GNU Generation: Bringing Pre-University Students into Free Software

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

While GNU Generation isn't the next Google Highly Open Participation Contest™ (GHOP), the two efforts have a lot in common. My name is Max Shinn and I am going into my junior year of high school. This summer, though, I'm interning with the Free Software Foundation (FSF). When I was participating in GHOP, I never imagined that I would be using that experience to start a similar project. I have been working on GNU Generation extensively as part of my internship with the FSF.

GNU Generation is a growing community for young people (approx. ages 13-18) interested in contributing to free software. Once you sign up on the wiki, you can pick out one of the projects listed and start contributing immediately. Alternatively, if you would like to contribute to a project not listed, you can fill out a form and just start working; as long as you are working on something related to free software, no approval is needed. It doesn't need to be a coding project either. Art, advocacy, documentation, and other projects are equally welcome. We maintain a very informal and relaxed environment; if you have any sort of special request, it's likely that you'll get it. At the end of each month, a "contributor of the month" will be chosen to win a free t-shirt. At the end of each year, the participant who has contributed to free software the most will win a GNU/Linux powered netbook!

There are rewards to be gained other than just prizes, though. You will be able to see your contributions being used and enjoyed by all kinds of people. There is a wonderful community of young free software advocates already participating in GNU Generation. There are few other ways to meet and connect with such a diverse population of like-minded peers from all around the world. It will also give you a golden line to add to your resumé, especially if you win contributor of the month or year. You'll have a chance to learn about how the world of free software works and, perhaps most importantly, you will know that you helped spread digital freedom.

A page has been put together with detailed instructions as to exactly how to join. You are also encouraged to sign up for the mailing list and join the IRC channel (#gnu_generation on

We are still looking for projects to participate as well. Any free software project is welcome to create jobs, or "projects" as we call them, through the "create a project" form. All you need is a description of your project, some information on how to get started, and your contact information. Any students interested in your project will be able to sign up and begin contributing immediately.

GNU Generation is a huge opportunity for both young free software users, and for free software projects. Our main goal is to assist students who would like to contribute, but don't know what to do or how to get started. What's more, you can still participate in GNU Generation if you are already contributing to a free software project! Just register, and create your own project describing what you are already doing.

Whether or not you can or choose to join the GNU Generation, I wish you the best of luck in the free software world!