contest?

Certification is not very helpful because it sorts people into categories that say a lot about them, where there is little evidence that they fit perfectly into one of those categories. Often certification is done by people who barely know anything about the person being certified - see the advogato member page for miguel or alan as an example for using the certification system to state the obvious popular opinion.

I think it is more important to understand what role these classes created by certification create in the community. Many societies have had class systems, but the better and more sucessful of which have not. It is often improper for people to be judged by the community - it is not unusual for people to value different skills and actions. If the community appreciates major contributions to famous software rather than full-time work on a small, not generally usefull, niche market software, people will be undercertified. Not like it matters. Which causes me to wonder: why does certification even matter? It's useful for getting a flawed idea about how charitable people are to free software, and not much else.


Certification: Why not?, posted 26 Apr 2000 at 21:20 UTC by mishan » (Journeyer)

I agree with you but not completely. Most societies did have class systems and the better and successful ones did too in a way, but they were more fluid. The Advogato "class" system, as you call it, is extremely fluid. I don't consider this a popularity contest. This is more like a way for people to share their opinions of each other. I think that in a successful society, people should share opinions with each other. If you say "Why Certification?" then why not "Why Advogato?" Now I admit that the Advogato certification system today is not complete and can use quite a bit of work.

I don't think that most people appreciate major contributions to famous software more than full-time work on smaller programs. At least I don't...Advogato is not only a society, but a place for transfer of information and I think that the certification system is perhaps one of the "information channels." It helps people get to know other members better.

This is just my two cents. Feel free to flame me...heh

Jeez, is it me or what..., posted 26 Apr 2000 at 21:26 UTC by rmorgan » (Apprentice)

It seems that most of the non-diary content here is about advogato itself. Aaarrrrggghhh!

Ok, fine, so we have certifications, and though imperfect, they give some indication of skill or effort. Fine, many societies have a similar measure. But, then everyone gets on with their lives. You don't have the guys down at the coffee shop or in a business setting arguing over how they are viewed by each other.

They are there to interact, enjoy, make money, learn, or whatever.

When do we get to do that here?

Half & Half, posted 26 Apr 2000 at 21:34 UTC by flomo855 » (Observer)

Aaronl, I strongly agree in the sense that yes, it might be a popularity contest. After seeing "alan's" page, i have noticed that there were a quite great amount of people certifying him as master, or other certifications. Although I do not know much about programming, or many other things, I can understand that that he is probably a great programmer. I noticed that he was a Co- director of Linux. To me, that is pretty cool, and in a way, I think that he is a master. So, i think that it depends on how great there skill is. I think that is why they are certified as master, etc.

Sometimes it can be a popularity contest, because as I know, "mishan" has a lot of good programming friends. I am not saying that they presented a certification to mishan because they are his friend, but in a way, there's a possiblity where something like having many friends help you out, occur. To mishan: I just used you as a form of an example, im not saying that that happened.

Aaronl is an extremely well programmer in my sense. I think he should be certified as jorneyer, or even better. I am not sure. But, considering his abilities, I think that people in Advogato should sit down, and understand his work, and certify him as something in their opinion, and not in a popular sense. Mostly of what everyone else certified him as.

Following the Masters, posted 26 Apr 2000 at 22:26 UTC by claudio » (Master)

One of the problems I see is different criteria used by different members to certify a developer. After lilo's recent essay about raising the bar a little bit, some members decided to lower their certifications -- but many members didn't care or decided to keep them at the current level. Additionaly, lilo's proposal also included a new Novice level -- which hasn't been implemented yet.

As a result, I see many Journeyers which have the same, or even lower "apparent" level than an Apprentice (apparent, in this case, is apparent to me, based on the relevancy of the projects listed in their pages or my previous knowledge of their work). This leads to an inconsistency. As an apprentice, I've seen many Journeyers that didn't like to deserve such certification more than myself -- but again, they have been peer reviewed and, consequently, they deserve such certification and I won't complain.

I see the popularity as a strong influence in certification, but know the person to be certified is certainly a prime requisite for certification. If I certify alan, it's certainly because I know his work and I'm aware of his efforts and accomplishments in several projects. But I also see (especially from novices) the tendency of certifying a member at the same level that someone else (usually a person with a higher "popularity") certified this member. As an example, after riel certified me as Apprentice, everyone else seemed to do so :) Follow the Masters.

