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How To Hire Great Open Source Developers? 246

An anonymous reader writes "This is the first article I've ever read specifically about hiring open source developers, and how to judge their ability not just to code but to work with others. It's reprinted over at ITMJ [part of OSDN, as this site is] from a book by Martin Fink, the General Manager for HP's Linux Systems Division. Brings up a lot of good points, including how you need to make sure your open source people are developing things (on company time) that do the company some good, not just scratching their own itches. Fun quote: 'Discover what pseudonyms your candidate uses online. Look at the archives at SlashDot and other online locales. Does your candidate hide behind secret pseudonyms to trash other individuals? Is there passion without condemnation?'"
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How To Hire Great Open Source Developers?

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  • Re:Answer: you don't (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ptolemu ( 322917 ) * <> on Thursday March 04, 2004 @08:41AM (#8461860) Homepage Journal
    Are you suggesting that unemployed hobbyists are all without decent skillsets?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2004 @08:45AM (#8461889)
    "Those who still haven't their stupid little IT jobs outsourced will get fired because of their /. Karma"

    Damn, and I thought IT was cool... maybe I just have a great hobby and should stay away from IT...
  • by akinsgre ( 758695 ) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @08:46AM (#8461900)
    I can't remember where I read it; maybe JoelOnSoftware? Do a google search for any employee, not just open source developers. -greg
  • by DeadSea ( 69598 ) * on Thursday March 04, 2004 @08:49AM (#8461908) Homepage Journal
    After I started my job, I found out that they had been using my open source GPL Java utilities [] for about 2 years before I started. (legally, since they depend on them for web servers, but do not distribute their code).

    My boss copied them into the source tree, but claims that he never made the connection between using my code and then later hiring me.

  • Lame points? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by beforewisdom ( 729725 ) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @08:52AM (#8461920)
    Many of us work in proprietary software setting and have met plenty of prima donna programmers ( some whose skills are not commensurate with their attitude ) programmers.

    We have also met other IT people who just don't get that they are being paid to do something for the company rather then what they want to do.

    In these respects proprietary programers are no different then open source programmers.

    In case the author of the article hasn't heard it is an employer's market right now for programmers.

    There is no reason for an employer to even go to the fraction of the trouble the article suggests.


  • ego-less programming (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jobbegea ( 748685 ) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @09:09AM (#8461970) Homepage
    Maybe check if they have read The Psychology of Computer Programming []. It has a great section on 'ego-less' programming.
  • Personal experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oujirou ( 726570 ) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @09:13AM (#8461993)
    While this might be slightly overkill in the general case, it has helped me once to dig for info on a guy who was trying to get a position in my company. If I didn't do that, I would have hired a skilled programmer and a scientologist at the same time, a person who was totally responsible for at least one major legal conflict.

    Just don't let the tin foil obstruct your line of vision. It doesn't really matter what does your applicant blog or do in his spare time as long as he is a fine fellow and a nice specialist.
  • Canadian Privacy Act (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cookie_cutter ( 533841 ) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @09:31AM (#8462054)
    I wonder whether the asking for such pseudonym information is legal with respect to Canada's new privacy legislation.

    I don't know much about the act's details, but one thing it states is that a business can't require information which isn't required in order to complete a transaction.

    Not exactly the same thing as this, but maybe there is something in the act which does more directly refer to this type of situation.

  • Re:Answer: you don't (Score:2, Interesting)

    by standard method ( 660687 ) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @09:39AM (#8462108) Homepage
    You bring up a good point there too, it's not always the worker's fault that they're out of work. It could be that damned employer, or the guvermint. But you know.

    The thing is, there's a fine line between expecting an employee to be flexible and expecting an employee to work well beyond the call of duty. It's a bonus to have an employee who can work beyond that which s/he was hired for. However, it's becoming less and less a "bonus" and more and more a "prerequisite." Doing extra has become a requirement, for one reason: people are willing to do more. If work wasn't going so cheaply nowadays, you wouldn't have to do as much.

    "There're fewer jobs out there, you gotta multitask!" Hmm. Sounds to me like a good equation towards getting people to do more work for less pay.. even if there aren't fewer jobs out there. But that's just tin-foil hat thinking.
  • Re:Personal Time (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iammrjvo ( 597745 ) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @09:45AM (#8462141) Homepage Journal

    I'm glad to see that at least someone has the guts to stand up for their personal time. I once worked in an applications support team where, as our boss put it, we were always "on call 24/7/365"

    I ditched that job six months ago. It's fine if you're going to be "on call" at scheduled, planned times. I will not submit to an employer who thinks that they own me. Unfortunately, there were a lot of "sheeple" at the job who just took it. (I guess they're the ones making life hard for the rest of us!?)

    In short, poor planning on my employers part should not necessitate an emergency on my part.

    Thanks for letting me rant, too.
  • Re:Personal Time (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2004 @09:53AM (#8462207)
    Oh let me guess, America. Right?

