A year full of new open source at Catrobat

Thursday, March 8, 2018

This is a guest post from Catrobat, an open source organization that participated in both Google Summer of Code and Google Code-in last year.

Catrobat was selected to participate in Google Summer of Code (GSoC) for the sixth time and Google Code-in (GCI) for the first time in 2017, which helped us reach new students and keep our mentors busy.

We tried something new in 2017 by steering GSoC students toward refactoring and performance, rather than developing new features. Implementing a crash tracking and analysis system, modularizing existing code, and rewriting our tests resulted in more lines of code being deleted than added – and we’re really happy about that!

This improved the quality and stability of oursoftware and both students and mentors could see progress immediately. The immediacy of the results kept students engaged - some weeks it almost seemed as if they had been working 24/7 (they weren’t :)! And we’re happy to say that most are still motivated to contribute after GSoC, and now they’re adding code more often than they are deleting it.

Although new features are exciting, we found that working on existing code offers a smooth entry for GSoC students. This approach helped students assimilate into the community and project more quickly, as well as receive rapid rewards for their work.

The quality improvements made by GSoC students also made things smoother for the younger, often less experienced GCI students. Several dozen students completed hundreds of tasks, spreading the love of open source and coding in their communities. It was our first time working with so many young contributors and it was fun!

We faced challenges in the beginning – such as language barriers and students’ uncertainty in their work – and quickly learned how to adapt our processes to meet the needs (and extraordinary motivation) of these new young contributors. We introduced them to open source through our project’s app Pocket Code, allowing them to program games and apps with a visual mobile coding framework and then share them under an open license. Students had a lot of fun starting this way and mentors enjoyed reviewing so many colorful and exciting games.

Students even asked how they could improve on quality work that we had already accepted, if they could do more work on it, and if they could share their projects with their friends. This was a great first experience of GCI for our organization and, as one of our mentors mentioned in the final evaluation phase, we would totally be up for doing it again!

By Matthias Mueller, Catrobat Org Admin