Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is a global program that offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source software projects. Since 2005, the program has brought together nearly 2500 students and 2500 mentors and co-mentors from about 100 countries worldwide. The program works with open source, free software, and technology-related groups to identify and fund projects over a three month period. This year, 1,000 students have been selected to work on projects for over 130 open source organizations – see a full list of the GSoC sponsoring organizations for 2009. Through Google Summer of Code, accepted student applicants are paired with a mentor or mentors from the participating projects, thus gaining exposure to real-world software development scenarios and the opportunity for employment in areas related to their academic pursuits.
Zonker Brockmeier, Novell’s openSUSE Community Manager, is heading up the Novell participation in GSoC. Three of Novell’s sponsored open source initiatives are participating in the GSoC, hosting 24 student projects. The students with accepted projects will be mentored by Novell employees and community contributors with the openSUSE and Mono projects. The goal is to get students interested and potentially recruit future open source code contributors.
“I would say at least 25% or higher of past summer of code contributors have remained involved in projects,” shared Brockmeier. “We’ve seen fairly good return on the openSUSE project.”
Greg Lund-Chaix at Oregon State University’s open source laboratory has similar experiences with the GSoC program.
“We’re a bit different than most Summer of Code organizations in that we aren’t focused on one specific project,” Lund-Chaix explained. “We want to get more people involved with and support in open source in a broader sense. We certainly benefit internally from the work of our students, but the real benefit is the exposure of the students we mentor to the broader open source community.”
Participating organizations dedicate employee hours to help mentor the student developers. Neither Brockmeier or Lund-Chaix could quantify the hours spent, but both agreed the time was well-spent considering the outcome. For the students, the GSoC is supposed to be a full-time job, although it pays only a $1,000 stipend, making it attractive to only those dedicated students who can afford to give up a summer of potential earnings to gain coding experience.
After four years of experience, Google has improved the application process, improving the quality of submissions for the sponsor organizations.
“There were fewer proposals overall,” said Brockmeier. “But most organizations expressed they were seeing better quality this year.”
Lund-Chaix concurred, giving credit to the Melange tool team for streamlining the application review for sponsors.
“The quality of many of the proposals this year were definitely improved from previous years,” said Lund-Chaix. “There was no doubt whatsoever in our minds who we wanted to accept based on their applications. While we got the usual crop of frivolous or unacceptable applications, I was extremely pleased with the quality of many of the applications.”
I would love to hear from any past GSoC participants. If you have been a mentor or a student participant, share what you learned in the experience and how it has helped you in your career.