Open source has infiltrated so many levels of IT over the past decade. It has been a slow process; however, little by little, it has become a normality. And even though many companies are adopting open source software, they are hesitant to bring open source developers into the fold. Why is this?
Many larger companies do not place any value on open source applications, therefore they do not place any value in those who code the applications. Some companies are afraid that hiring an open source developer would be a liability - possibly reverse engineering their proprietary software and then releasing forked versions into the community. Although these may sound like justifiable fears, they overlook some very important benefits that come with hiring open source developers.
Let's take a look at some good reasons to hire open source developers.
1. You can see more than their resumes. Because the applications they work on are open, you can get a first-hand look at the code they write even before you do that first interview. Try to do that with a developer for a proprietary software developer. This will give you a fairly instant grasp of your interviewee's understanding of programming. You will know right away how well they write their code, if they use comments well, what tools they use, etc.
2. Open source developers have had to think on their toes and patch the programs that Microsoft has (often times) intentionally broken. Think about the Samba team. For the longest time they would take a step forward and Microsoft would change something that would push them a couple of steps back. The Samba team had to be on their toes all the time to make changes so their software would continue to work with the latest version of Windows.
3. Although this is not a universal truth, open source developers are very passionate about what they do. They have to be, otherwise why would they do it? If you hire an open source developer that has a passion for their work on open source projects, it might very well spill over into the work they do for you. Now I understand that many developers are passionate about their work (I've read Microserfs ;-) ), but passion in the open source community runs a bit hotter than it does in the non-open source communities.
4. Along with an open source developer you will enjoy open source support. This is a tricky one for sure. You can't hire a developer and then expect that developer not only to code but also serve as support for end users. But it is always nice when there is someone there to help support the IT department. That Apache server that someone installed a long time ago and has been running non-stop without upgrades because everyone is afraid to touch it? It could be given the attention it so deserves now.
5. And like adopting any open source project, you will save money. Along with hiring a single open source developer, you now have the "support" of the entire open source community, should you need it. If you are working on an-in house project that ends up going to open source that project has the opportunity to scale in proportion to the size of the community supporting said project. If that project catches the eye of the open source community, who knows, it may wind up being the next Samba or Apache.
I don't want anyone to get the impression that I think open source developers are better than closed source developers. But they do have different ideologies and they do go about things differently. For a long time companies avoided hiring open source developers for one reason or another, but I have always and will always stand by my claim that open source developers make great additions to your IT staff.
What about you? Do you have a take on this? Why would you or why wouldn't you hire an open source developer? Has your company hired an open source developer? If not are they planning to? Let us know.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.