Matt's Blog: while { coding }

Leaning on GitHub

There’s been some hand-wringing in the tech community lately about whether it is fair to judge a prospective hire by their Github profile. The concern I’ve heard is mostly about people trying to break in to the field who can’t afford to spend a lot of time working on side projects and putting them up on Github. I’ve come to believe this is a small part of a broader problem that impacts just about everyone with a Github account.

Here’s my activity profile that Github shows other people when they visit my Github account:
What a loser!

Here’s what I see when I log in:

The pictures tell most of the story. There is a whole other side to my Github account that you don’t know about. This is true for just about everything Github shows, not just this nifty chart. The public/private chasm eats a lot of valuable information.

I have 20 or so public repos which don’t have a lot of activity, and I have a handful of private repos that are pretty active. Am I working on an interesting project that I choose not to share yet? Am I working on a new version of something I’ve already made public? You simply don’t know. Also, what problems am I solving right now? And what if I’m solving problems in a notebook or in scraps of exploratory code that get thrown away?

This is not Github’s fault[1]. It’s up to the person doing the hiring or recruiting to make a decision. The question is, are you going to make a decision based on the presence or absence of information? Maybe it’s worth reaching out to the person you’re considering and asking them some questions. Couldn’t hurt.

[1] Github does have weirdness though. The way they report commits is a little dodgy (but is documented). For example on my private view it looks like November and December were inactive. But I had plenty of commits in that time frame, I just happened to be working on non-master branches at the time and those don’t show.