Venture capitalist Fred Wilson recently derided marketing as "what you do when your product or service sucks." Great products market themselves. In a similar way, paid recruiting is what you do when your insight into the movers and shakers in your corner of the industry stinks. I'm not referring to the courting of talent. …
"But one area where open source reigns supreme is in hiring technical talent, a benefit open source is unlikely to cede to its recently sexy peers, cloud computing and mobile."
"At every open-source company where I've worked - and I've worked at five so far - it has been easy to identify top talent: they're the most active and/or useful community members. These are people that find the project (and company), rather than the other way around."
So... when you are an open-source shop and you are looking for new staff, looking at the so-far-unpaid staff (volunteers) is a good start? Well, yes...
But then this article is *not* saying that gleaning from top contributors to open source projects is a good strategy for general or commercial shops, right?
"open-source recruitment works" ... for open source, is hardly the stunning assertion that the headline bleats as revolution.
Free as in Open...
... not free as in beer.
"So... when you are an open-source shop and you are looking for new staff, looking at the so-far-unpaid staff (volunteers) is a good start? "
Do you really think all open source contributions are by unpaid volunteers?
open source top talent
It depends on the area you work in.
If it's a cool new trendy field with high visibility then it';s easy to spot the top talent in Django or Groovy or cool_new_ruby_framework.
What if you need C++ or SQL people? How do you spot the top talent there?
Contributors to C++ standards committee? Authors of textbooks? Or just people with the funniest blog site name?
Look at what they've written and published.
An OSS developer, even if not one of the high profile people, can at least give you some URLs showing their discussions, code etc.
A typical interview question goes something like: "Tell me about a problem you worked on and how you worked with other people to solve it." If the discussion was on a mailing list then you can provide backup showing how you communicated with others and did that work.
I strongly suggest involvement in OSS to anybody. trying to improve their employability.
The people who can understand the hulking giant of OpenOffice.org source code when most of the comments are written in German. :)
(Something I can not do, btw)
How bloody self important can you be?
Perhaps Mark should pull his head out of the keyboard and notice that not all software under development is the Linux OS, or even open source. For example, please show me all the viable open source for vetronics systems? His point is perhaps well taken for the *very* small fraction of software under development that has the benefit a viable open source ecosystem, but the rest of us, not so much.
At least as pertains to technical talent, this is suicide at worst, and stupidity at best
Slightly extremist viewpoint.
I call bullshit
How about some numbers to back up the central argument that open source involvement is a good predictor of engineering talent?
At my current employer, I work with a huge team of bright engineers, none of whom have any direct involvement in open source. And it's not because we don't use Linux or open source software, it's because when we come home after 10 hours of daily struggle, the last thing most of us want to do is stare at text on a display and do more work.
I always wonder who it is that actually is involved in OSS-- certainly people who are paid to do it as part of their day job (you can get the same people by poaching from your competitors-- a time honored tradition to be sure), I imagine some students, people who are out of work or retired and looking for something to do, and maybe people who find their job boring and spend their effort on a more interesting project instead. Seems then that the additional talent pool available if you scrape OSS projects has a probable bias towards inexperience and intransience (ever read the postgres or perl6 forums? There's a reason for some of the stereotypes of the linux ubernerd, and it's not just RMS's fault). Digging through a community's forums and monitoring IRC to figure out who is talented and who is problematic sure sounds like an awful lot of work.
Not just open source.
Companies should be scouting all sorts of alternate candidacy areas. Looking for a great systems administrator with some huge out-of-the-box thinking abilities? Turn to you local charities or non-profit organisations; assuming they aren’t being taken for a ride by contractors, the in-house sysadmins are usually incredibly capable and innovative individuals. There are nerds of all varieties who pen articles for various publications…or who host popular blogs of their very own with huge numbers of followers.
You will often find valuable nerds attached to gaming communities as well. A great example are those in who write gaming mods, design and maintain the websites for gaming mod communities and those who assemble and run said systems. Other non-mainstream projects can attract top-notch talent as well. Look at projects like SETI@Home and similar distributed computing efforts; some of the highest ranking members are nerds who have put together great gear with few available resources.
In short: there is no “one answer” to finding good people. Open source is one place to look (if you need programmers,) but it certain covers neither the full gamut of requisite nerds nor does it come close to exposing the entirety of capable, talented but largely overlooked nerds just waiting for the chance to do some really, really cool.
It's Worse Than That
Frankly, my impression is the firms are rare that can recognize real talent even when it is already working for them, let alone on the outside. That is, if you can't identify it on the inside, you're clueless regarding what to look for outside.
This is fine when you want to recruit people for hip sexy projects. But how many talented programmers are flocking to develop payroll systems?
...on how well it pays.
If mathematics is a field that is interesting to you, then it might be seen as a challenge, even!
Nice idea, but dont forget the closed source folks with no authorised public profile...
