Agile Skill Badge Proposal

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Richard J Foster

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Jul 29, 2010, 11:41:28 AM7/29/10
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Greetings all,

One of the things identified by Cory's agile games (conducted last
month) was a desire for some kind of badge or similar to help
demonstrate that people know what they are talking about.

If you have been following the Agile Welcoming Circle, you may be
aware that someone (I have no idea who) has set up http://agileshout.com,
a StackOverflow / ServerFault style question site which offers a badge
and point system. While this is certainly a step in the right
direction when it comes to recognizing people who know what they are
doing, I don't think it goes quite far enough. Specifically, I have
the following concerns:

1) The badges on agileshout are associated with operations on the
entire site. Someone may be excellent at TDD, and may earn a large
number of points and badges as a result. It does not mean they are as
good at all other aspects of Agile development.

2) Points earned on agileshout are for the most part permanent. This
means that someone *could* build up a good point total, then sit back
and enjoy the acclaim as their skills become outdated. (I'm not saying
anyone would, but the possibility exists.)

3) People who are actively practicing agile may have excellent skills,
but not have the spare time to spend on a site like agileshout
(preferring instead to spend it with their family, for example). In my
opinion they should not be penalized for that.

I have just added a page to the ADS wiki (http://sites.google.com/site/
agileskillsprojectwiki/certification/agile-skill-badge) proposing a
badge mechanism which I believe has the potential to overcome those
concerns. Please take a look at it, and let me know if you think I'm
on the right track, or if I'm completely off course.

Regards,
Richard

Ron Jeffries

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Jul 29, 2010, 12:44:32 PM7/29/10
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Hello, Richard. On Thursday, July 29, 2010, at 9:41:28 AM, you
wrote:

> I have just added a page to the ADS wiki (http://sites.google.com/site/
> agileskillsprojectwiki/certification/agile-skill-badge) proposing a
> badge mechanism which I believe has the potential to overcome those
> concerns. Please take a look at it, and let me know if you think I'm
> on the right track, or if I'm completely off course.

I like the idea and prefer it to agileshout, which seems to me to be
focused on giving popular answers to questions, while we are, I
imagine, about skills.

I'm not sure about the expiration logic. On the one hand, we do want
people to keep their hand in. On the other hand, most of these
skills do not decline substantially over time (though one can of
course become rusty). On the gripping hand, people will have a
limited time to spend earning badges, and will probably only be
interested for a while. A Boy Scout badge is, as far as I know,
evidence of something done, and does not expire. Ours might be the
same.

Or I could be wrong. In any case, I like the idea ...

Ron Jeffries
www.XProgramming.com
www.xprogramming.com/blog
Fear is the mindkiller. --Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear

Richard J Foster

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Jul 29, 2010, 1:43:12 PM7/29/10
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On Jul 29, 12:44 pm, Ron Jeffries <ronjeffr...@acm.org> wrote:
> I'm not sure about the expiration logic. On the one hand, we do want
> people to keep their hand in. On the other hand, most of these
> skills do not decline substantially over time (though one can of
> course become rusty).

Fair comment. I imagine it will depend specifically on the skill
represented. A "Continuous Integration" badge (for example) should
perhaps not expire, "Continuous Integration using CruiseControl.NET
Version 1.3" should arguably become less important over time as CCNet
gets updated.

The badge selection should be driven by the community. Perhaps instead
of having the expiration logic described it would be simpler for the
community to agree (when applicable) that a certain badge would be
retired. While those badges could remain on an individual's specific
"accomplishments" page, they might perhaps no longer be represented in
the summarized skill information.

Just so everyone has a clear picture of what I have in mind, my goal
was that the summarized information would provide two things. First,
it would provide a simple (visual) indication that someone was at a
specific competence level (Bronze, Silver or Gold). Second, it would
provide a simple indication of how their skills were clustered. For
example, someone may be at an average level of Silver, but their
expertise is concentrated in delivering business value and
collaboration while their technical excellence is lower than might be
hoped. Yes, the information is available from the radar-chart (http://
sites.google.com/site/agileskillsprojectwiki/skill-levels/charts), but
those charts may not be as easily understood by the HR drone, pointy-
haired boss, or Agile newbie.

Regards,
Richard

George Dinwiddie

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Jul 29, 2010, 3:34:05 PM7/29/10
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Richard,

The specifics seem a little fiddly, to me. Setting up a point system
that does what you want is terribly difficult. I don't think it's
possible to come up with a set of rules that will work. Human judgment
is essential.

Assuming that "the community" will have any sort of consistency is a bad
assumption, I think. And "the community" needs to be bootstrapped somehow.

The Boy Scouts use a "merit badge counselor" who ensures that the
requirements have been met. (See
http://meritbadge.org/wiki/index.php/Computers for example
requirements.) The quality of such counselors varies tremendously.

Also, it's very difficult to make something work with numbers of
nominations. Many people have relatively little opportunity to share
what they can do in a meaningful way to the people who could make the
nominations. If they already work in a company with a lot of badge
holders, they probably don't need the badge. If they're working to get
out of a non-agile company, they won't have the contacts.

These remarks aren't meant to discourage you. I hope you'll pursue
refining these ideas.

I've already started distributing an Agile Merit Badge
(http://idiacomputing.com/images/AgileMeritBadge.jpg) The requirements
are a bit subjective, and mostly indicate going out of the way to
participate in an Agile learning experience where I've been a part. Not
a high hurdle, but worth of recognition in my opinion.

- George

--
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* George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
----------------------------------------------------------------------

Richard J Foster

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Jul 29, 2010, 4:32:47 PM7/29/10
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On Jul 29, 3:34 pm, George Dinwiddie <li...@iDIAcomputing.com> wrote:
> The specifics seem a little fiddly, to me.  Setting up a point system
> that does what you want is terribly difficult.  I don't think it's
> possible to come up with a set of rules that will work.  Human judgment
> is essential.

Human judgment is indeed essential. That's why I wanted there to be
some sort of mechanism to say "I Jenny Expert believe that Jack
Adequate is good enough at task xyz that he can start mentoring
others". The point system was an attempt to reward someone who has
demonstrated skill (value) to many other people by advancing them to
the next level. I wanted it to be automated somehow so someone
providing a lot of grass-roots value, but not necessarily widely
known, would be rewarded.

> "The community" needs to be bootstrapped somehow.

Oops... It seems that when I created the page on the wiki I missed one
of the major points of my offline discussion with Jeff Hoover. Once
the basic framework is sorted out and we have some idea what the
initial badges will be then several people (e.g. you, Ron, Chet, etc.)
will be awarded skill-appropriate honorary Gold badges. Additional
honorary badges will probably be distributed over time (rather like
Honorary degrees) to those who have earned them in a more indirect
manner. Those people would effectively be the "badge counselor". For
example, anyone you have worked with and give a physical merit badge
to would probably deserve an electronic one too.

> The Boy Scouts use a "merit badge counselor" who ensures that the
> requirements have been met.  (See http://meritbadge.org/wiki/index.php/Computers for example
> requirements.)  The quality of such counselors varies tremendously.

That "counselor quality variance" was another reason for not wanting
to make it *too* easy to get a (higher level) badge. I particularly
wanted to try and protect against a small group of people awarding
badges to people who hadn't really earned them (e.g. friends and/or co-
workers). Jeff suggested that we should recognize the "best"
nominators. In my opinion, "best" would probably be defined as those
who went out of their way to guide and recognize new or rapidly
improving talent.

> Many people have relatively little opportunity to share
> what they can do in a meaningful way to the people who could make the
> nominations.  If they already work in a company with a lot of badge
> holders, they probably don't need the badge.  If they're working to get
> out of a non-agile company, they won't have the contacts.

