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Perl Certification revisited

by cosmicperl (Chaplain)
on Oct 02, 2007 at 00:14 UTC ( #642026=perlquestion: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??
cosmicperl has asked for the wisdom of the Perl Monks concerning the following question:

Hi All,
  Hate to drag up an old debate, but in my recent decision to strive forth to become a Perl master I looked into Perl certification. Found a bit about it here and on perl.org... Nothing seemed to really lead anywhere. A bit on here from Randal saying Larry wouldn't bless it, although all I found from Larry was:-

from January 17, 2001 Maya Tamiya at Perl/Ruby Conference in Kyoto
"CL: Some people seem to see the need for Perl certification. What do you think?
LW: I think someone else can do that :-) I'm not going to tell people whether they're certified or not. My approach to language design has always been that people should learn just enough of the languages to get their jobs done. They shouldn't have to learn the whole language to begin with. But with certification, you have to be learning the whole language. Some people feel more comfortable that way. I guess if you want to hire experts, you want to make sure they're experts. Certification is useful for that.

But most of the programming out there is not done by Perl experts. It's mostly done by Perl novices, and they sometimes make sloppy programs, that's ok. They learn by experience to do better over time and eventually they become experts and then, if they want to get certified and somebody wants to certify them, that's fine. I just don't want to do that myself."
(thank poqui for posting)

To me this sounds like Larry would be happy with it...
That was a few years ago, 2001/2002. I see that BrainBench still have their version, and I've also come across eLearners who seem to have another version...

The last posts I found about this were at use Perl;
That was 2 years ago.. Has anything happened that I missed? Is most the community still against it? It would be nice to have some sort of certificate I could flash at people I put proposals to. But I don't want one that no one here respects.

I know Perl has so many area's and can do so many varied applications, that I'm sure (i hope) that the masters here will agree that you can't know everything (apart from maybe larry)

Maybe modular certifications, such as Perl System administration, Perl CGI, etc...

Lyle

(hoping that this subject might go a bit further than it has previously)

Update: I think we can all agree that certification isn't the best way to rate any programmers, let alone Perl ones. But on the other hand most of us can agree that certification is what employers, HR and businesses look for and understand. I personally don't like putting together proposals and sitting down going through presentations, but that's how business do it, it's what they expect, and for them at least it's what works... Should Perl (or Perl developers at least) miss out on jobs and projects partly because there is no certification? Perl may be able to reinvent the wheel with programming, but it's not going to reinvent the way businesses work and view things

Comment on Perl Certification revisited
Re: Perl Certification revisited
by merlyn (Sage) on Oct 02, 2007 at 00:34 UTC
    Since you've obviously read the historical discussions, do you have anything new to bring up? Can you demonstrate how it would be anything other than a license to print money for the certifying body as they get officially blessed by some organization (TPF?) to do this, or how it will help to select good candidates for jobs?
    update: Your response doesn't address either of my points, and talks about things that won't be affected one way or another by certification. Certification will not help Perl be more accepted, period.
      The Microsoft people get to waive their shiny certificates in employers faces, so I'm wondering if companies that need a project done, and haven't decided what language it's going to be done in get swayed by this? In my opinion a lot of the stuff done on sites in .net should be perl/cgi.
        But if I'm puting forward a proposal against some .net people and they have their shiny pieces of paper I'm very sure this has an effect on who they choose to go with (although I do get to laugh when they later decide to change servers to Linux and hit problems).

        Although I know from your previous posts that you are quite against it, if anyone were in a good position to make such a thing (or things) it would be you.
        Why not "Learning Perl exam certified", "Intermediate Perl exam certified" or something akin. Or broken down further into say 10 or more modules covering different area's, so employers could get an idea if the candidate had the right Perl knowledge for the job (CGI, SysAdmin, Linux, Win32, etc).

        Would you consider asking Larry if he'd
      bless $randal_certification_modules;

      I think free certification would cause problems, why not have it cheap, and all monies (minus running costs) go toward the development of Perl 6?

      P.S. I've been reading your books, after learning from other books that I thought were good, you're learning Perl book alone has taught me many things I should have already known. I wish I started with it in the first place, and am looking forward to reading Intermediate Perl (should be onto that one in a week).

      Lyle

      update: I don't think certification will be the single solution to making Perl more accepted. But I do believe that it will go a long way toward doing so.
        Yes, I became one of those Microsoft people back in 2000, so what?
        The only good was that I got mature enough to switch to Linux and its programming ENV.

        Of course - they also give you a badge and a wallet card, but that's all.