    Christ, for the "land of the free" you lot have some pretty fucked up ideas about "freedom". Get some proper employment laws for Gods sake!
  • My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by m00nun1t ( 588082 ) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @09:54AM (#8462225) Homepage
    I once did this. I was interviewing a candidate for a job. He made the short list, so I googled him. Found out his pseudonym which he happened to use on /.. Some postings were consistent with some points on his CV, confirming it was him.

    He also made a few posts about the technology we were chiefly hiring him to work with. The comments were rather negative (and against the broader view of the group he would be working in). I want people who can be passionate about what they do. No, I'm not just looking for "yes people" to maintain the status quo, but there is a certain base. Who is going to work harder and enjoy themselves more - someone who enjoys the technology or someone who doesn't?

    While his /. profile definitely wasn't the only thing that had him eliminated from the shortlist (he probably would have been cut anyway), it was a factor.
  • by Per Abrahamsen ( 1397 ) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @10:15AM (#8462452) Homepage
    No, programmers are programmers, whether they program proprietary or free software. However, when they code free software, you can actually see both their code, and how they intercat with other programmers on a project. This way, you can avoid the primadonas.

    Getting programmers with both good coding and people skills are what this article is about. And given how widely different the skills of programmers are, it is hard to see how any trouble in the hiring process to get the best is too much.

    You seem to miss the point of the article. The point was not to "bribe" programmers to work for the company by offering them to work on free software. The idea was that if the company wanted to contribute to some free software projects fpr strategic reasons, like HP does with various Linux related technologies, how to get the people who can ensure that the contributions are accepted. These people you find in the free software communities.
  • Research me! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @10:49AM (#8462872) Journal
    I want employers to research me. Please! This will be especially true after I've got my next project off the ground, which barring catastrophe should be before I'm job hunting again.

    So many of you are padding your resumes (yes, you... knock it off!) that it makes it hard for me to get into the "interview" stack. I don't believe in padding the resume (and besides, if I padded it it would become downright unbelievable... yes, I actually do know those ten languages fairly well, even if I am just a recent college grad, am I supposed to claim 20? As it is there are already some skills I'm deliberately not adding because they're not really good enough to justify it), and I need some way to let you know that I really have the skills I mention.

    For instance, I claim the ability to write coherently. Anybody can write coherently for the length of one resume, all that takes is the help of a friend. Get to my website and you'll see that I really can write even large, book-length essays reasonably well. You can find my code and download it.

    If anyone's not going to hire me because of my opinions, which are mostly "ethics are good" and a general technolibertarian slant, then I don't want to work for them. (In my case, this is unlikely to be an issue, since my strongest opinions are "YRO"-type issues and all that really eliminates from consideration are surveillance technologies I couldn't work on anyhow. YMMV due to differing opinions.)

    How else am I going to rise above all your padded resumes?

    (I've heard that in my current job I was the third of three candidates after the final screening. Our resumes were virtually identical, but I was fresh out of college with a Masters degree (actually I had significant work experience, easily three year's worth of a full-time job, but it's hard to get over the "fresh out of college" stigma), while the other two had many years of industry experience. Fortunately, when they were interviewed, they bombed, because the resumes were padded, and mine wasn't. Padded resumes may get you interviews, but you should almost hope they don't get you a job; you'll be in over your head in no time if you're hired on the basis of one.)

    (And a note: I can write, but that doesn't mean I give my best stuff to Slashdot or spend forever proof-reading my posts; why bother? I'm sure you can find errors in here. Save your sarcastic jokes; I'm claiming I can write, not write perfect rough drafts into a Mozilla text box.)
  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:18AM (#8463249)
    I tried to mention this recently in response to the article about open-source coding devaluing software development, but none of the moderators saw it.

    Anyhow, as any law student knows, volunteering in the community is an absolute necessity. Many employers won't even consider you if you haven't done significant volunteer work during law school, and you're expected to do so during your career.

    The computer industry should be no different. Pro bono work should be considered the NORM.
  • Re:Personal Time (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:24AM (#8463306)
    I work for the military, active duty. I really am on call 24/7 for computer work. Civilians have a repuation for not wanting to complete the mission in quite the same way as military. For example, one time a general and his staff were working on a project and needed the network, which went down. They called the helpdesk and told them to fix it, and they replied "we're salaried, we don't get paid to work after 5." And the general fired them all the very next day and replaced them with military. With military if they don't go do their job they get locked up.
  • by grepnyc ( 442959 ) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @09:34PM (#8471209)
    Back in 97' when the Doom source came out I joined a mod project over at the local college.

    The project is no longer around, but at the time my boss was pretty impressed with the work we were doing. I think that after I started to describe to him how the engine worked, and how we (I) wanted to change it, as a developer he saw me in a different light.

    I'm not sure this would have happened if Id hadn't OSS-ed their code. It would have taken longer to impress the guy if he only knew me as a guy who wrote CGI programs and Servlets.

    We're still together, and now I'm his technical lead on a big project.


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