GSoC Reunion Recap with Abhishek Das

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

To celebrate the tenth year of Google Summer of Code (GSoC), we recently welcomed over 500 people who’ve participated over the years to a special Reunion event. We’d like to share a few recaps of the event from the perspectives of students and mentors who joined us from 50 different countries. Today’s summary comes from Abhishek Das, a student participant in GSoC 2013 and 2014.

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Google's prestigious Summer of Code program, they organized a reunion for mentors and students from the past 10 iterations of Summer of Code in San Jose, California from October 23-26. I attended the event as a student and a representative of the OWASP foundation.

I traveled from New Delhi, India and arrived in San Jose early morning on the 23rd and checked in at my hotel. I knew I'd be staying in the heart of Silicon Valley but was nonetheless pleasantly surprised to see the Adobe headquarters from my room! The evening was spent registering for the event and socializing with other developers who had flown in from all over the world. It was a delightful experience to randomly bump into developers and get to know about their organizations and open source projects.

The next day was a fun outing to the Great America theme park. Google had bought out the park for the whole day just for the summit attendees! That evening, a GSoC celebration event was held at the San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation. It was a wonderful (semi-)formal get together, full of geek speak and inspiring talks. Among the speakers were Chris DiBona, Alfred Spector, Peter Norvig, Dirk Hohndel and Linus Torvalds! Mr. DiBona talked about how he came up with the idea of Summer of Code and the immense impact it has had over the past 10 years as it continues to grow. Mr. Norvig's short inspiring talk mentioned how a bad craftsman blames his tools and how a good one wouldn't differentiate between the two. Hohndel emphasized the need and importance of valuing criticism. And Torvalds implored budding developers to develop good taste and to know what to keep and more importantly, what to throw away. Selfies with the guests followed alongside lavish drinks and buffet. 

The unconference sessions started Saturday morning. I loved the idea of having spontaneous sessions with lots of free interaction rather than the rigidity that is usually associated with conferences. Some sessions were run by Googlers but most were run by attendees. The first one I attended was by Grant Grundler (Googler) on Chrome OS. He talked about the future of Chrome OS and Android, the development cycle of a hardware-based product such as a Chromebook, the support model of Chrome OS and ended with a Q&A.

Next up was one on data visualization libraries. People talked about the libraries they were using and the applications they'd built using them. Others asked questions and lots of new ideas came up.

Among other sessions I attended were ones on Processing, bioinformatics (scope, ongoing work and future), artificial intelligence (again a brainstorming and ideation meetup), big data, robotics and Google Cardboard! There were also several lightning talks going on at the same time in the Ballroom where organization representatives introduced their projects in under 3 minutes. It’s always fun to listen to these quick talks and get familiar with their work.

Sunday morning began with the much awaited trip to the Googleplex.

Sessions continued till the afternoon after which we had to bid farewell. Carol Smith conducted the feedback session and delivered the closing address.

It was an absolutely awesome event. The feeling of getting to meet FOSS superstars in person, people who I'd been following on GitHub or Twitter for a while, was inexplicable. The idea of having a sticker exchange as well as a chocolate room was perfect. And most importantly, the organisers got all the basic things spot on: get open source developers from different backgrounds in one place and make it as comfortable as possible for them to interact and have productive discussions with each other (no shuttling between the conference venue and accommodation, free and fast WiFi, awesome food and drinks, a formal celebratory dinner, schwag, and so on). A big shout out to Carol, Chris, Stephanie, and the entire Google Open Source Programs team for an amazing event!

By Abhishek Das