Programmer-standardized testing - was Parameter p arser

Elston, Jeremy Jeremy.Elston at
Wed Dec 4 15:16:11 CST 2002

Guess it is time to open my mouth ... Wide enough to allow my foot to be
shoved in it later!
Note that this contains quotes from various authors which I did not
individually identify.  As my comments are not intended as any sort of
attack on any individual, but rather a discussion of various ideas, then I
do not see this as a problem.

> Good programmers are always burnt by bad programmers.
Good mechanics are always burnt by bad mechanics.
Good doctors are always burnt by bad doctors.
Good lawyers are...wait, not relevant to this field

> was "trust metrics be used to ferret out people causing more harm than
good" or something > to that effect. In addition to bad programmers pushing
down good programmers, I've noticed > lazy programmers blocking hard working
programmers and trying to keep company/client
> expectations low. The lazy and the stupid are threatened by the
hardworking and smart. 
> Once again, I could tell stories. 

As can my friends who work in completely unrelated, but regulated fields.
They describe similar stories in their totally unrelated fields.  The point
being that I do not believe this is isolated to unregulated fields.  It is a
product of human nature.  Some people are lazier, slower, manipulative,
etc... than others and licensing will do absolutely nothing to curb that

Thousands of totally unqualified individuals receive degrees every year that
should never be allowed to professionally practice in whatever field they
have chosen.  Will another test somehow succeed where the evaluation of an
educational institution has failed?

> Code is seen as an investment, and an investment that is not to be made
lightly, and 
> managers hearing "this is aweful... I have to rewrite this" one too many
times has Perl 
> down for the count.

Is this not the type of thing one hears when a programmer evaluates
another's code, regardless of the language used?  Myself I thought it was
more of an ego issue (I write better code) and not necessarily due to the
language a program is written in.  I have said those same words looking over
basic, perl, shell, C, and just about everything else.

My dad used to be a mechanic and he said the same thing about the work of
some of his fellow  licensed mechanics.  Programming is not the only trade
to suffer from shoddy workmanship.

> there so far.  Every other area of engineering has testing, licensing and 
> regulation.  Architecture (AIA), Accounting (AICPA), Medicine (AMA), Law 
> (ABA), and so on, all have an examination and licensing process.   Some 
> fields even have continuing education and retesting requirements as well.

Yet they still suffer from the presence of completely unqualified
professionals that are fully licensed to practice.  If you have never
experienced this then you lead a charmed life or I lead a cursed one (which
is probably more likely!)

> Per my first round of suggestions, I see the crux of the problem as
> and employer dysfunction and ignorance.

Agreed.  If you could develop a test to weed out ignorance then we should
implement it across society as a whole.  Might not be to many people left,

Face it.  Those of us that excel in our fields only excel because we are the
rare breed.  Meaning we are surrounded by the average and incompetent (by
the standards WE defined, of course).  Perhaps if we just accepted that the
world is full of average people this wouldn't bother us so much.  You cannot
break the bell curve on this one.

> Computers make basement dabbling easy. History has shown that sciences
start off as 
> things that can be done in the basement and then scale in complexity
beyond that.

A lot of innovative science work is still being done in the basement.  Once
the basement scientist proves his theory and/or completes a prototype it is
sold off to a huge corporation for refinement.  Yet the creative groundwork
was still done by the common man in his basement/garage/backyard.  Science
has most assuredly not been relegated solely to the corporations of the

> medicine, and accounting are all making very good progress.  As far as
> creativity, yeah, that might be impeded a bit.  Or maybe a lot, an
> lot.  Perhaps once all the artsy-fartsy was removed from programming, we 
> could actually start creating maintainable code that meets the needs of 
> users.  If you want "COOL GRAPHICS MAN!" then maybe you should consider a 
> career as an artist of some type.  If you want to be sloppy and arrogant 
> toward customers, you could go work for a car dealership, they specialize
> that sort of thing.

Wow.  Harsh.  Anyone who likes graphics should just be kicked out of the
computer world because a group of individuals do not care for them?  Sounds
like a guy I used to work with that constantly stated that all liberals
should be shot and killed.  He said it with great conviction.  Ideas and
things that I do not care for should not exist or at least not be
encouraged?  Perhaps if it was just stated that the artsy-fartsy code should
be generated in appropriate places...?  If architects were able to tolerate
the artsy-fartsy Frank Lloyd Wright, perhaps we can learn to as well.  The
artsy part is that which allows innovation to continue despite the
regulations and licensing restraints.

> I am exploring is paralegalism.  Now, here is a field which is young, 
> about
> 30 years old, and already about half its membership is pushing for 
> professional qualification.  Another area I am studying is home
inspection, a 
> field only 25 years old and has had regulation and licensing (in some
> for some time, with expansion coming in other states soon.  AZ is one of 2

> states requiring Home Inspection licensing, just in this last year.   The 
> national organization has been providing credentials for many years now.

And yes folks there are plenty of bad inspectors.  When I was buying a home
a few years back I had to ask around to find the name of an inspector with a
good reputation.

> Companies don't trust programmers - not even good ones - especially good
ones - so they 
> *have* to find shirfers to trust that take care of that pesky trust thing.

Ironically the trust they are looking for is most appealing when sold to
them by a used car salesman.  His promises and assurances cloak them in a
fuzzy, warm blanket of trust.

> My career in computing is very sad.  I have had to settle for working with
> utter morons and idiots.  Worse, some of the supervisors I had were worse 
> than that, some of them were outright liars, backstabbers, and ghouls.

I know the feeling and have had it at numerous jobs in various fields.  Yet
I maintain that this is a people problem and no amount of regulation will
ever put a stop to it.  Unless you start regulating based on personality
evaluations.  ;-)

This has dragged on so long I am not really sure what I wrote anymore.
Summary: I am not against regulation.  It could provide some benefits
(increased pay), but I seriously doubt it would solve any of our troubles.

- Jeremy "just avoiding doing real work" Elston

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