For just about 10 years now, I’ve been a certified scuba diver. The certification is from the kindasorta industry standard certification organization PADI, who certified me as a so-called Open Water Diver.
In practice this means dive centers are allowed to rent me out diving equipment and services, and I’m allowed to go on dives by myself (or with a buddy) up to depths of 18 meters. It’s what most scuba divers start with. Then later on, you can build on that basis and add on modules – and hence certifications – for things like diving at night or in caves, or go on to become a trainer.
The badge model
For those of us in the web & tech world, this is a familiar model. It’s basically badges: Certain activities earn you a badge, a certain combination of badges level you up. It’s no coincidence this might sound familiar – the Mozilla Open Badges project has drawn inspiration from this model, and Joi Ito has very explicitly and extensively written about how his scuba diving experiences influence his thinking on badges and certification, starting here. (Alas, I can’t quite share his enthusiasm about the tools, but as I said, they didn’t age well. Add to that the bandwidth restrictions we are operating under on this trip, and it explains the different experience.)
It’s a good model. It works. But not all’s well in PADI Land.