Why is it that you can claim to be God,
Satan or Jesus and get
certified as a Master without an uproar, but being honest
and forthright gets you reamed? This sort of animosity is
supposed to help grow the free software community?
hacker, I never requested anyone to
certify me as a Master, or as anything else for that matter.
Yet ncm singled me out as an example of
so-called "abuse" of the system, claiming that I "requested"
Master certification. I did nothing of the sort!
I've never asked anyone to certify me -- I
have complained that the certification system seems
to be broken when I used to be certified and now I'm not,
despite having more than a few listed certifications. That
complaint was because I was worried that the system might be
malfunctioning unnoticed -- I wasn't trolling
for additional certifications. However, when more people
certified me, I thanked them (and you) for it. But did I
request those certifications? Never.
I have previously listed sixteen
orthogonal concepts that people seem to want this single
certification metric to convey, and most of these can be
derived or inferred from Raph's description. Since it
obviously can't squeeze sixteen dimensions into one, I chose
(somewhat arbitrarily) to pick just one dimension (level of
programming skill) to use for my certifications. I may not
have the same background and experience as another given
individual in terms of what code and tools I've worked with,
but when it comes to innate programming ability, I'll go up
against most people any day.
Give me all sixteen dimensions individually and I'll be glad
to pick the best choice on each dimension. Maybe I should
have done them all and averaged it, I don't know. I didn't
think it would matter, because I didn't think anyone would
care what I put for myself. If people really trusted the
system to work correctly, nobody would have made an issue of
it in the first place.
People talk about Advogato as if it has a "web of trust",
but that is extremely misleading. PGP has a web of trust,
but using that terminology here misleads people, because
that's not what Advogato has. Instead, this truly is
a computerized "good ol' boys" network, even if
unintentionally. I believe raph has
stated (though I can't remember where) that Advogato was
arbitrarily focused on free software because he liked free
software and wanted to support it, but that the true purpose
of creating the site was as a testbed for his research, to
see if the certification system would effectively weed out
the spammers and trolls while allowing legitimate users to
discuss free software without all the noise (from spammers
While it's been pretty effective at that goal, it's not
clear that it's been as good about letting legitimate
participants in, especially recently. I suspect the chosen
algorithm may not scale as well in practice was it was
intended to, because the more people and more certifications
there are, the more those certifications seem to be diluted.
Raph states: "The trust metric used to evaluate the
certificates is most robust when the certificate graph is
dense." In practice, it seems to be excellent at keeping
the "good ol' boys" in, and most others out. Since most of
Raph's writings here seem to focus on effectiveness in
keeping out the bad people, it's not clear whether he ever
paid close attention to the flip side of the coin, letting
in the good people.
I just downloaded a copy of the people page, and
ran a few counts across it. The majority of the
accounts are uncertified! Out of 4,760 total accounts,
3316 (69.7%) are uncertified, greyed out as "Observer".
Only 322 (6.8%) are certified as "Apprentice". Another 798
(16.8%) are certified as "Journeyer". Finally, 324 (6.8%)
are certified as "Master". More people are certified as
Master than Apprentice! Last year, that page was mostly
green with a little grey, today it's mostly grey with a
Does this make sense? Are there really over 3,000 spammers
and trolls here? The barbarians are at the gates? I find
this very difficult to believe. It seems much more likely
that the certification system is broken, since it's keeping
out more than twice as many people as it's letting in.
Maybe the implementation is flawless and the algorithm
itself isn't scaling well. If the goal was primarily to
keep out spammers and trolls (as it seems to be), but it's
keeping out the majority of potential participants, isn't
that cause for concern? Shouldn't this be investigated,
especially if the algorithm isn't scaling as expected?
I complained about the certification system to try to draw
attention to this; it doesn't seem to be behaving as
intended. Of course, the "good ol' boys" who are solidly
entrenched in the system are happy to say that it's working
just fine, thank you. On the other hand, Raph says
that "the metric is being pickier than usual, almost
certainly too picky. Apologies to those who should be
cert'ed but aren't."
Raph designed and implemented this certification system, and
he isn't convinced it's working right. Isn't it
ironic that I get vilified for daring to question it?
If everyone removed their certifications from me, and I was
left uncertified because of that, I would have been
disappointed, but I wouldn't have complained that the system
was broken. However, the certifications that used to be
quite sufficient were no longer, and that seemed amiss, so
(after giving it a month), I tried to draw some attention to
it by complaining more vocally. I've been unfairly attacked
in return, but at least Raph has noticed that something is
amiss with the certifications. Hopefully he'll pay more
attention to this issue now, if he can find the time...