That is indeed an excellent point. It's one of the reasons why (in my
head at least) I had decided that some sort of "Remote Mentor" badge
should be among the first created. This would encourage (if not
require) someone with skills in a specific area to mentor another
person through channels such as email, Skype, etc.

Perhaps I have been concentrating too much on the "how" when I should
have been thinking about the "what". What specific Agile-related
skills should we reward people for demonstrating?

Thanks for the feedback.
Regards,
Richard

Jeff Hoover

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Jul 29, 2010, 4:49:24 PM7/29/10
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On Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 4:32 PM, Richard J Foster <richard...@gmail.com> wrote:

Perhaps I have been concentrating too much on the "how" when I should
have been thinking about the "what".
 
I don't agree. I think keeping the merit badges discussion on the subject of "how" right now is key if it is ever going to get off the ground. We've got *way* more progress already on "what". See below.
 
 
What specific Agile-related skills should we reward people for demonstrating?

Those skills identified in the Agile Skills Inventory.
 
Thanks for the feedback.
Regards,
Richard


--
Jeff Hoover

Mentor/be mentored: the Agile Skills Project
http://www.agileskillsproject.org/

D.André Dhondt

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Jul 30, 2010, 5:44:13 AM7/30/10
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OK, I said I was going passive, but this is so interesting I want to be active again--two comments:


* One thing we identified in the past is that in order to have a reliable vouching system, there has to be some cost to the person who endorses. For example, if I vouch for you, I lose X reputation points, or I consume my monthly max on endorsements, or some other cost (e.g., the two people actually worked together for a half day or more). Otherwise, it becomes a popularity contest in the way that some people brag about how many Facebook friends they have.

* I too wonder about expiration policy, but think that if badges were specific, like you said, tied to a particular version of software, or even dated (and renewable, e.g., Pair Programming 2003)--it would be clear to a reader who may be getting rusty or not on what skills--or open the door to a conversation at interview time... "hmm, I see you did the Pair Programming badge 7 years ago--have you paired since?"



-- 
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Ron Jeffries

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Jul 30, 2010, 6:38:35 AM7/30/10
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Hello, D.Andr�. On Friday, July 30, 2010, at 3:44:13 AM, you
wrote:

> or even
> dated (and renewable, e.g., Pair Programming 2003)--it would be clear to a
> reader who may be getting rusty or not on what skills--or open the door to a
> conversation at interview time... "hmm, I see you did the Pair Programming
> badge 7 years ago--have you paired since?"

Lovely. A bit hard, perhaps, to have people always say "I hold the
Agile Developer Skills badge Pair Programming 2003" but if it were
part of the understood culture that it was the thing to do, it could
work rather nicely. People would know to do it, and people would
know to ask.

And one good answer might be "I pair program every day. I see no
particular reason to update the badge."

Nifty idea. And welcome back.

Ron Jeffries
www.XProgramming.com
www.xprogramming.com/blog
The "rules" are ways of thinking, not ways to avoid thinking.

Richard J Foster

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Jul 30, 2010, 3:24:39 PM7/30/10
to Agile Developer Skills
Based on the feedback so far, I have updated the proposal to something
a little simpler. To save everyone time, the significant part of the
Wiki page is included below:

An Agile Skill Badge is a way to recognize others that have
demonstrated proficiency (or excellence) in a specific area, or to
demonstrate your skill level to others. For now, this is just a
proposal. Please let us know if this is something you would like to
see (and would find helpful). If you wouldn't, let us know why not!

The available Agile Skill Badges, and the required skills to obtain
each type of badge will be defined by the community. If we see a need
to recognize a particular skill, then a badge will be created for it.
Initially, it seems likely that a badge should be created for each of
the major Agile Pillars.

Most badges will have 3 levels - Gold, Silver and Bronze where a Gold
badge holder is a recognized champion (or has the skills to be a
champion) of that particular skill. Some will not; For example special
badges may be awarded to anyone attending a particular conference or
training session.

The concept for awarding badges is along the following lines:

1) When new badges are created (and occasionally at other times when
someone has clearly demonstrated that they should be recognized as an
authority in a particular area) a small number of Honorary Gold Badges
will be awarded. Typically the number of honorary badges for a
particular type will be less than 10.

2) An active holder of a specific badge can nominate up to 5 others
per calendar month for the same badge. If they are at one of the
higher levels (gold / silver), then they can also indicate how
"advanced" the person they are nominating appears to be.

3) The requirement to earn a badge (in addition to an ability to
demonstrate the required skills defined on a badge-by-badge basis) are
as follows:

Badge Level Requirement
Gold 3 nominations at "Gold" level.
Silver 2 nominations at "Silver" level or higher.
Bronze 1 nomination at "Bronze" level or higher.

4) Some badges may have dependencies on other badges. For example, to
keep the "Self Improvement" badge you may be required to obtain a
special badge (by attending one of the recognized agile conferences,
or participate in a recognized agile dojo) at least once every 5
years. [Don't worry... If we do that we'll make sure that there is at
least one "remotely accessible" mechanism, just in case you're stuck
in the frozen wastes of Siberia or sweltering in the Amazon rain-
forest.]

5) If a person loses the right to a badge (either through failing to
keep their skills up to date, or through attempting to cheat the
system), any nominations they have made for others to receive the same
badge will no longer be counted. If they regain the badge, those
nominations will be reinstated. [The mechanism by which a badge could
be lost is not yet defined with the possible exception of the "Self
Improvement" badge mentioned above. Hopefully we'll never need to
define it either. :-)]

6) Members of the ADS group would be able to place an HTML snippet on
their web site (for example) which would show a summary of their
current badge status (probably as some form of graphic), and provide a
link to a more detailed report of their agile skills (and the ADS site
where people can learn more about how to gain those skills and badges
for themselves).

Thanks again for your comments so far. Does this seem closer to what
we want (and a more workable option)?
Regards,
Richard

Ron Jeffries

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Jul 30, 2010, 4:21:26 PM7/30/10
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Hello, Richard. On Friday, July 30, 2010, at 1:24:39 PM, you
wrote:

> Thanks again for your comments so far. Does this seem closer to what
> we want (and a more workable option)?

Richard, this is very nice IMO. I think it is pretty workable, and I
like that it is mostly self-sustaining as it grows.

I've started my art / web person thinking about making badges, which
I envision as coming in sticker form and a graphics file you can put
on your web site. I'm pretty confident that we can cover the cost of
making them one way or another.

I like that it's mostly nomination-based. One thing that I was
thinking was that the nominated person should justify their
receiving the badge, with a brief writeup describing why they
deserve it.

My original thoughts weren't quite so peer-oriented as this, and I
was thinking of a small cadre of reviewers who could look at things.
I was going to nominate myself and some other members of the
community to do it. There is, of course, the concern that the cadre
might become a cabal. Discuss?

Ron Jeffries
www.XProgramming.com
www.xprogramming.com/blog
Ron Jeffries, speaking for Boskone ... Out.

Richard J Foster

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Jul 30, 2010, 4:48:46 PM7/30/10
to Agile Developer Skills
Hello Ron,

The main driver behind not making you (and your cadre/cabal) a
required part of the process was because I imagine the majority of
your time is spent on other tasks. I don't want the badge process to
become an inconvenience to any of the expert/accomplished
participants. As long as the requirements for each badge are clearly
defined, which I hope you and other experts would help ensure, then it
wouldn't take as much skill to determine if someone has met (and
ideally exceeded) those requirements.

If we discover that badges are getting awarded to people who don't
appear to deserve them then we probably should instigate some sort of
review process - perhaps by having an established or honorary badge
holder oversee the next few nominations from whoever seems to have
been handing out questionable ones.

