BSD certification group: working in the open
The "c" word (certification, shhh!) in the Drupal community is met with a mix of anticipation and suspicion. While the Drupal community is maturing and growing, there seems to be an ever more pressing need for some type of metric to know someone's reputation, skills and ability. The Drupal.org profiles, while good markers of contributions, don't necessarily show someone's Drupal knowledge.
For Acquia, certification is on the long finger- but at DrupalCon last month, more and more people kept on bringing it up in conversation. Some are clamoring for it; and some are dead set against it. Since I was hired as Manager of Learning services, they were looking to me for answers.
Notably, during the conference, Growing Venture Solutions, a Drupal development company (also Drupal contributors and book authors) created their own certification program: Certified to Rock. Greggles also wrote a comprehensive review of conversations (often flame wars) around certification in the Drupal community. Their solution: a black box where in you type your name and it returns a value from 1-11 based on a closely guarded algorithm judging your level of Drupal. Heh, I didn't make it sound as much fun as it is. (By the way, I'm a 4!)
There are so many passions, fears and suspicions around the topic of certification. And understandably so. Certification was popularized by large commercial operations; and training was "boot camp style... focused on passing exams and not real work skills", says Dru Lavigne of the BSD certification group. To say that the topic is dangerous is putting it mildly. Surely other open source communities have navigated this briar patch?
BSD: developing a certification in an open process
When the community of BSD decided to work on certification, they set up a volunteer, community-based not for profit group, backed by a legal governance infrastructure. The one paid staff member is an expert in Psychometrics, ensuring examination offers accurate and fair metrics. For an open source community, this seems a great solution to a tricky problem. But how much time does it take to negotiate something like this?
"Nobody before us created a certification program in an open process, it had always been silo'd in a commercial institution." - (from video below)
She estimates their next certification will take 9-12 months. Now this process has developed and they're opening it up and sharing it. Dru presents a video: "BSD Certification Group: A Case Study in Open Source Certification (October 9, 2009)" A very useful resource.
Dru Lavigne is also editor of Open Source Business Resource http://www.osbr.ca his is a free periodical. I see that Drupal's own Emma Jane Hogbin is a regular contributer. Yep, FL/OSS is a small world, afterall.
Dru presents an outline of BSD's certification in this video. You can follow along with Dru's slideshow below.
Here are the accompanying slides, which are useful to follow along with while you listen.