I have contributed to to a few open source projects, whether it be the Linux kernel or gnome. Though I have always cloaked my identity with an alias. I just finished the base of a nice program I made. Id like to make it public as I know many will use it, but now question my previous assumptions.

I never used my real name before because I was always scared employers would be able to see my code before I was hired. I'm not the worlds best programmer nor the most elegant. To be honest I hack my self to completion nearly always. But I write sound software which I always write many test cases. I tend to be scared that I will lose a job opportunity because I do not write elegant nor clean code. I suppose the code I write for income would be of a much higher quality then that I do for free.

Are my concerns legitimate? Have any of you experienced such feeling or even the loss of a prospect due to contributions.


?I suppose the code I write for income would be of a much higher quality then that I do for free.?

I think this is the nub of the matter. Why do you suppose this is? What would be different about a professional setting that would make your code better?

We all improve over time, and we all look back on old code we've written and think how much better it would have been if we'd written it now, but we have to write the bad code to get better.

Code quality aside, a track record in free software is a good indicator of passion and of interpersonal skills that can make someone worth hiring.


Every time that open source contributions have come up in an employment interview context for me, it's been invariably a positive thing. The ability to cooperate with others and contribute code to an existing project group is generally much more valuable than the actual code you wrote.

Besides, code contributed to open source projects is expected to be written in the same style as the code around it. The people who hire you aren't likely to inspect your open source contribution in detail.

Some old code that I contributed to VNC years ago came in handy when Andy Hopper happened to visit our office.


I was always scared employers would be able to see my code before I was hired.

If this is true, then you need to find an employer who hires programmers without first determining whether or not they can code. While such employers do exist, they don't last long in this world. You'd be better off improving your coding skills until you get to the point where you actually want people to see your code.


If you mention your open source contributions on your resume, you can assume that employers will check them, and use it to judge the quality of your code. Especially if that employer values open source contributions.

If you wouldn't put it in a portfolio, do not talk about it on your resume.

However, you might still want to sign your work with your own name. If an employer takes the time to actually dig out your open source work, check that it really belongs to you (do you have a common name?) and read the code, you can always handle it in the interview ("This is old code/something I've hacked for a specific purpose, but I'm working on improving, here are some more recent code samples, blablabla")

And if signing your code makes you more sensitive to the importance of writing good code, and motivates you to do better in the future, then great!

Even better: work on refactoring the parts you're not happy with, and then you'll be able to demonstrate progress, ability to refactor, and drive to improve.


I have never mentioned open source contributions on my resume, but the subject did come up in an interview. The prospective employer saw participation in open source projects as a positive thing as it showed initiative and passion for the profession beyond what is required for a paycheck.


Everything you put ona resume will have it's positive and negative aspects. No two emplyers want the same thing. If having worked on open source is a negative for an employer, why would you want to work there anyway since you enjoy working on these projects?

List the projects you are proud of and expect to be asked about them inthe interview just like any professional experieince.