Over the last few years I've had several projects where I had to interview people to get involved on Flash/Flex/ActionScript projects -- typically what happens is the client wants some sort of assurance that "nothing bad will happen" and somehow there is this perception that only getting people on board that have passed a certification exam helps with this. From my experience that is not the case and I have serious doubts about the whole concept of a couple dozen multiple choice questions to determine someone's expertise in a particular product. At best it documents that they know the theory.

Is software certification worth something in the real-world and is it worth you spending your money on? I've seen a lot of qualified people rejected for projects because they didn't have product certification and on the other hand you have people that did get certified and couldn't script a simple animation without resorting to the documentation.

I would like to see this changed.

For a while now I've been thinking about the possibility to set up an open community run program that documents real-world expertise. This concept is not too far from what JavaBlackBelt is doing.

The basic concept

  • Free access to certification exams
    Cost shouldn't be a barrier to entry for deciding to take a certification exam, just think about the amount of skilled students and people starting out as developers that are not in a position to afford this and whose skills go unnoticed.
  • Recognize specific areas of expertise
    Everyone has specific areas of expertise, even within one product. When you take a certification exam you get the breakdown in your results print out but they're not published.
  • Peer review of your code
    Multiple choice questions alone are not an adequate way to test proficiency using a technology. What I'd propose is requiring candidates to submit some open source code snippets, open to the public and reviewed based on a set of evaluation criteria by a group of peers.
  • Community visibility
    Once somebody get certified, there needs to be a public resource to get that published on. It should list your product certification status, main areas of expertise as well your submitted open source code snippets.

I'd ideally like to tie this into a mentorship program -- where beginning developers can be assigned a community member to help them build their skill level.

Just to be clear, I don't see this necessarily replacing traditional software certification but as an additional way to demonstrate your real-world expertise and community involvement. This concept can be extended from just software certification to more specific skills like e.g. Papervision3D, PureMVC, etc.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, if there's enough interest I'd be happy to set up this community certification initiative and start recruiting some volunteers.