Jorge Villalobos
Ideas, technology and the occasional rant

Friday, November 04, 2005

Open Source welcomes you to work

I don't see myself as an open source zealot (try to ignore the multiple Firefox ads and contain your laughter if possible), but I think it has a great deal of advantages over closed source. I would like to discuss one that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere else and I think is very important. As a reminder to my reader(s) I don't do any research before writing so I'm pretty sure this is far from being an original posting. I just want to give my point of view, as usual.
I think open source projects are an excellent way in which a company or corporation can look for future talent and intellect. If a project is popular enough, it will get the attention of thousands of developers around the world, who will want to contribute for various reasons. Some do it only because it's cool, others will do it because they feel like they are part of a true cause, others will do it because they would love to be part of the core development team some time in the future.
Applications like Bugzilla allow the formation of a meritocracy in the development community. Those who show their worthiness will have the right to demand higher privileges. This is how life should work. Democracy is overrated, but I disgress. To give you and example, in the Bugzilla set up for Mozilla projects, first they'll let you add keywords, then edit bugs, and finally they will give you write access to the CVS repository. Now that's scary. Luckily that last privilege is shared by very few.
People who earn these high distinctions are probably worthy of getting a full time position in the company. If they ever need to hire someone new, they won't have to go out doing college recruitment, or putting out ads that will bring in every person with more than dubious skills to apply. They already have a very well-defined and properly evaluated pool of candidates who would probably take the job happily for half the salary. Not that they should be exploited, though...
So, what advantages would they get from selecting employees from this pool? Here are some I can think of:
  1. Familiarity with the project.
  2. Familiarity with the development tools.
  3. Demonstrated skills.
  4. Demonstrated compromise towards the project and the company. They have been working for free! How much more could you possibly ask for?
Sounds like more than you will ever get by posting ads all over the world, in my opinion.
It seems very clear that the openness of software works in many ways. This of course does not apply to all types of open source projects. Some of these limit their openness to publicly releasing the source code, and don't allow external participation in feature development or bug patching. A bit dumb in my opinion, but they can do whatever they want. The ones that go all the way benefit all the way as well.
That's probably why I won't see Mozilla stands at career fair anytime soon. Or maybe it's because I live on the other side of the country... Either way, Mozilla doesn't need to go out and look for talent, there's already thousands of candidates fighting for being the greatest contributor.
I am proud to be one of them. We all have evil plans, and mine is pretty obvious. Thanks to open source and openness in general, I think I have a shot.

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