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One of the more interesting features of Advogato is its mechanism for certifying free software developers. The current system recognizes the combination of talent and dedication in three levels: Apprentice, Journeyer, and Master. All these levels are determined by peer certification. These certificates are entered in individual records from the People page. This document explains what the levels mean, and guidelines for deciding what level of certification to use.

Please feel free to certify all of the free software developers you know who have accounts here, especially those without many certificates to begin with. The trust metric used to evaluate the certificates is most robust when the certificate graph is dense.

All of these levels are based on free software only, as defined by the Debian Free Software Guidelines. In general, you should base the level on work done in the last year.

To certify someone, make sure you're logged in, then go to the person's page and use the pulldown form.


A Master is the principal author or hard-working co-author of an "important" free software project, i.e. one that many people depend on, or one that stands out in quality. A Master has command of the tools and is an excellent programmer. Generally, a Master works equivalent to full time (or more) on free software. Ideally, a Master writes clearly about the work and its broader context, and serves as a mentor to others in the free software community.


Journeyers are the people who make free software happen. A journeyer contributes significantly to an important free software project, or is the author of a useful or technically innovative project. A Journeyer is generally a competent programmer, but significant contributions of documentation, artwork, or other non-code goodies counts too. Ideally, a Journeyer works with others in the free software community to polish and refine the library of free software. While not necessarily the equivalent of full time, a Journeyer spends a significant amount of time on free software.


An apprentice is someone who has contributed in some way to a free software project, but is still striving to acquire the skills and standing in the community to make more significant contributions. Ideally, the Apprentice is in touch with either an individual mentor or a community that helps to gain these skills. An Apprentice spends a significant amount of time learning the craft of software development, whether by hands-on practice, academic study, or careful observation.

Evaluation of the certs

The certificates are evaluated using a trust metric, which I'm working on implementing and documenting right now. A few things to keep in mind: all certs have "at least" semantics, so an Apprentice ranking is always better than None.

22 Feb 2000: I now have a write-up of the trust metric used by Advogato.

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