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:
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. 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.
 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.