I agree with the idea that you can review the actual output of open-sourcer's, but thats not going to give you a good perspective on the closed source shops whose employers are too primitive to provide any public profile for their stars...but the general theory is ok, so de-rate the flame icon appropriately!
P.S. Also dont forget the open-sourcer's whose employer f***ed up open-source and took their toys to redmond^H^H^H home!
I'm looking for a job!
Just kidding. I readily agree with this article.
You've probably heard of SVS a dangerous disease...
SVS- Silicon Valley Syndrome : Its where the developer feels that his value and knowledge increases in direct proportion to his proximity of Silicon Valley.
That is to say, take a developer out of the mid west of the US, relocate him to San Jose and immediately his 'talents' improve dramatically.
I said this about 15+ years ago as a remark to a fellow friend here in the mid west about an idiot we knew who got a big head and ego because he relocated to the 'Valley'. While I know a lot of talented guys and gals in San Francisco area, many don't believe that their skills are any better or worse for living in the Valley. (They just like the weather better... ;-)
I agree with the author that you can find excellent staff around the globe if you know where to look.
-Mine's the winter coat with the IPA beers in the pockets. ;-)
Worked for me
I have been hired by some big name companies because of the OSS I've written. When they Googled for the subject of interest, articles, documents and code I had written dominated the first page of results.
Being a successful OSS contributor also puts you head and shoulders above unproven competition. You can actually demonstrate your skills so the employer knows you are not embellishing skills.
OSS participation also tends to be a meritocracy. Hacking it in OSS proves you can do the job.
Of course that doesn't mean that those who don't play OSS are idiots, they just have to work harder to prove their worth.
What about people with families or a social life?
I'd love to spend some time on OSS (specifically to fix up the Linux dvdread code so it copes with weirdly formatted DVD indices). Got to the point where I could build and debug it, and was trying to figure out how the hell it worked, and ran out of time, because, you know, I have a family, and try to have a social life.
To get 'noticed' as some others above have done required hundreds of hours of extra work, time which I and many other SW people just do not have.
So those hired through agencies are less talented and overpaid?
Thanks for that. A real kick in the teeth first thing in the morning for everyone hired through an agency. Which is probably 90% of people.
Or it would be, if the article didn't read like an OSS mastubatory piece. "Look! Look! OSS is how Jesus would work! We have unicorns!"
This is an anti open source article. The second.
In your previous article you explained why open source / copyleft software such as the LibreOffice spreadsheet is inferior to the $5 calculator app that you buy to use on your smartphone, which is so much easier to do, and understands the accelerometer.
This time you explain that if you use your employees to contribute to open source projects - this time not necessarily meaning copyleft, but anyway probably done during work hours as part of their job, as major companies do - then the good ones will be identified by their e-mail address and hired away from you.
I say "not necessarily meaning copyleft" because (1) it is possible (but tricky) to write and publish software with source code provided only to clients whilst refusing to allow them to use it whilst you're still in business, except for looking at it (mine is truly lovely), and (2) that would still probably make it possible for clients to figure out who in the company is doing the most imaginative and productive software development work, and who isn't, if their names are on or in the source files. And to headhunt your best people.
It's just crossed my mind, belatedly, that this may be also why there are "Easter egg" amusement routines in several big software products - they're job applications by the workers who write them.
He has a point
It's not the best argued piece but what he is saying is that companies should not rely on thought less drones in recruitment agencies but look at what people have already done. The FOSS angle is just about visibility.
For example if you want a Perl developer then you look for someone with a module on CPAN and come involvement in a Perl group. Just because you have never released any code onto CPAN or joined a group doesn't make you a bad coder but it does make you harder to back ground check.
If you work on some obscure aspect of some antique operating systems, then there probably isn't a big community on the web with high public visibility but that just makes it harder, the principle of hiring people by doing a proper check still holds.
When we place job ads we only get 1 in 10 CVs from our agents that are even worth looking at and within that pool fewer than 1 in 5 of them do well at interview. It's a dismal ratio, given that we are paying for it as a service. One of the best people I ever found came though a community job board that cost us nothing, and unlike the candidates the agents suggested he was actually qualified for what we wanted.
I don't understand this bit?
"I've noted recently that some of open source's benefits are lost in a world of mobile app stores and the web, where the immediacy of downloading source code is trumped by the immediacy of polished, easily installed code or web services"
Matts massive intellect
I much respect Matt Asay, but sometimes I do have difficilty following his thought processes. It's most probably because I'm a humble technical support operative and he's much more cleverer than I am ..
Principle right, numbers wrong.
Looking through Open Source projects to find talented developers is possible - with a bit of thought and patience you can find many very talented people. But that doesn't mean that they're going to be available for your work or that there are enough of them to meet demand. Agencies can be a terrible pain for both sides, but unless you're a big player looking for a heavyweight programmer, you probably need one.