As far as the nominated person submitting a writeup describing why
they deserve it, I'm not convinced. Perhaps I just have a bad attitude
towards people saying "Hey, look at me, see what I can do!" which is
what I feel that could turn into. Someone quietly going about their
work and actively demonstrating their skills is (in my opinion) much
more deserving of recognition, and much less likely to get it than the
office loudmouth. Having said that, because nominations would be up to
each individual and people like you are likely to encounter
significantly more potential nominees in a month than people like me
(if I earn a badge) ever would you may need some sort of filtering
system so you can pick those who are most deserving of your
endorsement.

Regards,
Richard

Ben Fulton

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Jul 30, 2010, 5:46:00 PM7/30/10
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I think this is a really nice idea.  As someone who is sweltering in the frozen wastes of Indiana, I'd like to see more specifics of how I could earn a badge.  In my case I suppose I could travel to Chicago for some event or other?


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Richard J Foster

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Aug 1, 2010, 10:39:30 PM8/1/10
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Ben,

Since things are still in the definition stage, I'd say "sure, you
could travel to Chicago", but personally I'd like to see either
something even more local. It will take some time, but my hope is that
in a few months/years we would be able to develop a network of mentors
who would either be able to visit local interest groups, or mentor/
evaluate skills via completely online mechanisms.

Of course that's probably totally unworkable. It certainly isn't for
now - there simply aren't that many people who's skill-level I believe
can be trusted. I'm sure they exist... I just haven't learned enough
about them yet (and unless they write a book, or happen to show up
somewhere at the same time as me I probably never will).

Out of curiosity, if there was a badge for each of the seven pillars,
which badge do you think would be most valuable to you? Do you believe
you already have the skills to earn it, or will you need a mentor?

Regards,
Richard

D.André Dhondt

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Aug 2, 2010, 3:25:53 AM8/2/10
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On Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 9:24 PM, Richard J Foster <richard...@gmail.com> wrote:
Does this seem closer to what we want (and a more workable option)?

Yes.

On Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 9:24 PM, Richard J Foster <richard...@gmail.com> wrote:
If we see a need to recognize a particular skill, then a badge will be created for it.
Initially, it seems likely that a badge should be created for each of
the major Agile Pillars.

I can picture how to earn/award a badge on TDD: go to a dojo with some existing TDD Badge holders, and show 'em my stuff. For the remote option, I could do a video (in the Haines/Martin code-kata style) and post it online.

I can even imagine similar dojo-like sessions for evaluating soft skills.

Yet I don't see how to evaluate an entire pillar-- what is a Gold-level Badge in Technical Excellence? Is there a pre-requisite for passing other badges, or is it that we just nominate a few people and let them figure it out from there?  Is a pillar-level badge equivalent to becoming an Eagle Scout (sorry for the cultural reference--um, Eagle Scouts have earned a large number of badges and met certain requirements)?
 

Daniel Wildt

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Aug 2, 2010, 5:35:33 AM8/2/10
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I like that clean code green band.

I believe it is much more about being aware that a practice gives you
value than "act like this and get a badge in reaction".

Looking at this, it would be based on a self evaluation.

If not, should we have metrics?

How many dojos I have to attend? Should I have to play/pair? Should I
prepare a kata? In how many different programming languages?

I don't think we need metrics.

I believe we need people who value the same things an Agile Community
believes. So we are looking for people with the same identity.

They need to understand why, not what or how a practice is played.

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Ron Jeffries

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Aug 2, 2010, 6:50:33 AM8/2/10
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Hello, D.Andr�. On Monday, August 2, 2010, at 3:25:53 AM, you
wrote:

> Yet I don't see how to evaluate an entire pillar-- what is a Gold-level
> Badge in Technical Excellence? Is there a pre-requisite for passing other
> badges, or is it that we just nominate a few people and let them figure it
> out from there? Is a pillar-level badge equivalent to becoming an Eagle
> Scout (sorry for the cultural reference--um, Eagle Scouts have earned a
> large number of badges and met certain requirements)?

I don't see that one either. On the other hand, it might be as
simple as acquiring all or 90 percent of the set of technical
badges. I'd like to see the community involved in defining the
criteria, and I'd be inclined to start with some lower level ones.

Would the current readership think that a Bronze might be had for
reading a TDD book, and a Silver for an article or video showing the
candidate's TDD session building something small?

Maybe if we try to define a few, something good will happen ...

Ron Jeffries
www.XProgramming.com
www.xprogramming.com/blog
Design is the thinking one does before, during, and after
implementation. It works best for me with a little up front, most of
it during implementation, and very little after it's too late.

Ron Jeffries

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Aug 2, 2010, 6:54:09 AM8/2/10
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Hello, Daniel.

On Monday, August 2, 2010, at 5:35:33 AM, you wrote:

> I like that clean code green band.

> I believe it is much more about being aware that a practice gives you
> value than "act like this and get a badge in reaction".

> Looking at this, it would be based on a self evaluation.

> If not, should we have metrics?

> How many dojos I have to attend? Should I have to play/pair? Should I
> prepare a kata? In how many different programming languages?

> I don't think we need metrics.

> I believe we need people who value the same things an Agile Community
> believes. So we are looking for people with the same identity.

> They need to understand why, not what or how a practice is played.

So are you saying that anyone who thinks they deserve a Skill Badge
can just declare it and get one? If not, how would you have us
decide?

Ron Jeffries
www.XProgramming.com
www.xprogramming.com/blog


Mentor/be mentored: the Agile Skills Project

http://www.agileskillsproject.com/
http://sites.google.com/site/agileskillsprojectwiki/

D.André Dhondt

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Aug 2, 2010, 7:22:20 AM8/2/10
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On Mon, Aug 2, 2010 at 11:35 AM, Daniel Wildt <dwi...@gmail.com> wrote:
...should we have metrics?

It's a very tricky issue! 

Richard J Foster

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Aug 2, 2010, 8:36:07 AM8/2/10
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On Aug 2, 3:25 am, D.André Dhondt <d.andre.dho...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Yet I don't see how to evaluate an entire pillar-- what is a Gold-level
> Badge in Technical Excellence? Is there a pre-requisite for passing other
> badges, or is it that we just nominate a few people and let them figure it
> out from there?

I couldn't see how either, but it seemed from the feedback I had
received at the time that a "pillar" badge was what people wanted. I'm
not sure why - perhaps it's because 7 badges seems like a number that
could be obtained quickly (and people are looking mostly for something
to say "hire me" rather than something that says "my peers have
recognized that I am skilled in the area of...."). In my head I was
assuming that eventually badges like that would have to use
prerequisites on some sub-level badges similar to the way the self-
evaluation radar chart does.

As far as Daniel's comment is concerned, I do not believe that badges
based on self evaluation would work. It's too easy to convince
yourself that you know more than you do... or at least I've found
that. (There have been several occasions when I believe, based on
reading a book or previous knowledge, that I understood something only
to learn the hard way that I didn't know as much as I should!)

I also don't think it is sensible to (for example) create online tests
to prove badge-worthiness. In my opinion there is just too much
temptation for people to "study to the test" which is not what we
want. In addition, there would be significantly more cost associated
with creating and updating those tests, not to mention the fact that
it is (in my opinion) somewhat contradictory to the Agile Manifesto
statement that we value "individuals and interactions over processes
and tools".

I think Ron is right, we need to take a stab at defining at least a
few badges. How about we set a goal of selecting and defining the
first three badges (at all three levels) by August 23rd? I would also
like to suggest that one of the badges we define is a "mentor" or
"teacher" badge. Yes, I know that doesn't fit with the "one badge for
each of the seven pillars" suggestion, but by defining it, we may
start encouraging more people to help others develop their skills.
Other badges I believe could be defined relatively easily are "TDD"
and "Pair Programming". Any other nominations?

Regards,
Richard

George Dinwiddie

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Aug 2, 2010, 8:43:29 AM8/2/10
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Daniel,

On 8/2/10 5:35 AM, Daniel Wildt wrote:
> I like that clean code green band.
>
> I believe it is much more about being aware that a practice gives you
> value than "act like this and get a badge in reaction".