        I am delighted to see that after a bit more than a year your opinions have not influenced how employers determine if they want to hire me or not. I can only be suspicious at someone like you, especially when i see you giving advice like so:

          Most programming guides for Perl will teach you how to write scripts for Linux. You then later have to update your code to work for Win32 from another guide. It's all a lot easier if you code your script for Linux and Win32 in the first place.

        What a total crock of crap. No. No i do not need to later update my code to work for Win32 because i don't write code for Microsoft. I think we see your true nature now -- no wonder you want Perl to adopt certifications, no wonder you want people to have to pay for them. That is exactly what Microsoft wants too. Why don't you guys just stick to .NET and leave Unix programming to the professionals? We don't need you, your certifications, or your bad advice.

        Thanks, but no thanks.

        jeffa

        L-LL-L--L-LL-L--L-LL-L--
        -R--R-RR-R--R-RR-R--R-RR
        B--B--B--B--B--B--B--B--
        H---H---H---H---H---H---
        (the triplet paradiddle with high-hat)
        
        Some of us would love the PERL certification exam to be available. In no other way would we be able to get job opportunities, because we donít have much, if any, experience. Iíve had a quick stint in PERL development in 1999, but was only allowed limited coding, because the retail company I worked for does not officially accept the language. Soon Iím certifying in SCJP6 just to reskill to portals. In the region I stay, IT training is spread very thin and being able to buy a certification training book online and working through it at own pace makes it accessible. Certification will do the same for PERL Ė allow this beautiful language growth and expansion.
Re: Perl Certification revisited
by chrism01 (Friar) on Oct 02, 2007 at 02:06 UTC
    I think cosmicperl's point is that the people who make these decisions (ie have their hands on the money) are fairly conservative and feel happier/more convinced if a Cert is offered.
    If we did it, we'd want someone senior eg Larry to specifically bless the companies/courses (to ensure high stds) and a percentage of income to go to the Perl community somehow.
    Whether or not we like the idea isn't strictly the qn being posed, it's dealing with/convincing potential clients...

    Cheers
    Chris

      Hi Chris,
        Thanks. That's exactly what I'm trying to say.
Re: Perl Certification revisited
by perrin (Chancellor) on Oct 02, 2007 at 02:23 UTC
Re: Perl Certification revisited
by dragonchild (Archbishop) on Oct 02, 2007 at 03:36 UTC
    You are working in the field that changes the fastest in world history. Seriously - there has never been a field in human endeavor whose tools have morphed so quickly and so completely as computer programming. What do I mean? Well, let's take a look at my first three Perl jobs:
    • 1995 - implemented a website in Perl/CGI.
    • 2000 - implemented a testtools application that never saw a webserver.
    • 2001 - implemented a ETL application for loading whatever-it-saw into Oracle
    Whoa! What kind of cert should I get there? Do I get three certs?

    Let's take a look at MySQL certs. I've been a MySQL DBA for over 2 years. I toyed with the idea for a while of getting the DBA certs and realized that it was a complete waste of my time. Why? Two reasons:

    1. The certs are someone else's idea of what I should know. Frankly, I need to know whatever it takes to get the person paying me what they need.
    2. The certs are so behind the times that it hurts. If I had certified when I first started being a DBA (back when 4.1 had just come out), I would know nothing about views, stored procedures, cluster, and everything else released since then. In fact, I'd be emphasizing my lack of suitability for a job with an up-to-date MySQL install.
    The best certification is still the same - your reputation as spread by word of mouth. And, Perl is the best language within which to get that because the community craves new people working on CPAN modules. You want my recommendation? Take over PDF::Template and PDF::Writer and show me what you can do with it. I have gotten my last six (seven?) fulltime jobs, several on-the-side contracting gigs, and at least two fulltime offers I chose to not take primarily due to my CPAN work and the reputation I've gained as a result of it. It's to the point where I will only hire Perl developers who either have stuff on CPAN or are vouched for by someone who does. And, I'm not alone in that. Show me how a certification (or even ten certs!) can match that.

    My criteria for good software:
    1. Does it work?
    2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?
      It's to the point where I will only hire Perl developers who either have stuff on CPAN or are vouched for by someone who does.

      Actually that is one of the best criteria for checking someone's Perl-fu I heard in a long time.

      But sadly one must also admit it will only work for those who know about CPAN and for many PHB a shiny certificate with stamps and seals is "easier" to accept: if anything goes wrong you can always point to the certificate and say "I know he trashed our database, but he was certified for the job!"

