Spreading the Summer Love is Easy!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Google Summer of CodeTM is on, and it's time to spread the Summer love. As Leslie noted in a previous post, former students and mentors are hosting more than 20 informational sessions worldwide, from Peru to Switzerland. In the last two weeks, I have lead information sessions at universities around Chicago: The University of Chicago, Northwestern University, DePaul University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. I'd like to share some of my experiences organizing some of these sessions, to show you how easy it is to promote Google Summer of Code at your local colleges and universities.

So, let's say you've participated in Google Summer of Code as a student or mentor, and you want to spread the word about how great it is to flip bits, not burgers, during the summer. All you need is the following:

First of all, you're going to need an audience. More specifically, you want to get as many student coders from your local college or university in the same room. But what if you don't have any contacts at the university? Don't let this hinder you: try contacting the university's ACM or IEEE student chapter, Linux User Group, Computing Club, etc. Most universities have at least one, and they are usually listed in the website of the more computer-centered department on campus (typically Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or Electrical Engineering). Sometimes just typing is a surprisingly effective way of finding the ACM student chapter for Foobar University. If they're not listed anywhere, try the general contact e-mail for the department, and ask if there is some sort of student computing association on campus.

Once you've pinpointed the right group, contact them and introduce yourself as a former Google Summer of Code mentor/student. Ask them if they would be interested in hosting a GSoC informational session. These groups are generally accustomed to hosting external speakers, so they will probably be more than happy to host a talk and handle all the logistics for you (reserving a room, advertising the talk, plastering campus with flyers, etc.). All you'll have to do is show up and present. Even if the group you contact can't host a talk, you can ask them to alternatively just post flyers around campus, and forward the flyer to mailing lists that are populated by geeks.

Next, you need a presentation to deliver. Not to worry: There is an existing slideset you can use. Even if you don't plan on using slides, the slideset can help you structure your presentation. And if you need further inspiration, you can watch videos of other GSoC informational sessions. Using the Google-provided slideset, my presentations typically involved a 20 or 30 minute talk followed by a Q&A. If you'd like to invite other local GSoCers to speak along with you, the folks from Google's Open Source Programs Office can help put you in touch with other folks in your area. Make sure to let them know when your presentation is scheduled so it can be added to the program calendar.

Finally, you need time to deliver the presentation. Unless you're like me and work in academia, you probably can't sneak out of work for an hour or two in the middle of the day. In my experience, however, student associations tend to prefer scheduling these events in the evening, since there are no classes at that time and it makes it easier for students with jobs to attend. Just let them know what your time restrictions are, and they'll probably be able to accommodate them.

Do you have any other tidbits of advice on how to organize a GSoC information session? Let us know in the comments! In any case, I hope you'll join us in spreading a bit of Summer love.