thoughts on summer of code

there are two or three things about summer of code that are really awesome.

number one is that you’re given a mentor who you can harass. this is fantastic. this person can function both as a helper in terms of “how do i do this in gtk?” and also in terms of “i have a tough decision to make; what do you think?”

number two is probably the most important. it’s that you’re given a mandate. i’ve written a lot of code before that i’d have hoped would make it into gnome but hasn’t. with summer of code, you’re told by the community that you’re doing something that they want done. there is a very high probability of your code appearing in a future gnome release. this is very exciting and motivating.

you’re also (or at least it feels like it) given help from the community to a level that you’re not normally given it. this could be caused by any number of factors. the people in the community might be kinder to you because you’re a summer of code student. you also may feel some solidarity with other summer of code students and discuss things with them. it might also just be that because you’re motivated by the programme in general (see point two) you’re more interested in figuring out all sorts of intricate details of how things work and therefore ask more questions.

i’m always tinkering to a certain extent and learning about gnome and gtk and gobject. i can say without a shadow of a doubt, though, that participating in summer of code has accelerated this process for me. the past little while i’ve learned an awful lot. compared to my state before the summer i feel like an elite gtk hacker.

this is important. having people in the community who understand how things work is important.

notice that in this entire post (so far) i haven’t said anything about money. i think all of the effects listed above are independent of money.

it would be really cool if we could continue to use the sort of power created by the summer of code. what follows is a sort of idea how that could possibly happen.

gnome love, bugdays, etc are all very nice, but they lack structure.

what would be really nice is a structured mentorship program. there could be some token amount of cash reward (certainly no more than $500). there could be a loose community voting process on what makes a worthwhile project. involved, knowledgeable and influential hackers in the community (like my mentor, vincent, for example) could propose to mentor projects that they feel are worthwhile. if the community approves their proposal then applications are accepted for work on this project.

it seems like a good idea to solicit applications for a few projects at the same time. having a few students hacking at the same time is important (for solidarity reasons). for a given set of applications a specific area should be targetted in such a way that the students are working on a similar area but won’t step on each others’ toes. applications in general are good because they avoid work duplication. the token prize amount would serve to offset the hassle of going through an application process and motivate people to do so.

having everyone working on a similar area is also good in terms of the next release of gnome coming out and users being able to say things like “wow! a lot of great work has been done on nautilus this release!”.

the primary goal of the program would be not to get lots of cool stuff done on gnome (although that’s nice) but rather to get people involved in the community. once you’ve done a nice chunk of work that’s released as part of gnome you feel a greater involvement in and attachment to the community. as such, the programme would not be open to people who had been involved in the programme in the past or in summer of code or wsop.

end braindump. for now.

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