Not accepted into GSoC? Here’s what to do…

GSoC acceptance/rejection emails have been sent out not long ago. Congratulations to everyone who was accepted. Now if you are among those who received a rejection email this blog has a few things for you. None of these are GSoC or directly affiliated with it. Each of them however is pretty damn cool 😉

So first of all: Pretty much any GSoC org will accept you outside of GSoC if you are dedicated and they have someone who can help you a bit. Ask them! A few orgs have dedicated programs though:

  • Haiku with Haiku Code Drive (not confirmed yet for this year)
  • illumos with illumos Students – You get mentoring to work on a cutting-edge operating system at your own pace and get a t-shirt, recommendation and other prizes, possibly even internships.
  • KDE with Season of KDE – You get to work on cool stuff all over KDE and get a t-shirt and certificate if you are successful.
  • Umit with Umit Summer of Code – Your chance to work on networking tools and get a t-shirt, certificate and recommendation letter.
  • X.Org with X.Org Endless Vacation of Code – You can get paid to work on X.Org and you can do it at a time that suits you and your mentor.

All of these programs allow you to work on really cool software with a mentor over a longer period and create something you can be proud of. So ask your org and see what you can do outside of GSoC with them. It’s in your hands. And if they don’t have enough mentors for example, there are a lot more projects out there waiting for you. Don’t be shy and ask.

If you know of more GSoC orgs running similar programs this year please mention them in the comments.

announcing Season of KDE 2011

I’m super happy that KDE could accept 51 student for GSoC this year. It’s an impressive number and they’ll make a difference in KDE this year. But this number also means that we had to say no to many students. A lot of tough choices had to be made. Now I can’t magically make more GSoC slot appear unfortunately. But I can do something else.  I can run another Season of KDE together with an awesome team of mentors and co-admins. And that is exactly what I am going to do. So here’s the details for this year’s Season of KDE:

  • What is Season of KDE? It is a program for people we could not accept into Google Summer of Code for various reasons.
  • Who can take part? Everyone but preference is given to those who have applied for GSoC.
  • What do I get out of this? A great summer working on a really cool KDE project and gaining valuable experience, a t-shirt, a certificate and maybe a few other goodies.
  • How do I apply? If you are serious about it fill out this short survey and I’ll try to get back to you asap.
  • What is the timeline? The timeline is up to you and your mentor. We ask you to stay close to the GSoC timeline if possible.
  • Do I need to have a mentor before applying? It is preferred. If you don’t have one yet we will try to find one.
  • Do I need to have a project idea before applying? It is preferred. If you don’t have one yet we will try to find one. You should at least have an idea however which part of KDE you want to work in. KDE is huge.
  • Do I need to write a proposal like in GSoC? No but we’d like to see a project plan describing what you’ll be working on.
  • Is it only for coders like GSoC? Depending on the project we’re willing to consider non-coding projects as well. Get in touch to figure out details.
  • I applied for a project in GSoC and another student got selected for it. Can I still work on it? Likely not. But we will try to find something related for you if you want, or something completely different. Let us know what you want.
  • Is this GSoC or connected to Google? No.

If you have further questions please come to our IRC channel #kde-soc or send an email to the admin team at

In previous years we had 1, 4 and 8 successful Season of KDE students. My personal goal for this year is 16. Are you going to be one of them? You should be!

accepted GSoC students announced

Google just announced the selected students for GSoC 2011. Check out KDE’s students – 51 in total. We’ve students working on Calligra, KDElibs, Simon, Okular, Gluon, Plasma, OwnCloud and many more. What an awesome line-up. I’m sure they’ll rock our summer. Give them all a warm welcome. Which of the projects are you most excited about?

And as usual we had to say no to quite a few brilliant students again this year 🙁  And you all know how much I hate saying no to good peeps, right? Fear not. We have a small remedy. Watch this blog for more news soon.

How Vidalia and GIMP found new contributors, just by asking

waiting for my ride in this lonely place

The following is a guest post by my friend Asheesh Laroia, who is one of the people behind and other awesomeness on the internet and in real life.

Are there contributors on project mailing lists sitting on the sidelines, waiting to get involved? For GIMP and Vidalia, at least, the answer is Yes.

The GIMP is the famous desktop image editor. Vidalia is a cross-platform desktop app for managing your connection to the Tor anonymity network. Akkana Peck and chiiph, respectively, offered to help new contributors compile the app for the first time and join their communities. The offers created a sense of urgency by naming a specific time to be in the chat room. (Read them: GIMP, Vidalia.)

The point of the event was to find out if actively inviting people to participate could grow the team. I was hoping it would kick prospective contributors into gear, so it was crucial that we named a specific time to be on IRC. I generally hoped the event would prove the existence of a vast, invisible class of contributors: people who aren’t contributing simply because nobody has asked them to. (You can read more about these “Build it” events in the OpenHatch wiki.)

First, the GIMP

Akkana promised that she’d be on the GIMP IRC channel at 03:00 UTC. A few hours early, one person arrived. His motivation was to improve the GIMP Python scripting system:

<kandinski> I would like to help, if possible, with improving python scripting
<kandinski> right now I am writing a script half in scheme half in python
<kandinski> because the scheme has better access to gimp internals, and the python allows me to manipulate the filesystem

It took the attendee some time to download all the dependencies. After 03:00 UTC hit, kandinski began asking development questions:

<kandinski> what happens when you have a but not a configure
<akk> Anything from git, you have to run ./ instead of ./configure

As the build progressed, kandinski repeated his enthusiasm:

<kandinski> I have been looking for a floss project to pitch in to and maybe learn something from

In the middle of the event, Akkana took a break to tell us in #openhatch how the event was going.