Trust., posted 26 Apr 2000 at 22:29 UTC by sethcohn » (Master)

While it is still in an infant stage, I see advogato's trust metric as having a valuable place and is needed.

Look at the recent pirahna 'backdoor'. I read some of the slashdot posts, some of the 'mainstream' coverage, but by far, the clearest response was here from the author. And I trust him and his explanation, in part because of advogato's trust of him.

This site (or community) has the potential to help create a safe zone where discussions are raised that have some substance. Regardless of what you think of RMS, ESR, BrucePerens, Alan, Linus, Larry etc etc... the community (or some large percentage) trusts them. This trust metric has the potential to help create a larger group of 'trusted' individuals, and lesser stars in the heavens.

Someone saying "Hey, listen to my opinion" is just another voice in the wind, but with some sort of clear 'public' trust measurement in place, we can point to this site and say to vendors, to reporters, to PHBs, etc "Look, this person is a valued member of the community, and has some say/sway/etc. and deserved to be listened to."

Now how we implement this, and exactly what it looks like... those can be changed... but the idea is a sound one.

Personally, I think lilo shouldn't have left, and I'm wondering what the whole story was there.

anarchy, posted 27 Apr 2000 at 00:40 UTC by apgarcia » (Journeyer)

I would merely like to point out that the Advogato certification system falls sadly short of RMS's idealized hacker society. Granted, the AI Lab at MIT is not a place you were likely to find anyone with an I.Q. lower than, say, 150. In this context, it's difficult to look down upon anyone. The same is true of the Bell Labs Computing Sciences Research Center as described in an interview with Ken Thompson -- no management and no formal projects. Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.

A plea, posted 27 Apr 2000 at 02:10 UTC by Acapnotic » (Master)

Please, in the name of all that is savory and goes well with ketchup, stop posting articles about certification to the front page. Get over it. Some of us have moved on, and we'd really like to leave the channels of this spiffy community open for doing something other than inspecting its navel. I think it would be a damn shame if Advogato gets stuck with a reputation of "Oh, Advogato? All it ever talks about is itself" because of this.

You may be thinking, "Sure, it's easy for you to say that, because you're purple." But you know what? I don't care. Sure, I'm a bit flattered, but I also haven't heard any reasons as to why I'm purple, so it feels a little uncomfortable too. But that discomfort isn't worth shouting in the streets about.

And we've had this discussion, folks. The answer to "Certification: Why?" is on the sidebar of the front page:

The goal of the site is to serve [...] as a research testbed for work on group trust metrics.

I'm sure if Raph isn't too busy with Max, he'd be happy to share an intelligent discussion about his research on trust metrics. But until there's a completed chapter of a dissertation or something, I feel the topic has worn out its welcome among the headlines here. So can we now get back to the first half of that goal, please?

The goal of the site is to serve as a community resource for free software developers around the world [...]

Thank you,
- Acap

Misses the point entirely., posted 27 Apr 2000 at 02:17 UTC by kelly » (Master)

Advogato's certification system is not intended as a "quality metric" but a "trust metric". It's probably an error in design that the ranks have names that imply expertise; they should imply degree of trust. While I suppose expertise can be a proxy for trust, it is an imperfect one.

One solution to this problem of conflation is to create two metrics, one of trust (using the current network flow algorithm Raph has so cleverly designed) and one of expertise. Those people who think expertise ranking is anathema can abstain from participating in that metric and rank people only as to trust. The problem with only having a trust metric is that people will continue to assume that it's a "social standing"/"quality"/"expertise" metric and misevaluate people because of this mistaken assumption.

Why..., posted 27 Apr 2000 at 07:52 UTC by jennv » (Journeyer)

Why anything? Because.

Because: the builder of this site wanted a way to ensure that articles posted would be by people the community trusted to post useful stuff.
Because: the builder of this site was curious about how the certification system would impact on the way the site was used.

And a much more personal because. Because I feel more comfortable about what I'm doing, and how much/how little I'm doing, when I get feedback that people value what I do. And the certification system gave me that feedback.

Thank you.

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