      CountZero

      A program should be light and agile, its subroutines connected like a string of pearls. The spirit and intent of the program should be retained throughout. There should be neither too little or too much, neither needless loops nor useless variables, neither lack of structure nor overwhelming rigidity." - The Tao of Programming, 4.1 - Geoffrey James

        But sadly one must also admit it will only work for those who know about CPAN and for many PHB a shiny certificate with stamps and seals is "easier" to accept: if anything goes wrong you can always point to the certificate and say "I know he trashed our database, but he was certified for the job!"

        I heartily agree.

        I've started my contribution to CPAN, albeit small at this time I plan for it to grow. It's something I'll mention with great pride when I put forward a proposal to companies, but sadly unless they are Perl people I'll be getting a blank expression on their face. Most of them only understand certification.

        Lyle

        I will only hire Perl developers who either have stuff on CPAN or are vouched for by someone who does

        I disagree with this because CPAN is about common useful utilities to the community, not to pad someone's job credentials.

        I also don't like the exclusivity of saying "I created a module on CPAN therefore I must be an expert". How many Perl programmers are there in the world? 50,000? They should be vetted by the 1,000 authors on CPAN? It is unrealistic and being a CPAN author does not necessarily indicate their ability to determine another persons skill set.

        I would love for Perl to be treated (by PHB's) as a true PROFESSIONAL language that is on the same level with .NET or Java rather than just a scripting language like BASH. If that means that is a Perl certification would bring this level of recognition then I am all for it.

        While I agree that a certification is not necessarily a good way of determining a persons skills. It does provide something to make a decision on besides a gut feeling This is especially so for a non-technical manager..

Re: Perl Certification revisited
by shmem (Canon) on Oct 02, 2007 at 07:34 UTC
    Most if not all certificates I've seen are for some large system vendors offer (be that system built upon open source components or not), ostensibly to make sure customers get the product handled by contractors who know it, and besides that got knowledge of intrinsics which the vendor chooses to sell by way of those certificates.

    But the real reason is to be able to shell out 1st and 2nd level support to those contractors, while still making money of that. Nice business model.

    Computer languages don't fall into that category. You get a CS degreee, and that is all there is to it. Ever saw a certificate that stamps you as "certified C programmer" which is more than a written congratulation for having passed a course at some training insistute? Ever heard of "certified PostScript programmers" or "certified FORTH professionals" or the like?

    dotNet is a different thing, it's Microsoft. They want to make money, and these certificates are just for those who literally buy into Microsoft's system of making bucks, nothing more. You can't tell by way of a dotNet certificate whether someone does really have any programing skills, let alone (broad) knowledge of the field in which they are supposed to excercise their skills.

    A "perl certificate" doesn't make any sense. There would be such a thing around for long now if it really did. And speaking of dotNet again - no, there will be no MONO certificate, I guess...

    Those that require a certificate will never consider using perl, since there's no company behind that language which they can sue if things go awry, there are no "integrated tools" sold along, no support, no liability, in short, perl is no "product".

    update: fixed several typos, but left one in place: insistute... :-D

    --shmem

    _($_=" "x(1<<5)."?\n".q·/)Oo.  G°\        /
                                  /\_¯/(q    /
    ----------------------------  \__(m.====·.(_("always off the crowd"))."·
    ");sub _{s./.($e="'Itrs `mnsgdq Gdbj O`qkdq")=~y/"-y/#-z/;$e.e && print}
Re: Perl Certification revisited
by apl (Monsignor) on Oct 02, 2007 at 09:53 UTC
    Maybe modular certifications, such as Perl System administration, Perl CGI, etc...

    Perl 4, Perl 5.0.4, Perl 5.8.5, Perl 6.0.0, ...
Re: Perl Certification revisited
by cdarke (Prior) on Oct 02, 2007 at 12:42 UTC
    I have been trying to get this restarted as well, but there are issues. It seems that employers like certifications: it makes life easier. You could argue that employers can do their research and look in CPAN (or even perlmonks), but an over-worked, non-technical HR department will not.
    As you can see from the posts here, there is a large body of opinion against certifications in the community. Certification would be meaningless without the community's backing. In my opinion the only people with the necessary respect to run such a scheme would be the Perl Foundation. I sent an email a few months ago to several TPF worthies, but replies there were none.
    One reason they might not be interested is the legal aspect. Saying that someone has skills to a certain level is open to litigation should that not be the case. This has been a show-stopper to several certification schemes.
    Some have mentioned that TPF's charitable status would be compromised, but I don't see that, in that it should be self-financing.
    Anyways, good luck vroom.

    Update: TPF has been in touch to resolve the lost emails, thanks to this posting.

