Google Summer of Code Meetups in Sofia and Strasbourg

Friday, March 19, 2010

Back at the end of January, when Google first announced that Google Summer of CodeTM was on for 2010, I happened to read the mail in the company of a group of Computer Science M.Sc. students. I quickly shared the news with them but rather than cheers of enthusiasm I was surprised that all I got in return were puzzled stares. It turned out that most of the students there hadn't heard of the program before and those that had, didn't really know what it was all about.

I have always thought that Computer Science students were particularly lucky to be able to participate in Open Source. Most of the time newly graduated students would have a hard time finding a decent job because of their lack of experience, which makes experience itself hard to accumulate. Open Source offers an easy way out of this: no project is going to refuse a patch simply because you don't have the necessary entries in your CV. Of course, many would say, that getting into an Open Source project is not really that easy since the learning curve in most of the popular projects is often quite steep and could prove discouraging.

This is exactly why Google Summer of Code is a unique program. A hundred and fifty of the world's greatest FOSS projects get organized by proposing ideas that students know are within their reach. They also allocate mentors to guide the work of the students, and their whole communities follow and comment on the projects ... And all this happens while students are actually paid for their work!

So getting the puzzled stares from CS students after mentioning the program was like looking at people who were preparing to spend a cold night in front of a warm house, because they didn't know there was a key under the doormat.

After sharing this thought with a few other people that had been mentoring for SIP Communicator, we decided we definitely needed to make sure everyone knew what Google Summer of Code is and, more importantly, how it works. We therefore decided to organize a couple of quick information sessions in universities that our mentors were somehow related to: the University of Strasbourg, France (which was eventually split in two), and the Sofia University in Bulgaria. We were particularly lucky to also get the help of Shteryana Shopova from FreeBSD who agreed to join in for the Sofia session and tell us about her experience as both a student and a mentor.

Both universities were particularly helpful in making room reservations and advertising the meetings to the potentially interested students. I would also like to thank Vladimir Vassilev, Alexander Todorov, and Julien Montavont for their help with the organization!

Both sessions went quite well and attracted a decent number of students. Questions were mostly related to the student selection process, whether or not one could participate with a project of their own, where does the work happen, and how does one communicate with their mentor and community. I guess this is one of the advantages of attending live sessions: one gets to ask as many Frequently Asked Questions as they want ;)

The Strasbourg Sessions

We held two meetings there in order to make it easier for students from different campuses to attend. On both of the sessions we had Vincent Lucas, Romain Kuntz, Julien Montavont and myself (Emil Ivov), all mentors from SIP Communicator's Google Summer of Code participation in 2007, 2008, and 2009. (Unfortunately, we currently only have photos from the first meeting.)

The Sofia Sessions

We already mentioned Shteryana Shopova from FreeBSD (GSoC student in 2005 and 2006, and mentor in 2007). We also had Damian Minkov from SIP Communicator (2007, 2008, and 2009), as well as Vladimir Vassilev and Alexander Todorov.