This is an interesting observation. While much of the Agile Skill Badge
discussion has focused on external verification of an individual's
skills, you're quite right that the simple fact of a person thinking the
skill is valuable has considerable value, itself.

I certainly would hate to see the Agile Skill Badge become sought after
only by collectors who compete to own more than others. As soon as the
token of skill becomes the goal, instead of the skill itself, it loses
its value. Perhaps by reducing the control around receiving a badge,
the focus would stay on the skill that the badge represents.

Of course, this doesn't fulfill the desire to judge a person worthy by
the badges they own, but I've yet to be convinced that's a workable
proposition.

- George

Jeff Hoover

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Aug 2, 2010, 8:56:53 AM8/2/10
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On Mon, Aug 2, 2010 at 3:25 AM, D.André Dhondt <d.andre...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 9:24 PM, Richard J Foster <richard...@gmail.com>
> wrote:

>
> I can picture how to earn/award a badge on TDD: ... For the remote option, I


> could do a video (in the Haines/Martin code-kata style) and post it online.

A third remote option would be to demonstrate to an existing badge
holder over something like Skype.

Ron Jeffries

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Aug 2, 2010, 9:18:36 AM8/2/10
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Hello, George. On Monday, August 2, 2010, at 8:43:29 AM, you
wrote:

> I certainly would hate to see the Agile Skill Badge become sought after
> only by collectors who compete to own more than others. As soon as the
> token of skill becomes the goal, instead of the skill itself, it loses
> its value. Perhaps by reducing the control around receiving a badge,
> the focus would stay on the skill that the badge represents.

I'm not following this thinking ... please say a bit more about the
reasoning behind it, and what might work, in your view, for
assigning / permitting / granting badges ...

Ron Jeffries
www.XProgramming.com
www.xprogramming.com/blog
Find the simple path to what works and follow it,
always looking for a simpler path. -- Patrick D. Smith

Charlie Poole

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Aug 2, 2010, 9:57:43 AM8/2/10
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Hi Andre,

The merit badge analogy never has worked for me. Merit badges are
optional things.
You can earn them in any field you like. The number you get gives you
various ranks
and there's no particular requirement - at least there wasn't in my
day - that they
all fit together in any particular way.

I've always used the analogy of the First class scout card. The card had a
specific list of things to master on it and a place to be "certified"
in that skill.
Generally, you had to actually do things to get an item checked off. I have
fond memories of building a fire (in the rain) and cooking a meal on it so I
could be signed off on that one.

Of course, either one is only an analogy, but the choice of analogy can drive
how something works and it's dangerous to use analogies when most folks
involved have only limited knowledge (I'm guessing) of the actual thing.

That said, I once built an entire training program on the model of the
first class
card and it was extraordinarily successful. In part this was because most of
the foremen using it had experience of my model. I'm not sure there is
anything quite as culturally pervasive today.

Charlie

George Dinwiddie

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Aug 2, 2010, 9:57:55 AM8/2/10
to agile-devel...@googlegroups.com
Ron,

On 8/2/10 9:18 AM, Ron Jeffries wrote:
> Hello, George. On Monday, August 2, 2010, at 8:43:29 AM, you
> wrote:
>
>> I certainly would hate to see the Agile Skill Badge become sought after
>> only by collectors who compete to own more than others. As soon as the
>> token of skill becomes the goal, instead of the skill itself, it loses
>> its value. Perhaps by reducing the control around receiving a badge,
>> the focus would stay on the skill that the badge represents.
>
> I'm not following this thinking ... please say a bit more about the
> reasoning behind it, and what might work, in your view, for
> assigning / permitting / granting badges ...

I'm just thinking out loud, here.

The reasoning behind it:

If receiving a badge is contingent on demonstrating to someone that
you've done certain things, then it's quite possible to do those things
only to the extent of that demonstration, and without regard to the
actual benefits of the skill you're demonstrating. We see this attitude
all the time when students "study for the test" rather than learn the
material.

Why would someone do this? It's because the benefits of the
demonstration have ceased to be a representation of the benefits of the
skill being demonstrated, and have become an end to itself for that
person. The student doesn't care about knowing the material, but about
receiving the good grade. In the same fashion, someone might seek
certification not because they intend to use the skill or knowledge, but
because the certificate is a ticket to a job.

I'm not yet convinced that Agile Skill Badges will be a ticket to a job,
but I can envision them becoming the goal, rather than an indicator, to
people who like to collect things. I notice people who, when
vacationing, visit as many countries as possible during a trip, or go to
as many "sites" as possible withing a city, without allowing themselves
time to understand and appreciate the places they visit. In effect,
collecting "been there" badges has replaced "being there" as the goal.

What might work?

That, I don't know. I'm still struggling with what "work" means in this
context. There are so many different things people want out of
badges/certifications, and in most of our discussions, these things are
not kept explicit. That's what leads to a lot of tangled conversations,
as participants talk with different implicit definitions of "to work"
but as if they were the same.

I don't recall that anyone has made a catalog of things a
badge/certificate might do, or why someone would seek one. Perhaps
someone with edit privileges would like to start such a catalog. As a
start:

* Someone hiring might use a badge/certificate to indicate competence.
* Someone hiring might use a badge/certificate to indicate awareness
and interest.
* Someone hiring might use a badge/certificate as a filter,
eliminating candidates without it.
* Someone hiring might use a badge/certificate as an indicator,
preferring candidates with it.

* Job candidates might use a badge/certificate to demonstrate competence.
* Job candidates might use a badge/certificate to qualify for a job
where it is required.
* Job candidates might use a badge/certificate to get through the
filters of first-line resume sorters.
* Job candidates might use a badge/certificate to demonstrate
awareness and interest.
* Job candidates might use a badge/certificate to differentiate their
credentials from those lacking the badge/certificate.

* People might use a badge/certificate to illustrate their competence.
* People might use a badge/certificate to demonstrate their
superiority over those lacking the badge/certificate.
* People might use a badge/certificate to demonstrate their
superiority over those with fewer badges/certificates.
* People might use a badge/certificate to document their learning
progress.
* People might use a badge/certificate to decorate their badge
sash/display case/wall.
* People might use a badge/certificate to increase the size of their
badge/certificate collection.

These come to my mind at the moment. I'm afraid some of mine seem a bit
cynical, but they represent my fears about badge/certificate programs in
general. I'm sure there are many other goals, including some very noble
ones. I'd love it if others could add such goals to this list.

Ron Jeffries

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Aug 2, 2010, 10:22:20 AM8/2/10
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Hello, George. On Monday, August 2, 2010, at 9:57:55 AM, you
wrote:

> That, I don't know. I'm still struggling with what "work" means in this
> context. There are so many different things people want out of
> badges/certifications, and in most of our discussions, these things are
> not kept explicit. That's what leads to a lot of tangled conversations,
> as participants talk with different implicit definitions of "to work"
> but as if they were the same.

Yes ...

I'd like the badges to be an indicator of competence. I say
indicator to keep it vague but have in mind that we'd have some
confidence about there being competence there.

I'd like some of the badges to be easy enough to get that lots of
people would get them.

I'd like all the badges to require at least some work to get.

I'd like the badges to become fairly well known.

I'd like the badges to begin to bring home to the world that such
things do not tell people much about people's competence. I have
this vague notion that if everyone had about 17 certificates and
badges after their name, people would get a clue.

I suppose that's silly ...

Ron Jeffries
www.XProgramming.com
www.xprogramming.com/blog
The model that really matters is the one that people have in
their minds. All other models and documentation exist only to
get the right model into the right mind at the right time.
-- Paul Oldfield

Richard J Foster

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Aug 2, 2010, 10:33:28 AM8/2/10
to Agile Developer Skills
On Aug 2, 9:57 am, George Dinwiddie <li...@iDIAcomputing.com> wrote:
> I don't recall that anyone has made a catalog of things a
> badge/certificate might do, or why someone would seek one.  Perhaps
> someone with edit privileges would like to start such a catalog.

