Thank you for taking the time to write such detailed feedback.
While I understand your reasoning, I have several valid reasons for trying to recruit the way I am. I have hired several different Meteor developers over the last few months with no success. The prime reason for them not working out is a lack of skill and ability to deliver on a tight schedule.
My 2.5 hour test (if you want to take a look at it without taking the test - I can send it to you) is extremely challenging (Note: The test is set up to be just challenging enough for a very good junior or average mid-level Meteor dev to finish it in 2 hours). Although it is challenging, I am able to complete it in under 1.5 hours. And the code I output is perfectly neat and maintainable (albeit without comments). This is because of my 3+ years' experience working with Meteor. While doing the test I never have to look things up and know exactly what to do if an error pops up, etc.
So by having someone take this test I am assessing how well-versed they are with Meteor, and how efficient they will be. And I am not just taking a look at the end-product, I am reading through all the code and looking at if they are disciplined enough to write neat and maintainable code, even under tremendous pressure. It's finding out which developers are the best, not the most skilled. I am looking for people who not only know Meteor but can solve problems and work under time pressure.
Also, although I understand having a developer work on a few projects on a contract basis makes sense to see how they work out, there are so many developers out there applying for a job, even if I make a shortlist, there is not enough time to delegate work to all of them and assess them. The best is therefore to test them under time pressure with a sample project.
I had no idea people used this technique to farm out work for free. I can assure you that I am not doing so, as the app I want them to build has almost no practical use. Once again, if you want me to send it through to you, just to take a look, I'd be happy to