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Lua Certification - an informal discussion

I wanted to address some of the questions and comments that have come up in
response to our press release on the Lua Certification exam that we have

First, I want to acknowledge that I understand programming language
certification programs are controversial.  I understand that there are many
very talented programmers who ardently oppose certification exams for any
number of reasons.  While I may disagree with their viewpoint on this issue,
I acknowledge that this in no way diminishes the place they have in the
programming community.  Is certification right for everyone?  No.  Is
certification wrong for everyone?  Equally no.  In all, I think the dialogue
itself is healthy for the programming community at large.  Let each
programmer decide for themselves if they think certification provides a
benefit for them and then let them act accordingly.

What follows is our point of view on the subject, which is obviously biased
in favor of certification.

Our motivation
We developed certification exams for Python, Perl, and Lua for two main

1) We believe that high-level languages are going to profoundly affect the
direction of IT in the next several decades.  For most programmers of these
languages, this is no surprise, but the business community is only beginning
to realize the incredible impact that these languages will have.  Media and
gaming companies seem to be ahead of the curve on this, but mainstream
companies have not caught up.

2) We believe that certifications will help promote these languages and,
more importantly, the programmers of these languages.  One of the critics of
certification pleaded that Lua should not become like Java or C++.  I think
his point was associated with the way that these languages are managed.  But
it seems to us that Java and C++ have achieved a level or commercial success
that few other languages can claim.  Have Java certifications helped Java
programmers and the success of the language as a whole?  We believe the
answer is yes.  

Answering some common objections
1. "It is possible to pass a certification exam and still be a poor

The purpose of a certification is to establish the knowledge of the
candidate and also to help convince prospective employers of a candidate's
skills.  To this end we have designed exams that will test the knowledge of
the programming language involved.  It is extremely difficult for any
candidate to pass our Lua exam without a good understanding of Lua - since
that is the subject of the test.  We do not test for any number of other
skills that are needed to make a good programmer -- i.e. an understanding of
algorithms, architecture skills, general logic skills, customer skills, etc.
Programming language certifications in general do not test for these because
they are out of scope of the exam.

2. "A certificate from a Lua training program would be more valuable than a
certification exam."

The trouble is that most training programs give a certificate for attendance
rather than comprehension.  Training programs are important to the learning
process, but we believe that a certification test provides a more stringent,
and therefore more valuable, criterion for prospective employers.

3. "I think that your certification exam is deficient in [choose your topic]

Good - tell us!  We take customer input very seriously.  We believe our
tests are good - but there is always room for improvement.

It is my sincere hope that our certifications will help members of the Lua
community obtain and keep employment, while improving the image of Lua, and
increasing the value of Lua skills.  I understand and respect that there
will be honest differences of opinion on many of the points in this email,
but I felt it useful to clarify our view of the subject.

For more information, please see our website,

To conclude, I'd like to cite a few articles.  I don't consider these to be
conclusive proof by any means, but they help to illustrate some of the IT
trends that inspired us to create certification exams for Python, Perl, and

"Employers Raise the Bar on Certification"
By Tischelle George
July 8, 2002

Tischelle writes:
"Technical certifications have evolved from a hiring tool to a screening
tool:  If you don't have them, you aren't viewed as a serious candidate.
Budgets are tight, workloads have increased, and CIOs and other hiring
managers are more discriminating about who they hire.  Certifications can
help them identify potential candidates based on their skills."

(later, same article)

"When IT jobs do become available, CIOs and hiring managers are inundated
with resumes from skilled candidates.  Screening for specific technical
certifications is one way to reduce the number of eligible candidates to
more manageable numbers.  'The average recruiter goes through 200 resumes a
day,' says Heidi Golledge, a partner with CyberCoders, a Web-based IT
recruiting firm in Aliso Viejo, Calif.  The lack of certification can cut
out three-quarters of the candidates.  'Then you can focus on the 25% that
are certified,' she says."

"Is it Time for Perl Certification?"
By Tim Maher
The Perl Journal
October 2003

Tim writes:
"Establishing Perl skills as certifiable, and the Perl community as willing
to comply with accepted hiring protocols, could cast Perl in a totally new
light.  First of all, hiring managers would be inclined to see Perl as more
stable and conventional..., because certification is considered a hallmark
of serious languages.  Second, they'd realize that screening Perl
programmers would suddenly be no more difficult that screening Java
programmers, Oracle Database Administrators, or Linux System

R. Grant Reed
High-Level Certifications