I have added your initial suggestions to the wiki, along with my
personal thoughts:

While the Agile Skills Project cannot enforce any particular
interpretation, it is our recommendation that badges are only used as
an indicator of awareness, interest and limited minimum competence.
The fact that someone has been recognized for their work by being
awarded a badge does not guarantee that they are better than someone
without one. The person without may have all the skills, but has
simply not had the chance to demonstrate them for anyone in a position
to recommend that they be recognized for it.

At the time I had not read Ron's response... but it looks as if what I
had in mind, if not on the same page, is at least in the same
book. :-)

Regards,
Richard

George Dinwiddie

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Aug 2, 2010, 10:40:49 AM8/2/10
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Ron,

On 8/2/10 10:22 AM, Ron Jeffries wrote:
> I'd like the badges to be an indicator of competence. I say
> indicator to keep it vague but have in mind that we'd have some
> confidence about there being competence there.

OK, there's another goal (and another user) in that statement. The user
is someone interested in the success of the Agile Skill Badge program.
Let's call that user "sponsor." Let me know if I'm missing or
misrepresenting any of these possible goals:

* A sponsor might want a badge/certificate to be a good indicator
(though not a guarantee) that the holder has a particular competence.

> I'd like some of the badges to be easy enough to get that lots of
> people would get them.

* A sponsor might want a badge/certificate to have enough
desirability/usefulness that the effort in creating it is not wasted.

> I'd like all the badges to require at least some work to get.

I'll assume that you don't intend "some work" to include "cajoling the
badge awarder" or "finding loopholes in the system."

* A sponsor might want the badge/certificate to represent some minimum
effort, which presumably would require some learning of the skill.

> I'd like the badges to become fairly well known.

Hmmm... Is there a different goal here than "lots of people would get
them?"

> I'd like the badges to begin to bring home to the world that such
> things do not tell people much about people's competence. I have
> this vague notion that if everyone had about 17 certificates and
> badges after their name, people would get a clue.

* A sponsor might want a badge/certificate to represent only an
estimation of a small portion of a person's competence, so that people
will not rely too heavily on badges/certificates.

> I suppose that's silly ...

Not in my estimation, but perhaps I'm silly also.

- George

P.S. Would someone please start a page of potential goals on the wiki?

George Dinwiddie

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Aug 2, 2010, 10:46:10 AM8/2/10
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On 8/2/10 10:33 AM, Richard J Foster wrote:
> I have added your initial suggestions to the wiki, along with my
> personal thoughts:

Thank you, Richard. Perhaps you could append the "sponsor" goals, also.
Do you think this catalog of goals might be worth a separate page?

Richard J Foster

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Aug 2, 2010, 10:50:20 AM8/2/10
to Agile Developer Skills
On Aug 2, 10:46 am, George Dinwiddie <li...@iDIAcomputing.com> wrote:
> Perhaps you could append the "sponsor" goals, also.

Already done. :-)

>   Do you think this catalog of goals might be worth a separate page?

I was asking myself the same question. I think for now I'd like to
keep the "what" and the "why" in the same place, but if it expands
much more a separate page is probably justified.

Regards,
Richard

Ian

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Aug 2, 2010, 2:53:20 PM8/2/10
to Agile Developer Skills
Um, unfortunately, probably yes.

Once upon a time personal recommendation was how engagements between
providers and consumers of skilled work were made. Today we see a lot
less of it due to time, location and scalability. Instead we have
developed multiple complex intersecting mechanisms of certification
(many called qualifications) to establish a framework for recognizing
skill and ability. It starts in school (SATS) and goes on from there
(college degrees, trade certificates, etc). Some certifications are
harder to get than others and therefore are perceived to have a higher
worth. Regardless of the certificate the actual knowledge required to
get it still requires some learning and forces exposure to certain
ideas.

Effectively I see Agile Merit Badges as a mechanism for recognizing
people who buy into an agile philosophy of software development. Right
now, apart from a few well known names, whose skills are industry
recognized, how do I identify people who are really interested in
building their agile skills and have a good track record?
Certification may not work all the time and may be gamed, but in
general most certifications do deliver some degree of worth in terms
of recognition. At least a set of merit badges indicates some amount
of effort has been made.

Regards

Ian Chamberlain
Practice Leader, Agile
Shaw Communications Inc

>
> Ron Jeffrieswww.XProgramming.comwww.xprogramming.com/blog

Daniel Wildt

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Aug 2, 2010, 5:34:26 PM8/2/10
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Hello Ron, 

I just want to avoid another [C]SM / [C]SPO reaction by the community. Who needs tests that can't tell anything about it, since you should show real practice and not only theory?

I think we need to work more focused on becoming an influence, not an authority. 
We need to find an identity with other people in the community.

The market can tell who has authority or not. This is related to your question about having mentors in local communities or something. I think it is possible to create mentors, but not easy to scale. 

Regards,
Daniel Wildt
http://danielwildt.com



--

Ron Jeffries

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Aug 2, 2010, 5:49:03 PM8/2/10
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Hello, Daniel. On Monday, August 2, 2010, at 5:34:26 PM, you
wrote:

> I just want to avoid another [C]SM / [C]SPO reaction by the community. Who
> needs tests that can't tell anything about it, since you should show real
> practice and not only theory?

> I think we need to work more focused on becoming an influence, not an
> authority.
> We need to find an identity with other people in the community.

> The market can tell who has authority or not. This is related to your
> question about having mentors in local communities or something. I think it
> is possible to create mentors, but not easy to scale.

Cool ... could you sharpen this up by saying more specifically what
you think should be done ... and what should NOT be done?

Thanks,

Ron Jeffries
www.XProgramming.com
www.xprogramming.com/blog
A long range weather forecast should be obtained before leaving,
as weather conditions are extremely unpredictable. --Natal Daily News

Daniel Wildt

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Aug 2, 2010, 6:10:29 PM8/2/10
to agile-devel...@googlegroups.com
I'm thinking about these initiatives:




They are all based on influence. Not authority. 

I believe we need to think about these initiatives and try the same process. 

The main objective is to start people to work with some practices and to share information about them, to influence others, right?  

Regards,
Daniel Wildt
http://danielwildt.com



--

Douglas Swartz

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Aug 2, 2010, 11:05:08 PM8/2/10
to Richard J Foster
Hello Richard,

Monday, August 2, 2010, 7:36:07 AM, you wrote:

> On Aug 2, 3:25 am, D.André Dhondt <d.andre.dho...@gmail.com> wrote:
>> Yet I don't see how to evaluate an entire pillar-- what is a Gold-level
>> Badge in Technical Excellence? Is there a pre-requisite for passing other
>> badges, or is it that we just nominate a few people and let them figure it
>> out from there?

> I couldn't see how either, but it seemed from the feedback I had
> received at the time that a "pillar" badge was what people wanted. I'm
> not sure why - perhaps it's because 7 badges seems like a number that
> could be obtained quickly (and people are looking mostly for something
> to say "hire me" rather than something that says "my peers have
> recognized that I am skilled in the area of....").

Hmmm. That "quickly" statement bothers me. I've been doing this agile
stuff for a decade, or so, and I think I still have quite a ways to go
to reach a Gold in the pillars.

Personally I've been on both the hiring and being hired side of the
equation. As a hiring authority, "my peers have recognized that I am
skilled in the area of...." is exactly what I'm looking for as one of
the "hire me" qualifiers.

I definitely think it makes sense to define the initial badges at a
smaller granularity than the pillars.


