Experience and Notes from GSoC Mentor Summit, 2019

Jeff and Me at GSoC Mentor Summit'19 (Munich, Germany)

This month I attended the Google Summer of Code Mentor Summit with @Jeff_Beorse and @downey which was organized in Munich, Germany. And it was an amazing experience where around 332 mentors from 162 organizations and 42 countries attended the summit to share their ideas about open source and to discuss their experience of GSoC 2019. I would like to thank @yanokwa and @ln for serving as the org admin this year and the whole ODK community for giving me this opportunity to attend the summit. It was an amazing event where I got the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people

This year the mentor summit was extra special because this year GSoC completed 15 years so they extended the event duration from 2.5 to 3.5 day and to make it even more special GSoC team reserved one day especially for the mentors to explore Munich, Germany by organizing castle tour and scavenger hunt where mentor had to explore the city on their own to find the clues.

During 3.5 day summit, there were a lot of sessions happening in parallel so I was able to attend all the lightning talks and some of the unconference sessions, I’ve taken the notes from the unconference sessions if anyone has any ideas or thoughts that can benefit our community please comment below so that we can discuss over the improvements.

How to get more women interested in FOSS

  • Suggest project ideas which aren’t gender-specific
  • We should focus on students who are between 10-12, as per research people lose or gain interest between this age
  • People are not dropping out because it is not interesting, it depends on the classroom culture.
  • Provide a safe place for people.
  • People feel safer when they’re anonymous on any platform, not knowing someone’s identity can lead to people being offensive.
  • Safe place doesn’t require anonymity, so we should focus on how to make people feel community safe.
  • Women will tend to apply if they have 100% of requirements, men will apply at 60%, so we should encourage women to apply more, by sending them emails with “and you should apply
  • Twitter is a good platform to reach out - people are out there to make the connection and to make a community.
  • Use Hashtags to reach more audiences.
  • Make connections and reach out to them and encourage everyone to retweet other’s cool stuff, this encourages a lot of people to do more and contribute more to the community.
  • Ask for their social network handles and celebrate their first contribution this encourages them to keep continuing.
  • Speak to people face to face this helps in convincing them to participate.
  • To get more women contributors we need more women mentors.
  • Open source is good because it gives the flexibility to work remotely-easier for women to take maternity leave.
  • Agree with the ideas suggested by them in the meetings, this encourages them to think and contribute more.
  • Credit the people who originally suggested the idea.
  • Open Source Diversity
  • Outreachy
  • Rails Girls

Google Code-In

  • Google Code-In (GCI) is much more difficult than GSoC.
  • GCI is not just about coding, it is a 3-5 hour task- it can be a task related to documentation, code, design, UI or doing some research.
  • Best way to evaluate your documentation- if a 13-15-year-old student understands your docs-then you have a good onboarding doc.
  • School student joins when they wanted to do something cool during winter break.
  • Organizations get 5 weeks to create tasks after they get selected in Google Code-In, this time only 30 slots are available.
  • Multiple students can work on some tasks.
  • Setting up a project can also be a task.
  • Some don’t know about copy/paste issues in open source work, make then learn how you should do it, don’t discourage them, make them a teaching lesson.
  • Onboarding is quite different than GSoC.
  • Make sure you let them know how important is the work that they’ve been doing, how much impact they’re going to make by contributing.
  • Set standards first (“How to” and “What to” use) - like software requirements, submission requirements, etc which community uses.
  • Labelling tasks and Github issues (“Good first issue”, “Easy task”, “Medium task”, “Hard task”, “Need research/discussion”, etc,)
  • Students may not know about slack and its features, so have some platform where students feel comfortable.
  • Encourage them to write a post in their native language-because they may not be comfortable in writing a post in a different language.

Google Season of Docs (GSoD)

  • GSoD is a baby sibling of GSoC and in its first year of the program. Improvement of documentation instead of code.
  • This year they received 220 organization applications.
  • And 400 participant application for 50 slots.
  • Out of these applications many were the students and some of them participated to explore OSS.
  • Need to improve noise to signal ratio in the applicants- Need some screening to filter out the applicants.
  • For software, we can give assign them a Github issue or feature or assign something to test. * How do we rank application and contributions from technical writers? Should be having some experience, in applications they can add links to the portfolio to vet before accepting, if you see some of their work in their portfolios then it makes your decision making easier.
  • What are documentation needs?
  • How to get the documentation verified? How to know if it is cleared to outsiders or not? Documentation Audit is required.
  • Knowledge transfer to technical writer to give them background about the work that the organization has been doing.
  • Need to have version history for documentation as well, sometimes different versions of products have different documentation.
  • Sometimes technical writers weren’t familiar with Open source culture and tools, so training is required.
  • In GSoC we tell students what to do, but in GSoD we expect a technical writer to tell us what to do.
  • Need someone to understand the software and its feature, a technical writer has to try things out so that he can understand the software better. There should be proper communication between Software dev and technical writer so that documentation can be written effectively.
  • Stipends are the limiting factor, it's hard to scale up the program. Some people can’t wait for 3 months for the stipend. Sometimes documentation doesn’t require 3 months (less or more), so a 3-month stipend is fine?
  • Pay like bug bounties for specific documentation.
  • One-time contribution is incredibly valuable even if they don’t stick for a long time.
  • Need motivation factor to get them started. OSS needs some momentum. What are the motivations? Stipends
  • Training before the application period. Like how to use Git and its basic commands or UI.
    How to measure the success of technical writers. Pageviews are not a good way to measure. A good way to measure is the number of issues on forums or slack channels, if it is reduced then the documentation is good.
  • Documentation is the simplest thing you can do to contribute to a language