<akk> Only one person showed up for it but it’s good anyway — they want to contribute to python bindings (which is something I’ve been meaning to get off my duff and learn about too)
<akk> so we can inspire each other.
<akk> So not a big “class” but worth doing anyway.

As I read her summary at 1am, I was glad that Akkana retained some enthusiasm. But I was kind of embarrassed that Akkana had set aside time for an event with so few attendees.


I have a philosophy about expectations: it’s more okay to disappoint my friends than total strangers. Akkana will forgive me for possibly wasting her time, but I don’t even know chiiph!

So I did a late-night outreach push for the Vidalia event: I sent chiiph’s post to the #gsoc IRC channel, asked people on the #ubuntu-women IRC to help get the word out, and wrote an email to tor-talk, the Tor discussion list. Then I went to sleep.

chiiph’s event was to start at 13:00 UTC. As I slept, he announced the start of the event in the #vidalia room:

<chiiph> and we are on 🙂

At 13:30 UTC, I woke up. The channel was quiet. I had seen people joining the channel before I went to bed; what happened? A little frantic, I pinged one of the people who joined the night before. (My nick is paulproteus.)

<paulproteus> exa: Psst, hi there
<exa> paulproteus: hi :]
<paulproteus> Are you here for the Build It event?
<exa> yep

After a few minutes, chiiph led a group of five prospective contributors through the process of building Vidalia. Many of the attendees were running Debian-based systems, so a simple “$ sudo apt-get build-dep vidalia” was all it took to get their system configured.

Two attendees seemed particularly enthusiastic about the event:

<nishmu> Okay, now I got all things set up now. now moving on to coding.
<jrklein> FYI, I think that this type of meet is a great idea! I’ve been using tor for several years and hosting high-bandwidth tor servers for a year or so now. Haven’t been using the bundle for OSX all that long, but very happy/impressed with it. 🙂

Within a few hours, they had asked for bugs to work on; chiiph and I obliged and found some good tasks for the newcomers. chiiph seemed reasonably chirpy about the event. Later on Friday, he wrote:

<chiiph> jrklein: ah, right, you are an OSX user… we need more of you in here 😀

Going forward

Will these newcomers be converted into contributors and participate in development? That’s now up to the GIMP and Vidalia communities. The most important thing is that the newbies are plugged into communication systems that the developers use. Both projects are quite IRC-heavy, so if they stick around, there is a good chance that they will be put to good use.

I’m interested in ideas to improve the structure of the event. Akkana knew that building the GIMP might take a long time because of a long dependency chain; kandinski suggested that the event invitation provide some steps for attendees to take (like downloading the tarballs of dependencies) the day before the event.

I also learned that doing good outreach for these events makes a world of a difference. Even though the GIMP has many more users than Vidalia, the Vidalia event had many more participants. Vidalia attendees reported hearing about the event through the #gsoc IRC channel and the tor-talk mailing list. For the GIMP, Akkana emailed the gimp development mailing list and posted on her blog, but we could have done more, like reaching out to the gimp-user email list or any of the web forums where GIMP users spend time. Next time, we should make a checklist for event organizers like Akkana to be sure they think through all the outreach venues that make sense.

chiiph learned to be more pro-active about getting people to speak up:

<chiiph> one thing you should comment other people that do this is the pro-active approach
<chiiph> I mean, I was just expective questions
<chiiph> instead of shouting “ask ask ask ask” 🙂
<chiiph> luckily, you came

For me, the whole point of the event is to be pro-active about asking people to join in. I think it worked.

If you read this far, you’ve earned a quip from me. If you work on a free software project and you wonder why your users aren’t getting involved, I’ll tell you: You’re probably not inviting them to take concrete, non-intimidating actions that move them along the path toward contributing. After asking for jrklein to jump over the hurdle of compiling Vidalia, chiiph got more than that: a contributor on OS X.

I want to thank Danny Piccirillo for helping do outreach for the Build It events, and Akkana for chatting with me long enough for us to come up with this idea.

How you can do this, too (and more about OpenHatch)

OpenHatch is an open source community that helps newcomers find their way into free software projects. We work toward this goal through the website and outreach events.

If you want to grow your project, we want to work with you and help that happen. Our wiki has more information about how we ran these Build it events. The best way to get in touch is by joining #openhatch on You can also subscribe to the OpenHatch blog to read our periodic updates.

Something to keep in mind for outreach…

Quote from last night in #gsoc:

<Ophiuchi> The insight that most people in open source didn’t get “allowed” to work on stuff but just didn’t run fast enough at the right moment seems to be rare.

It is a common theme there and also in Season of KDE and in fact any other such endeavor I’ve been a part of.

Whenever you do outreach for your project keep in mind that one of the biggest obstacles you will face is the fact that people think they are not allowed to work on your project. Let’s call it the allowed-trap. You are losing a lot of potentially excellent contributors to it. The reasons for it include:

  • thinking that they are not good enough to make a significant contribution
  • feeling that your project already has enough people working on it
  • thinking that their particular skills are not needed in your project
  • getting the impression that everyone is too busy to take care of a newbie

You can do something about that though: Whenever you see someone falling into the allowed-trap go and invite them personally. Tell them that they are indeed good enough. Tell them that their skills are indeed very much needed in your project. And if you are doing a general outreach event go and address people you want to attend personally and tell them they should take part. Helping someone realize that they are indeed “allowed” here will make their day and yours hopefully too.

PS: Less than a week left to apply for GSoC. Go and apply! You are indeed allowed to 😀

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