--
Doug Swartz

Richard J Foster

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Aug 3, 2010, 7:58:33 AM8/3/10
to Agile Developer Skills
On Aug 2, 11:05 pm, Douglas Swartz <swartzconsult...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hmmm. That "quickly" statement bothers me. I've been doing this agile
> stuff for a decade, or so, and I think I still have quite a ways to go
> to reach a Gold in the pillars.

It bothers me too, but my impression (which could be inaccurate) is
that there are quite a few people who believe they are already
"excellent" at working in an Agile manner and want some way of
demonstrating it to others. I suspect that if they were to evaluate
their skills honestly (and in comparison with others) they would
probably find that they are not yet "gold badge" level. I also suspect
that once the requirements are defined that some of them will find
they are not even bronze badge-worthy. (I'm 99.9% certain that I'm
not... yet - hence my goal of becoming part of a genuine Agile team in
the next 10 months!)

I'm also slightly troubled that (again my impression) these people are
the ones looking for another piece of paper to say "hire me" or "pay
me more" rather than "I will offer excellent value to your company and
work to the best of my ability at all times".

> I definitely think it makes sense to define the initial badges at a
> smaller granularity than the pillars.

Good! At least I'm not alone in thinking that too. I was beginning to
wonder. :-)

Regards,
Richard

Richard J Foster

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Aug 3, 2010, 8:29:32 AM8/3/10
to Agile Developer Skills
On Aug 2, 6:10 pm, Daniel Wildt <dwi...@gmail.com> wrote:
> The main objective is to start people to work with some practices and to
> share information about them, to influence others, right?

Yes and no. While getting people started and sharing information with
them is valuable (and should certainly be a part of the Agile Skills
Project), I'm not convinced that the initiatives you mention go far
enough. Sure you can wear one of Uncle Bob's green wrist bands which
might help remind you that you should be writing clean code, but I
wonder how many of those wrist bands have been sent to people who
after a few weeks threw them into a drawer never to be thought about
again? That was partially the reason behind my original suggestion
that the badges should expire unless the badge holder was able to
continue demonstrating that they were regularly using the skill that
the badge represented. (As Ron and others correctly pointed out, that
initial expiration option was probably inappropriate in many cases,
which lead to the simpler option now being considered.)

I think part of the challenge is that the people who participate in
this group care, at least to a certain extent, about the craftsmanship
of their work. They are driven to learn better tools and techniques
and, in many cases, help others learn what they have found valuable.
There are many in the industry who are more concerned with getting a
regular paycheck... and if their managers come in screaming at them to
"fix problem X now" they are more likely to put in a quick fix (even
if it introduces a dumb dependency, or fixes the symptom not the
cause) than push back and say "no, to fix this right will take more
time". I've certainly been guilty of that in the past, and have
allowed others in a remote team to get away with that sort of quick
fix very recently because otherwise I believe they would have joined
the ranks of the unemployed. (I don't feel *too* guilty about that
because I have a plan in place that will *require* them to fix the
root cause as part of the next phase.)

For myself, I feel that the Agile Skills Project is the influence
part, while the Agile Skill Badge should provide recognition for those
who actively demonstrate the skills the leading ASP members believe
are important.

Regards,
Richard

Ben Fulton

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Aug 4, 2010, 6:48:35 PM8/4/10
to agile-devel...@googlegroups.com
On Sun, Aug 1, 2010 at 10:39 PM, Richard J Foster <richard...@gmail.com> wrote:

Out of curiosity, if there was a badge for each of the seven pillars,
which badge do you think would be most valuable to you? Do you believe
you already have the skills to earn it, or will you need a mentor?


I would lean towards the Business Value badge, I suppose.  I would happy to grant myself at least a bronze badge for the five pillars that don't require working on a highly talented team.  As someone else said, though, one tends to overestimate what one knows :)

Bearing in mind that no analogy is perfect, I've been trying to think about how these Agile badges relate to other merit systems.  The three systems that work well and seem most analogous to me are: StackOverflow badges; Scout badges; and martial arts belts.

StackOverflow badges are granted automatically based on specified criteria.  There are many of them and many are easy to obtain, but others are more difficult, or even more "intense" versions of the same badge, rather like the gold/silver/bronze ideas being floated here.  Not all badges have multiple versions, though.

Martial Arts belts represent a level of overall skill rather than a particular merit.  Earning a belt requires, at a minimum, several months worth of training with a qualified master.  Nevertheless, there are several or dozens of masters in a city of any reasonable size, so anyone who is willing to put forth the effort can earn at least a few belts.  A belt must be earned with a test, demonstrating proficiency to a master.  Not every individual accomplishment needs to be up to the same level in order to earn a belt - a student with horrendous spinning kicks can still earn a belt provided he can show proficiency in punching, katas, etc.  But this judgment is up to the testing master.

Scouts: Have both overall skill ratings and individual accomplishment badges.   The individual accomplishments have multiple levels; i.e., my Cub can earn a kickball Belt Loop before he earns his kickball Sports Pin.  In order to earn an overall ranking (like Scout First Class or Star Scout), a scout must earn multiple merit badges as well as demonstrate proficiency at a few specified requirements; some directly demonstrated to a master, others as certified by qualified individuals.  (There's a good overview here: http://www.boyscouttrail.com/advancements.asp ).

Which of these characteristics is worth keeping?  Which are we completely uninterested in?  Which would be nice but are impractical?

D.André Dhondt

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Aug 5, 2010, 4:59:55 AM8/5/10
to agile-devel...@googlegroups.com
On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 12:48 AM, Ben Fulton <benmar...@gmail.com> wrote:
...I've been trying to think about how these Agile badges relate to other merit systems.  The three systems that work well and seem most analogous to me are: StackOverflow badges; Scout badges; and martial arts belts.

Your words strike me with something that hasn't occurred to me before.  In martial arts, it takes a long time to acquire skill, but the sensei is there the whole time, leading students on, bit by bit. The sensei knows, even without the performance at the test itself, whether the student is deserving of the new level. The test is more about ceremony, acknowledging the person has worked hard at acquiring the appropriate skills.

The point I'm trying to make is that MAYBE the only way we can have reliable rankings/certifications (and I know that's not what ASP is about), is through a significant and personal mentoring relationship. Not very scalable, but I think some of it could be done online for some skills.

All this really begs the question--can you have badges without making some sort of value judgement / implicit endorsement of the person's future potential?  Isn't that certification? Isn't that what ASP is trying to avoid?

George Dinwiddie

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Aug 5, 2010, 6:41:17 AM8/5/10
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Andre,

On 8/5/10 4:59 AM, D.André Dhondt wrote:
> On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 12:48 AM, Ben Fulton <benmar...@gmail.com
> <mailto:benmar...@gmail.com>> wrote:
>
> ...I've been trying to think about how these Agile badges relate to
> other merit systems. The three systems that work well and seem
> most analogous to me are: StackOverflow badges; Scout badges; and
> martial arts belts.
>
>

> All this really begs the question--can you have badges without making
> some sort of value judgement / implicit endorsement of the person's
> future potential? Isn't that certification? Isn't that what ASP is
> trying to avoid?

Certainly boy scout merit badges don't make that sort of
judgment/endorsement. They say that, to the satisfaction of some
mentor, you've done a small checklist of things. There is no claim that
you did them particularly well.

Michael "Doc" Norton

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Aug 5, 2010, 7:01:03 AM8/5/10
to agile-devel...@googlegroups.com
Scout Merit Badges are what I'd like to avoid. I'm not interested in helping to build the self esteem of practitioners by granting them tokens for completing specific tasks. I'm much more interested in a valid reliable means of assessing and recognizing competency. 

- Doc


--
________________________________________________________________

Ron Jeffries

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Aug 5, 2010, 7:39:53 AM8/5/10
to agile-devel...@googlegroups.com
Hello, George. On Thursday, August 5, 2010, at 6:41:17 AM, you
wrote:

> Certainly boy scout merit badges don't make that sort of
> judgment/endorsement. They say that, to the satisfaction of some
> mentor, you've done a small checklist of things. There is no claim that
> you did them particularly well.