GSoC Feedback

  • Each year universities have different examination time schedules, managing students is sometimes hard.
  • Is the community bonding period too long? This time it is reduced to 3 weeks, students still say its still too long, some students do the exams during the community bonding period.
  • To select the students to have some screening round, it may be raising a PR or filing issues, this helps them to get familiar with the codebase.
  • Previously students were appearing 1-2 weeks earlier than the application deadline and community doesn’t know who they are when application period is over, but now students are changing so that they start contributing way before in the community so by application period they are already known in the community, so bonding period doesn’t really need as per most of the organization.
  • Maybe during community bonding period encourage them to contribute more in the community by answering questions either on slack or some chat channel and on GitHub issues and PRs. Students who answer questions are most successful who don’t. The person answering questions are more active than others.
  • And it would be helpful to feedback is visible to mentors as well(currently it is only visible to org admins), this will help them to improve things.
  • How much Google checks the university student and the references? Google doesn’t call any university to verify a student's identity and some students fake identification.
  • Few people have shown interest in opening GSoC for people other than students as well.
  • GSoC can’t be run the whole year(or can’t be run twice a year) because mentors don’t have that much bandwidth to look into so many proposals twice a year.
  • GSoC is a good program helps students prepare for working life. They not only learn skills but also time management.
  • Mentors want students to work independently, how does the organization evaluate students?
  • Some students show enthusiasm before the program starts, they start contributing mid-October-November, organizations are fine with teaching them the skills and prepare them for the program. More experienced people don’t stay long so people prefer those who are more enthusiastic and less experienced.
  • Important to have certain entry barriers, don’t expect special domain knowledge but students should have some basic knowledge like how to install the software and compiling code.
  • Some people had some issues like two students had the same level of proposal but one has slightly good proposal but after program starts they dropped out so organization doesn’t have any option to replace them, it's hard for the organizing committee to go through the process again for the new student but they will look for the alternative maybe in the next few years this issue can be resolved.
  • Mentors also want to know if they’re doing well or not. Feedbacks are only visible to org admins. How an organization reaches out to mentors and students about the problems.
  • Student who starts contributing early in September-October, they learn more before GSoC application period and those have good proposals than people outside the program with more technical knowledge.

Apart from the lightning talks and unconference sessions I had a chat with a lot of other mentors about their projects and students and I was fascinated with some of their projects and the efforts that the students put in during the program, I also discussed @Mickys0918's GSoC project and the work that he has been doing to encourage the open-source culture in China. I've also met a lot of mentors who were previously a GSoC student. We had a lot of discussions about the experiences of being a student as well as a mentor, what motivated them to become a mentor and how they're contributing to their community.

If anyone has any suggestions or questions, please comment.


@dexter21 Wow, it's so cool. Recently I'm moving to Singapore so it may be too busy for me to do the open source, but I'll back soon :slight_smile:
And I have some blog posts about Open Data Kit along with the open source culture for Chinese students and developers to read. We also have a Github organization for GSoC China, I hope more and more people can join us and fall in love with open source!


Thank you for your sharing
Please ODK is it going to participate in Google code in this year?

Thanks for these fantastic notes, @dexter21! I'm so glad you were able to go to the summit and represent our community. Are there specific things that you think we should do differently as a result of the summit? I know you mentioned a desire to participate in Google Code-In in Slack and I see some good ideas in the notes. I'd be interested in hearing what your top 1-2 actions to take would be.

You have done an amazing job of keeping the energy high on Skunkworks Crow and working with a broad range of contributors (not just @Mickys0918!) to continuously improve the tool.

How fantastic! Congratulations to both of you. International collaboration is one of my favorite parts of this project.

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One key thing that I learned in the summit that appreciating the contributors on social forums really makes them feel proud about their contributions and this way we can have a good reach over to other potential contributors. And we're doing it really well by publishing the ODK Interviews but I think we can also start encouraging and celebrating the first time contributors.

This year we were already late in applying for the Code-In because it needs some preplanning like what all projects we'll be there what all tasks will be there, what will be their difficulty level. And the program needs lots of mentors because there has to be someone available all the time so that they can reply to student's queries within just a few hours.
And yeah if we don't have enough active contributors who are interested in mentoring and if it affects the GSoC program in any way then we should not participate. So key action would be to find the active contributors who are interested as well as excited about ODK participating in the program. And I've seen @chromicle and @Mickys0918 has also shown interest in participating in the program maybe they've some ideas in their mind which they want to share with us.

Thanks to you for trusting us and providing us the opportunity to contribute, I know that both of us are not getting enough time to contribute but I'll keep contributing in one way or the other whenever I get time and GSoC is the program which helped me get into open source so I'm always excited whenever GSoC program kickstarts because I see lot of people coming in and checking the issues and PRs which motivates me to help them start contributing.


It is a excellent notes @dexter21 and I am glad to work as mentor in google codein and I saw some of the students are very interested to participate in Google codein
As per I know the students mindset will be like if our community is more bonded with them then they will try to contribute more

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@dexter21 I think joining GSoC and Code-in is an excellent way to let more people know ODK and our community, some of them are potentional contributors. So if we want to participate in the next Code-in or GSoC, I'd like to be a mentor, and I'll not only help the students but finishing some tasks mentioned in my GSoC Summary this year. I think Skunkworks-Crow is ready to publish a release (once we fixed some bugs and applied an app icon), that can let more people know this application, maybe attract some more contributors.

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As per I know the students mindset will be like if our community is more bonded with them then they will try to contribute more

@chromicle I'm very happy to see more and more students joining open source and our projects, thanks for all your help. : )

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