      If HR departments stopped bothering the employees with pointless semi-annual multipage selfassl!cking forms and boasting colorfull company brochures that no one reads, they'd have plenty of time to learn something about the field they are hiring for and find the qualified people. Maybe they think, the more employees' time they waste, the more important they seem to be.

Re: Perl Certification revisited
by CountZero (Bishop) on Oct 02, 2007 at 16:17 UTC
    Certifcation for a computer language is like the various (natural) language test you can take. They will confirm that you can read, speak and write the language, but does it say anything about whether you can write a novel?

    CountZero

    A program should be light and agile, its subroutines connected like a string of pearls. The spirit and intent of the program should be retained throughout. There should be neither too little or too much, neither needless loops nor useless variables, neither lack of structure nor overwhelming rigidity." - The Tao of Programming, 4.1 - Geoffrey James

Re: Perl Certification revisited
by perlfan (Curate) on Oct 02, 2007 at 16:53 UTC
    Update: ... bah

    Business works via competition, and at the higher levels the better programmers are the ones that get hired. It is free market principles applied to hiring - in other words, competition implicitly decides who gets the jobs, not some silly shingle of paper. Even out of college, how often after that first job does it even matter what your undergraduate degree was in? Isn't that the ultimate, most expensive "certification" there is?

    The only place I can see someone needing a certificate is for entry level positions when someone doesn't have a portfolio or real experience. Also, good programmers need not be experts in the language they are going to be using. A good programmer can use any language equally well, and learning the particular semantics and idiosyncrasies of a language poses minimal headache if they already know how to effectively program.

    My point is that certifications are good for greenies trying to get their foot in the door, but what makes one get recognized as a good coder are the talents he nurtures and hones on his own.

    Certifications are good for one thing for sure - they make whomever is issuing the certs lots of easy money, because where there is a demand (even an artificial one)... :)
Re: Perl Certification revisited
by Aim9b (Monk) on Oct 04, 2007 at 02:22 UTC
    I believe certification is wrong. I'd prefer NOT to pacify some HR or IT manager who can't otherwise do their job. There are better ways than certification to evaluate a prospective programmer. If your existing programming staff can't evaluate a perl programmer, hire an outside firm. You'll only need them on the first one, then you'll either have a proven product, or at the very least, know what to ask the next one. Let the results be the deciding factor.

    Now, having said this, it's also very important to have testing milestones, to avoid going too far down the right road with the wrong person. This allows the entire process to be 'almost' language independent. Thanks for letting me weigh in on this. I'm currently certified in nothing, nor do I have a CS degree, but I've been programming for 3 decades in over a dozen languages, and I have yet to meet an HR person that's even remotely competent.
      Perl is an artistic language. It is jazz, where formal rules are pushed and cajoled into presenting the same thing in a new (maybe even better and more efficient) way. Come on guys. Don't make the mistake of Apple in the 80's, or IBM in the 90's (re: OS/2). Principles are fine, but should they stand in the way of the betterment of Perl, and the IT world? When I hire a contractor to build a deck or a new staircase, I damn well want to see his certification and experience. "Let the results speak for themselves" just won't cut it when my child has fallen through the staircase because I hired someone who spoke more than I knew. The same goes for airlines - would you want to fly in a plane where the pilot hadn't gone through the most stringent of tests and exams? Recall the first word in the acronym of the language we admire: "Practical" - dharma
        Ok. I am officially one of the cloth now. That last entry was mine, hopefully my sentiments won't lose validity. Glad to be here. - dharma

        While I understand your point, I still don't like software certifications for a couple of reasons.

        Your staircase example covers one. Certifying builders is possible because we have thousands of years of experience in what makes good buildings. Also, the number of different ways to solve a given building problem are finite and well understood. Software is not in this category. Just in my career (about 2 decades), I've seen major changes in what was possible and what would qualify as good practice.

        The other point is that the few certifications I have run across serve only to benefit the certifying authority. These companies sometimes appear to have no practical knowledge of the field they are certifying. This makes the certifications relatively useless.

        If someone could come up with a certification that actually showed programming ability and was not just a way for a company to claim due diligence, then I would be interested. A real test of this would be if a company could be held accountable if a program failed after their certified Perl programmer refused to sign off on a design and they decided to do it anyway. If the certification doesn't provide any real teeth, what is the point?

        BTW, Perl isn't an acronym.

        G. Wade
        Are we testing competence in syntax? How about security? OO principles? Learning how to make perl Do Things (TM) isn't hard, and the hypothetical test would be as much of a joke as a learner's permit to drive. Think about testing paradigms and specialties instead.

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