[BSDCert] "If you build it, they will come"
evan at telly.org
Sun Nov 20 16:55:37 EST 2005
I can 't say enough about the skill, determination and professionalism
of the people here in this list. Especially given an almost total lack
of financial resources, both the quality and quantity of work I've seen
has been extremely impressive.
Having said that, I ask sincerely (and I am not one to troll) -- does
anyone have any idea whether sufficient demand exists out there for a
BSD cert, beyond a collective hunch? Is there enough real interest to
even make the minimums that a VUE or Prometric would impose on a new
cert? Are there enough people out there who are ready to pay be tested,
sufficient to satisfy any business model that's not almost totally
dependent on sponsorship?
Here's what led to these questions... A few weeks ago I put up a
personal website based on Drupal, and included there a poll on "what new
open source certification is most needed"?
In the time since, there have been some visits and some people voting. I
have not gone out of my way to attract any particular kind of audience.
The sample size (19 to date) has not been staggering but the voting has
been interesting and varied.
One of the choices was BSD -- so far it hasn't attracted a _single_
vote. This is in contrast to 11% who said that there are already too
Now, I'm not saying this to draw traffic to my site, nor to get a bunch
of folks here to vote to skew (let alone "equalize") the results. My
point here is that what I've seen so far makes one stop and wonder who
-- beyond the people who are making it -- wants to have (let alone pay
money to be tested for) a BSD certification?
Usually, in a capitalist world people supply things to address a demand.
Supplying something before establishing a demand is extremely risky,
especially for a non-profit effort that can't afford to bear losses for
very long. Now that the group is incorporated, there are real expenses
to deal with.
So far, implicit answers I've seen for the justification for this effort
as as much based on advocacy goals as educational ones. I beg this group
not to see or develop certification as an advocacy tool. That is a
strategy that will lead to great disappointment.
Now, lest I come across as completely negative, I do have what I
consider to have a constructive purpose to all of this. I am urging that
this group proceed with the development of a skills _specification_, but
to (at least temporarily) stop short of the additional (and IMO futile
at this time) steps to turn the spec into a certification.
In my own experiences, making the spec (that is, a definitive
enumeration of what skills need to be tested, something a little deeper
than the objectives) is the most difficult and most important part of
any certification. That can be done inexpensively, in a collaborative
environment like exists here on the mailing lists, web sites, IRC etc.
The verification and implementation of that spec requires a
widely-spread infrastructure that has to cope with issues of security,
finances, psychometrics, mailing certificates, etc.
Making a respected spec allows training and academic organizations to
have a common and well understood target that employers can use for
hiring. By (at least initially) allowing each training group to
"self-certify" its students you eliminate the huge logistical problems
of the cert, while addressing many of the educational and
employment-related needs for it. The value of the cert itself is tied to
the reputation of the institution issuing it (not far different from the
situation now for college degrees and diplomas).
To be specific, I am suggesting that before creating a single exam
question, the BSDCG incorporated body produces a book based on the spec,
describing and explaining the various objectives. Not just online, but
something that someone can buy on Amazon and read in bed. Alternatively,
existing authors of BSD books (such as those on the BSDCG advisory
board) could be asked to make revisions to target the spec. The success
of convincing such authors, and/or the sales of an "official" book on
the spec, will give at least some indication of the certification's
potential demand (keeping in mind that not everyone who learns the
material will want or need to get tested on it).
Perhaps the existence of materials based on the spec will build demand
for a cert by employers or trainers. That would offer some kind of
quantitative basis for proceeding with the logistical and administrative
component (which will require cash resources not needed for
development). But at least there'll more than wishful thinking behind
the rollout, which will make the project more attractive to would-be
sponsors and make a future letdown far less likely.
The mission statement begins with "we perceive benefits to". If the
benefits are not demonstrated (let alone perceived) outside of the
group, that's not good. Even for a charity, maybe especially so
More information about the BSDCert