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[process] More on competency - Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2007-10-21 06:55
Subject: [process] More on competency
Security: Public
Location:Nuevo Rancho Lake
Music:my typing
Tags:poll, process, writing
A fascinating subissue is emerging in the "competency" discussion. Some observers, including fjm  and goulo, seem to define "competency" as "excellence." Others, myself included, define it as a midpoint between mediocrity and excellence. The difference seems to be whether one views "competent" as the minimal state or the maximal state of writing quality.

A quick poke at dictionary.com, following "competency" to "competence", reveals this definition:
1.    the quality of being competent; adequacy; possession of required skill, knowledge, qualification, or capacity: He hired her because of her competence as an accountant.

2.    sufficiency; a sufficient quantity.

This in my opinion could be read to support either the minimal or maximal position.  So it all comes down to connotation.  And since fjm  and goulo are from opposite sides of the Atlantic (though both reside on the eastern shore now), I can't blame it on the Anglo-American language divide.

Poll #1074998 The meaning of competency

When discussing writing, does "competency" imply minimal acceptable quality or maximal desired quality?

Minimal acceptable quality
Maximal desired quality
Some intermediate state
Something else I'll explain in comments
Post A Comment | 14 Comments | | Link

Patron Saint of Pessimism
User: woodrunner
Date: 2007-10-21 14:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I hear "competence" more in terms of scientific ability rather than in writing ability but I would think that the definitions could be interchangeable.

Under accreditation standards, it is required that laboratory personnel be deemed competent before they can do their job. That competence is determined based on their ability, their training, the review of their training, and the precision and accuracy of the results they obtain while practicing a particular technique. What is the definition of quality in this instance? That's up to the laboratory and managerial body to define; it is usually something like within 3 sigma of the mean, or, as a rough equivalent, 10% of the certified value, for example.

Since there isn't any definition of the quality requirements of a written work, I have a hard time believing that a competency can be applied to a work of art. To something that can be measured, sure. But how do you measure art?

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Kerry aka Trouble: Corona
User: controuble
Date: 2007-10-21 14:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Maybe I'm totally off the wall here, but to me competency means being capable of writing with correct spelling, correct grammar, and a coherent train of thought. If a piece of writing is merely competent, it does not have the 'spark' that makes a piece take over my mind and transport me to the writer's world. If a piece is merely competent, I realize I am reading and can put it down at any time with no pangs of regret. I do not have to be whacked upside my head to get my attention when someone wishes to speak to me. On the other hand, I have had to be physically rapped on the head when I am reading something that is beyond competent and into quality writing.
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Blue Tyson
User: bluetyson
Date: 2007-10-21 15:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I agree with you, Jay, basically. Competent in that sense to me is above average, below good. Very strange dictionary your correspondents up there have obviously.

Or, 3.5 out of 5. :) ON your garden variety 1-5 scale.

That is if you are talking about competent as in 'a piece of competent published professional fiction.'

Excellent is 4.5 out of 5. :)

If you can keep up that level over a sustained period of output though, I would call that excellent.
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Mister Eclectic: bells
User: howeird
Date: 2007-10-21 16:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Applying min and max values to define competence is like asking whether a traffic light is minimally or maximally green. Competence is. In modern American English usage, it denotes mastery of a skill set. In the case of art, this is entirely subjective, and in the eye of the beholder.
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User: manmela
Date: 2007-10-21 16:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
For me, it means AT LEAST minimal acceptable quality. Someone could be competent and could be of the maximal desired quality, or could be only the minimal acceptable quality. I think where along that line it lies, depends on usage.

"How was the doctor?"
"Well, he seemed comptetent" <- inferrs minimal acceptable quality

"How was the doctor?"
"Oh, he was very competent" <- inferrs more a maximal desired quality

Of course I could be wrong... I usually am... and there are probably better examples
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User: joycemocha
Date: 2007-10-21 16:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
In education, "competent" means the person has the skills, but is average in performance. "Excellent" means maximal performance, above and beyond competent. In some circles you'll hear state benchmarks referred to as "competencies."

As it is, our yearly evaluations have three classifications--Emerging, Competent, and Excellent.
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J.K.Richárd: Aroo?!
User: neutronjockey
Date: 2007-10-21 18:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Consciously competent or uncounciously competent?

To me competence is merely a stage in learning.
1. Unconsciously incompetent - not knowing how bad you are.
2. Consciously incompentent - having a need to know, or realizing that you are not capable of...
3. Consciously competent - having to put forth conscious effort to maintain adequate results
4. Unsconsciously competent - been doin' it so long it's like second nature

It's like driving a standard transmission. As a 4 year old , you had no need to drive one, could care less that you didn't know how to drive one.
At 10 you ask questions having seen an automatic and a standard transmission vehicle being driven and realize that you don't know and can't drive one (yet).
At 16, after 6 months of spilling your father's coffee on his lap you can shift gears without much fuss, grinding or stalling out. But it still takes effort.
At 22, you can manage a cheeseburger in one hand, a coke in the other, flip the turn switch, shift gears, take a bite of the cheeseburger, release the clutch, push on the gas ,and take a sip of the coke while managing a turn.
...I guess what I'm saying is that it all depends on how far and deep into unconscious competency you've taken it.
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A large duck
User: burger_eater
Date: 2007-10-21 18:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Something else I'll explain in comments

When discussing writing, "competency" means "published stories I don't care for."
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User: mizkit
Date: 2007-10-21 22:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My husband and I came up with that definition tonight, too, while discussing this. :)
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Gary Emenitove
User: garyomaha
Date: 2007-10-21 18:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Somehow this reminds of of another story...

I worked at a nonprofit whose CEO was, um, a bit off the wall. The requirements there were to give an annual performance review, and the CEO was my immediate supervisor. So, he reviewed me...sort of. On item after item he described my work in glowing terms, yet on a scale of 1-5 he gave me pretty much all 3s. I was miffed but listened to his explanation as he commented that "Nobody can be rated the highest number because we all have room to grow, and you're far from the worst, so I'm giving you average scores." HUH??? (Thankfully for both my motivation and my ego, I don't recall having any teachers who graded like that.)
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Brian Dolton
User: tchernabyelo
Date: 2007-10-22 09:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I had one even worse than that - on a scale of 1-5, I was rated as 1 (the lowest) in several areas because "I don't know whether you've met that or not" and "That isn't part of your job". Real, good, hands-on management at work there.
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User: fjm
Date: 2007-10-21 20:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It is something I know I can actually judge, scale and hence achieve.
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Josh English: pic#53131304
User: joshenglish
Date: 2007-10-21 22:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think of competence as a craft issue: can the writer spell out a story in a way that the action is clear. A competent writer can tell a story. A good writer can make it mean something. A great writer can make you care.
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aries_jordan: sandman
User: aries_jordan
Date: 2007-10-22 16:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I saw Roger Zelazny speak at Comic Con, a year or two before he died. He said that five of his books represent his best work, and the rest of the time, he was doing competent work. I have come to feel that competence means doing your best on an average day when lots of factors outside of your control take some toll on your work.
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