Well, "made fire with two sticks" implies you got a fire going ...
so there's probably some minimum performance level ... :)

Ron Jeffries
www.XProgramming.com
www.xprogramming.com/blog
Some things are impossible. And some things people say are
impossible -- because they don't know how to do them. -- Ron Loyd

Ron Jeffries

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Aug 5, 2010, 7:42:31 AM8/5/10
to agile-devel...@googlegroups.com
Hello, Michael. On Thursday, August 5, 2010, at 7:01:03 AM, you
wrote:

> Scout Merit Badges are what I'd like to avoid. I'm not interested in helping
> to build the self esteem of practitioners by granting them tokens for
> completing specific tasks. I'm much more interested in a valid reliable
> means of assessing and recognizing competency.

I suspect this statement may be undervaluing two things:

1. the scouting program's system;
2. the value of doing specific tasks as a way of becoming
competent.

Ron Jeffries
www.XProgramming.com
www.xprogramming.com/blog
To tolerate a problem is to insist on it. -- Software for Your Head

George Dinwiddie

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Aug 5, 2010, 8:15:38 AM8/5/10
to agile-devel...@googlegroups.com
Ron,

On 8/5/10 7:39 AM, Ron Jeffries wrote:
> Hello, George. On Thursday, August 5, 2010, at 6:41:17 AM, you
> wrote:
>
>> Certainly boy scout merit badges don't make that sort of
>> judgment/endorsement. They say that, to the satisfaction of some
>> mentor, you've done a small checklist of things. There is no claim that
>> you did them particularly well.
>
> Well, "made fire with two sticks" implies you got a fire going ...
> so there's probably some minimum performance level ... :)

Yes, but as I recall, it means I did it once, under supervision, with
advice... :-)

Richard J Foster

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Aug 5, 2010, 8:25:35 AM8/5/10
to Agile Developer Skills
On Aug 5, 4:59 am, D.André Dhondt <d.andre.dho...@gmail.com> wrote:
> The point I'm trying to make is that MAYBE the only way we can have reliable
> rankings/certifications (and I know that's not what ASP is about), is
> through a significant and personal mentoring relationship. Not very
> scalable, but I think some of it could be done online for some skills.

I'm not sure I agree 100% with this statement. It probably will be
true for the higher level badges, but in my opinion is less likely to
be necessary for the lower level ones. If you, as a badge holder, work
with someone and the first thing they show you is their comprehensive
set of unit tests and using your skills you determine that the tests
bring value to the code then it's probably appropriate that the person
gets at least a bronze-level badge in unit testing.

One challenge that I hadn't considered before is how an evaluator/
mentor would determine the value of an individual when the code is a
product of an entire team. The person may be showing you great unit
tests, but neglect to mention that at the time those tests were
developed they were pair programming with Senior Developer Sal. Even
if the team is using source code control (and I really hope they would
be, but sadly I know there are still people who don't) there is no
guarantee that the person who committed the code is the person who
wrote it. It *almost* makes me wonder if there will eventually need to
be some way of nominating an entire team (or company). I certainly
wouldn't want to start out doing that, but I could see an argument for
doing so in the future (if you want to improve your skills in a
certain area, try and get a job with one of the companies that is
recognized for practicing that skill).

> All this really begs the question--can you have badges without making some
> sort of value judgement / implicit endorsement of the person's future
> potential?  Isn't that certification? Isn't that what ASP is trying to
> avoid?

Yes, in the proposal I made there is a value judgment made by the
person who nominates someone for a badge. I don't see anything wrong
with that, as long as everyone shares a common understanding of what
that nomination means. For me, the nomination means no more than "I
[nominator] as an active practitioner of [skill] recognize that
[nominated] appears to have attained the minimum documented
requirements for a [skill level] badge in that skill".

Is that certification? I'm not sure, but I'd tend to say no. The
reason I say this is that is as follows:

1) At no point should any money change hands associated with the badge
nomination. It's fine to pay someone capable of making a nomination to
come and work with a team, but there should be no expectation nor
guarantee that just because you work with Martin Fowler, Ward
Cunningham, Ron, Chet, George et al that you will receive a
nomination.

2) Because the nominations are based on evaluation by an individual,
and there is a good chance that each individual will have a slightly
different interpretation of the documented requirements for a badge
two people with the same set of badges will not be equal in skill.
Yes, the same could be said of certification, but since most
certifications have a single point of control they will (in my
opinion) be more homogeneous than the proposed badge system.

Just my $.02. Feel free to ignore. :-)

Regards,
Richard

D.André Dhondt

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Aug 5, 2010, 9:01:22 AM8/5/10
to agile-devel...@googlegroups.com
On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 12:41 PM, George Dinwiddie <li...@idiacomputing.com> wrote:
Certainly boy scout merit badges don't ... claim that you did them particularly well.

So, if you met a kid with a merit badge on knots, you wouldn't expect the kid to be able to recommend a usable knot for tying your boat to the shore, or for connecting a hammock to a tree? I certainly would. The particular knot may not be as suitable as a sailboat captain's advice, but I'd think it would be good enough to hold.
 

D.André Dhondt

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Aug 5, 2010, 9:02:23 AM8/5/10
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On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 1:01 PM, Michael "Doc" Norton <michael...@leandog.com> wrote:
I'm much more interested in a valid reliable means of assessing and recognizing competency. 

I think you're not alone. Yet I don't know if it's possible to do this in a trustworthy way.

Ian

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Aug 5, 2010, 9:13:25 AM8/5/10
to Agile Developer Skills


On Aug 5, 6:25 am, Richard J Foster <richardjfos...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Aug 5, 4:59 am, D.André Dhondt <d.andre.dho...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > The point I'm trying to make is that MAYBE the only way we can have reliable
> > rankings/certifications (and I know that's not what ASP is about), is
> > through a significant and personal mentoring relationship. Not very
> > scalable, but I think some of it could be done online for some skills.
>
> I'm not sure I agree 100% with this statement. It probably will be
> true for the higher level badges, but in my opinion is less likely to
> be necessary for the lower level ones. If you, as a badge holder, work
> with someone and the first thing they show you is their comprehensive
> set of unit tests and using your skills you determine that the tests
> bring value to the code then it's probably appropriate that the person
> gets at least a bronze-level badge in unit testing.
>
I think a sponsorship based system where higher levels accept someone
as being at the same level is workable.
I'm looking at a system where an aspirant would need to garner support
from (be sponsored by?) 3 people at a higher level. I think could
produce a more level playing field.

> Is that certification? I'm not sure, but I'd tend to say no. The
> reason I say this is that is as follows:
>
> 1) At no point should any money change hands associated with the badge
> nomination. It's fine to pay someone capable of making a nomination to
> come and work with a team, but there should be no expectation nor
> guarantee that just because you work with Martin Fowler, Ward
> Cunningham, Ron, Chet, George et al that you will receive a
> nomination.

I don't think money has to change hands to imply certification. I also
don't think it's a problem. The value of any certification is the
level of expectation of the holder created in the mind of the viewer.
I want to know that someone has had some recognition from peers who've
made an effort to evaluate some level of skill. At minimum it implies
they've done a some level of research to judge it worth expending the
effort needed to acquire.
>
> 2) Because the nominations are based on evaluation by an individual,
> and there is a good chance that each individual will have a slightly
> different interpretation of the documented requirements for a badge
> two people with the same set of badges will not be equal in skill.
> Yes, the same could be said of certification, but since most
> certifications have a single point of control they will (in my
> opinion) be more homogeneous than the proposed badge system.
>
I'm looking at building a system requiring sponsorship from three
different people already at the desired level and then an award from
an individual at a higher level.
I'm using craftmanship like levels rather than badges, but the basic
idea is in order to move from novice to practitioner, for example,
you'd need to get sponsored by three people already at practitioner
level and then be OK'd by a master. A large part of the award is then
based on the master's trust that the people sponsoring can judge and
the master can confirm with a relatively small amount of direct
mentoring time.
I think that should create a more homogeneous system.

