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Judge potential tech hires on open source contributions

The typical method of hiring for technical positions — based on degrees, résumés, etc. — is silly in a lot of ways. Does it really matter where someone’s degree is from or their GPA? Can you really trust a résumé or a reference?

Open source is a gift to those who need to hire technical people. With open source, you can track someone’s work and contributions — good and bad — over a lengthy period of time.

That means you can judge people by their actions instead of just their words. You can make a decision based on the things that really matter:

When it comes to programmers, we only hire people we know through open source. We think doing anything else is irresponsible. We hired Jamis because we followed his releases and participation in the Ruby community. He excelled in all the areas mentioned above. It wasn’t necessary to rely on secondary factors since we could judge him based on what really matters: the quality of his work.

And don’t worry that extra-curricular activities will take focus and passion away from a staffer’s day job. It’s like the old cliché says: If you want something done, ask the busiest person you know. Jamis and David are two of the heaviest contributors to Rails and still manage to drive Basecamp technically. People who love to program and get things done are exactly the kind of people you want on your team.

Open Source Passion

What you want the most from a new hire is passion for what he does, and there’s no better way of showing it than a trace of commitment in open source projects.

—Jarkko Laine, software developer (from Reduce the risk, hire from open source)

We made Basecamp using the principles in this book. It combines all the tools teams need to get work done in a single, streamlined package. With Basecamp, everyone knows what to do, where things stand, and where to find things they need.