I also can't trust your references, because you'll only give me ones that will say good things about you, and any digging at your work history will only uncover "yes he worked here" responses.
I want to see open-source contributions because I like being around people who are passionate about solving problems with code, and it is my experience that people who contribute to open-source projects, or start their own, are of that mindset.
I don't think that they are the only people who are passionate, but I want to make a choice so I can get back to solving problems.
If you're making the hiring people work harder, you're going to miss out. Being able to show examples of your work is the best way to do it.
How do you feel about tests? or "write this program that does [x]" spec projects instead?
Realistically, the code and details of are covered by NDA. The task solved, the huge difficulty of same, the overall success of the task being solved, demonstrable fluency in related but public areas of computer science, and the commercial success (modest or otherwise) of the code would not be.
If you don't understand this, or couldn't say the same things about what you're doing, maybe you're not working at the same level, and you are welcome to go fire up the GitHub account and solve tic-tac-toe in Haskell or whatever the hell it is that's meant to be so impressive.
The closest analogy I can come is - say you wrote a pile of LEDA (not a invite to debate if this is a good product, but it's certainly substantial) and you've got references who are in a position to know that say, 'yes, Joe Bloggs really did write all the graph algorithms or geometry algorithms or whatnot in this package'.
Well, you're within your rights to 'not believe a word you've said'. But this falls into the thing I'm complaining about - the whole pathological distrust of programmer achievements. How do you think engineers or commercial research scientists in other fields ever get hired, for fuck's sake?
There's a distrust of programmers because many programmers are not at your skill level. You don't seem to have problems with finding employment. Perhaps open-source contributions don't matter to people of your caliber. But you need to realize that it's not HR or management asking to see your code -- it's your peers.
We need as many metrics as we can to find out who's good and who says they're good. Looking at code and examples of work is exactly how you do that. You can argue all you want, and it may not be fair. Neither is "You have to have a 3.5 GPA to get a job here."
It comes down to this: filtering by OSS contributions gives you many false negatives (as the OP has complained) but virtually zero false positives. In hiring, a false negative is a bummer, but a false positive is disastrous. It would be irresponsible of me as an interviewer not to take this into account.
If it someone's pissed because they fall into the false negative bucket, that's rough, but I'm the one calling the shots and taking the risks.
(1) The person can apparently code when he's allowed to pick what he wants to work on and doesn't have any real pressure, and
(2) He has time to work on open source.
Most companies need people who can code well under pressure and when they have to work on something they don't necessarily want to work on.
By screening by OSS contributions you will indeed eliminate one kind of false positive--they people who can't code at all. Other kinds of false positives, such as people who can't work well except on self-selected projects, will get in.
And from the developer perspective, just the fact that it helps you avoid idiotic CS101 tests over the phone at every interview is enough to make it worth.
How isn't that a disaster?
If a false negative means you have no awesome candidates to choose from, that's a problem.
If a false negative means you have two awesome candidates to choose from instead of three, that's irritating but hardly a disaster.
Thats fair, but the thing is that its YOUR PROBLEM(as a recruiter), not mine as a great "closed source" engineer
I know bunch of people who work on very cool and interesting problems/projects binded NDAs and have no problem on finding a new job if they want to. Hell Facebook, twitter, google are all closed source(mostly) so wouldnt you hire ex-Facebook engineer if he has no open source commitments?
Lets face it - its employees market, where companies compete for bright engineers. If you are saying that you only want open source commitments - thats fine, but you are betting on smaller market and missing some great talents. So you are more "lazy" recruiter, who dont want to look deeper, do facts check, test candidate etc. But again its your own problem, not mine.
Not every programmer is a rock star ninja. Most are mediocre. Some are pretty bad but know the theory and can play the resume game, pass the whiteboard test, etc. There are plenty of books and lots of advice that will teach you how to fake your way through a resume, cover letter, and interviews.
Worked at Google/Facebook/Twitter? Great. Odds are I can't afford to hire you. You're not the target of open-source filtering :)