Re[4]: Certification

Subject: Re[4]: Certification
From: "Arlen P. Walker" <Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 1995 08:29:00 -0600

The only thing you have said here that I disagree with is that, in
omitting part of my statement you effectively misquoted me in the

As far as I can tell, the only thing I left out of your quote was the word
"many" which was in the line or two before where I started my quote. Including
that word wouldn't have changed anything I wrote. If you feel I did you an
injustice by leaving that word out of the quote, I apologize. The only reason I
did was sheer convenience on my part -- it's easier to delete complete lines
than partial ones.

Try rereading my post using all of the words. We may be closer to
agreement than you think.

I doubt that seriously. You want to use certification as a weapon to keep the
riff-raff out of the profession. I said in my post that certification, or any
testing program, is unreliable and won't do that. That instead it will make the
field stagnant and hidebound. I don't see how we can get farther apart, on this
issue at least.

I'm not objecting to someone setting up a certification process. But you wanted
to make it mandatory so that it can exclude the people who don't measure up to
the standards of whoever sets up the process. I say the process is by nature
unfair, biased and unreliable, and that these faults lie in the very nature of
the process, and cannot be removed.

Certifications cannot measure or predict job performance with sufficient
accuracy to be properly used to cut off *anyone's* career, and that, I submit,
is the only thing that matters. Everything else is mere window dressing. If you
care to dress up your window, fine, it's a free country, do so. But you've got
no business trying to make me dress mine up in a similar fashion.

If a company keeps incompetant writers on staff, then no amount of certification
programs will change that company. It obviously doesn't care, and wouldn't give
competant writers the tools or time to create good documentation, even if
somehow you could wave a magic wand and instantly transform every writer in the
company into a Hemmingway or a Faulkner.

People, we've got to get the focus off form (degrees, certifications, tools,
etc.) and on function if we want to garner any respect for the profession as a
whole. If there is no respect for the function, there will be no respect for the
form. Period. Trying to treat the lack of respect problem with certification is
like trying to treat appendicitis with an aspirin. True, you'll lower the fever.
You'll alleviate some of the symptoms. But the patient *will* die.

Everything relates to the bottom line. If a company doesn't see the link between
docs and the bottom line, then we've failed as information providers. It really
IS that simple, people! And if they don't see the relationship between docs and
the bottom line, then they certainly won't see a relationship between certified
doc writers and the bottom line. And even when they see the first relationship,
they *still* won't see a relationship involving the certification. They'll want
a competant staff, not fancy wallpaper.

The papers don't mean squat. It's the people that matter. Any company that
doesn't understand that *will* fail. There's no perhaps about it. And any writer
who sees a piece of paper as some sort of magical silver bullet that will
dispose of the incompetent writers and bring happily-ever-after time to the
really good writers (isn't it funny how the certifiers automatically assume
they will always end up on the good side of whatever bureaucrats end up running
the process that gets set up, and how it's always "them" and never "us" that
will get fenced out?) belongs in fiction, not factual writing.

Certification is a Red Herring (tm). Let's talk about ways to highlight our
relationship to the bottom line. You want respect? The shortest path to an
executive's respect runs directly through the corporate treasury. Prove good
writing saves money. If it doesn't save money, it'll never get paid for. If it
does, they'll buy more than we can possibly supply.

<folds portable pulpit; puts it in pocket and stalks off>

Have fun,
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
DNRC 124

Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
In God we trust; all others must provide data.

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