The Best of Systers Blog Systers and Google Summer of Code
Google Summer of Code (GSOC) is a program that engages students with open source communities by paying them a stipend to spend their vacation coding for open source organizations. This is the third year that Systers has been chosen as a mentoring organization by GSOC. We have four students working with us this summer. GSOC is a very selective program, and we had a large number of very passionate and qualified students apply. Of the ones we selected, two are in India, one in Spain and one in Romania. We are lucky to have enough mentors to provide each student with two mentors — in part because some of our previous GSOC students have returned to work as mentors. The students will be working on extending our current modifications to Mailman 2.0 and porting all the improvements to Mailman 3.0, where we expect most of them to be included in mainstream Mailman.
Right now we are in the midst of what is called the ‘community bonding period’, where the students get to know their mentors and other community members better and learn the basics behind what they need to do this summer. Coding starts in late May and continues until early August. With luck, the students will complete and test their code, which will be incorporated into our production system.
Our goals for this summer (other than the specific projects we selected the students for) are to teach the students how and why to do code reviews and unit tests and how to think about and manage all the parts of a software stack (and a little hardware) necessary to run an application. Our previous experience has taught us that students are seldom exposed to these skills, which are critical for most software engineering jobs, in their engineering courses. It’s always interesting to watch them experience programming for “real”, where their bugs have an impact on other people, and to see how that differs from the class projects that make up most of their previous programming work. Of course, we learn as much from the students as they do from us — they question things we take for granted, and make us look more carefully at what we do and why. We’ve all especially learned how to communicate something we think we understand, with students who are 9 or 10 time zones away and who need the information now, so they can get back on track for a rather tight schedule.
We welcome Ana, Emmanuel, Mayank and Priscilla to Systers GSOC 2012. And thanks to mentors Anna, Jen, Nicole, Nikki, Priya and Terri for putting in the extra effort in addition to your day jobs and family life.