> Just my $.02. Feel free to ignore. :-)

Same here :-)

Regards

Ian Chamberlain
Practice Leader, Agile
Shaw Communications Inc
>
> Regards,
> Richard

D.André Dhondt

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Aug 5, 2010, 9:14:52 AM8/5/10
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On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 2:25 PM, Richard J Foster <richard...@gmail.com> wrote:
I could see an argument for
doing so in the future (if you want to improve your skills in a
certain area, try and get a job with one of the companies that is
recognized for practicing that skill).

We talked about it in the ADS workshop, but considered it a lower priority. Maybe it would be easier to rate teams, though. Pay someone $1k/day to come in and observe, and leave with a rating on various skills. Seems too easy to commercialize and water down. Maybe we forbid the exchange of money, and both parties leave with ratings--one on dev skills, the other on coaching skills... companies might be willing to go for it since they'd get clout in the community.
 
1) At no point should any money change hands associated with the badge
nomination.
I like this, yet am skeptical. Will it happen without money fueling it?
 
2)...two people with the same set of badges will not be equal in skill.

Beautiful. Now it's about the relationships, not the "quantitative" measurements.

D.André Dhondt

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Aug 5, 2010, 9:20:15 AM8/5/10
to agile-devel...@googlegroups.com
On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 3:13 PM, Ian <ian.cha...@sjrb.ca> wrote:
I'm looking at a system where an aspirant would need to garner support
from (be sponsored by?) 3 people at a higher level.

Very good idea. I'm still troubled by two things, though:
* How do we pay for it?
* How do we keep it from getting watered down? (one could just hand out good evaluations because people pay to get them)

Ron Jeffries

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Aug 5, 2010, 9:26:22 AM8/5/10
to agile-devel...@googlegroups.com
Hello, D.Andr�. On Thursday, August 5, 2010, at 9:01:22 AM, you
wrote:

> So, if you met a kid with a merit badge on knots, you wouldn't expect the
> kid to be able to recommend a usable knot for tying your boat to the shore,
> or for connecting a hammock to a tree? I certainly would. The particular
> knot may not be as suitable as a sailboat captain's advice, but I'd think it
> would be good enough to hold.

My recollection is that part of what one learns in the knots badge
is what they're good for. I still know how to hitch a boat and could
tie a bowline if I had to.

Ron Jeffries
www.XProgramming.com
www.xprogramming.com/blog
Analysis kills spontaneity.
The grain once ground into flour germinates no more. -- Henri Amiel

Ron Jeffries

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Aug 5, 2010, 9:29:08 AM8/5/10
to agile-devel...@googlegroups.com
Hello, D.Andr�. On Thursday, August 5, 2010, at 9:02:23 AM, you
wrote:

> On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 1:01 PM, Michael "Doc" Norton <
> michael...@leandog.com> wrote:

>> I'm much more interested in a valid reliable means of assessing and
>> recognizing competency.

> I think you're not alone. Yet I don't know if it's possible to do this in a
> trustworthy way.

I have these main objectives with this stuff:

- set forth a map of all the things one needs to know to be good.

- encourage people to try to learn things, in the hope that they'll
discover the joy of learning and doing.

- blanket the world with trinkets, certificates, and badges, in the
hope that people will learn not to over-value them.

Ron Jeffries
www.XProgramming.com
www.xprogramming.com/blog
Improvement stops when we start believing that
ideas about how to improve are insulting.

George Dinwiddie

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Aug 5, 2010, 9:33:23 AM8/5/10
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Richard,

On 8/5/10 8:25 AM, Richard J Foster wrote:
> most
> certifications have a single point of control they will (in my
> opinion) be more homogeneous than the proposed badge system.

I'm not sure that's true other than where a standardized test is
administered, and even then there can be variances in how it's given.
Can you give examples of certifications with a single point of control?

George Dinwiddie

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Aug 5, 2010, 9:39:08 AM8/5/10
to agile-devel...@googlegroups.com
Ron,

I mostly concur.

On 8/5/10 9:29 AM, Ron Jeffries wrote:
> Hello, D.André. On Thursday, August 5, 2010, at 9:02:23 AM, you


> wrote:
>
>> On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 1:01 PM, Michael "Doc" Norton<
>> michael...@leandog.com> wrote:
>
>>> I'm much more interested in a valid reliable means of assessing and
>>> recognizing competency.
>
>> I think you're not alone. Yet I don't know if it's possible to do this in a
>> trustworthy way.

Doc, trust is never absolute. I'd rather shoot for "good enough" and
let people decide for themselves how much they trust it. They'll do
that anyway, and you'll never gain everyone's trust.

> I have these main objectives with this stuff:
>
> - set forth a map of all the things one needs to know to be good.

s/all/a bunch/

> - encourage people to try to learn things, in the hope that they'll
> discover the joy of learning and doing.

In addition to "try to learn," also "learn to try."

> - blanket the world with trinkets, certificates, and badges, in the
> hope that people will learn not to over-value them.

- George

D.André Dhondt

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Aug 5, 2010, 9:47:11 AM8/5/10
to agile-devel...@googlegroups.com
On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 3:39 PM, George Dinwiddie <li...@idiacomputing.com> wrote:
- encourage people to try to learn things, in the hope that they'll
discover the joy of learning and doing.

In addition to "try to learn," also "learn to try."

There is no try. Do, or do not.


...



;)  just couldn't help myself. Removing my signature from this bad joke ;)


George Dinwiddie

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Aug 5, 2010, 9:47:17 AM8/5/10
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Andre,

On 8/5/10 9:01 AM, D.André Dhondt wrote:
> On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 12:41 PM, George Dinwiddie
> <li...@idiacomputing.com <mailto:li...@idiacomputing.com>> wrote:
>
> Certainly boy scout merit badges don't ... claim that you did them
> particularly well.
>
>
> So, if you met a kid with a merit badge on knots, you wouldn't expect
> the kid to be able to recommend a usable knot for tying your boat to the
> shore, or for connecting a hammock to a tree? I certainly would. The
> particular knot may not be as suitable as a sailboat captain's advice,
> but I'd think it would be good enough to hold.

Maybe, maybe not.

When I got my merit badge on knots, I still tied a bowline wrong more
than 50% of the time. It wasn't until I learned to tie one with one
hand that I learned to reliably make the first loop the right way. And
I knew kids who still ended up with granny knots when they intended a
square knot.

I would expect that they know that there are different types of knots
and that some are better than others for a given application. And isn't
that enough? A 13-year-old with an awareness of knots is ahead of the
typical 13-year-old.

I wouldn't, however, expect that they know an appropriate knot for /my/
application, any more than I'd expect a programming candidate to know
how to program /my/ application. I'd expect them to know that there are
choices to be made, to have made reasonable choices on projects in the
past, and to have some idea how to learn to make reasonable choices on
my project in the future.

George Dinwiddie

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Aug 5, 2010, 9:51:41 AM8/5/10
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Andre

On 8/5/10 9:47 AM, D.André Dhondt wrote:
>
>
> On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 3:39 PM, George Dinwiddie
> <li...@idiacomputing.com <mailto:li...@idiacomputing.com>> wrote:
>
> - encourage people to try to learn things, in the hope that they'll
> discover the joy of learning and doing.
>
>
> In addition to "try to learn," also "learn to try."
>
>
> There is no try. Do, or do not.

I know you intend that as a joke, but it saddens me. I'm dealing with a
client right now where the managers are spending lots of time deciding
the "right way" to move in test automation, with no experiments to give
them data. <sigh/>