Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's that time again...

Well, once again we've come to the student application phase of Google's Summer of Code program. We're several days into the process, and we've seen a marked decrease in our intake of student applications compared to prior years. Why is anybody's guess, but I'm personally hoping it means that potential applicants are spending more time polishing their applications before submitting.

Based on the applications we've seen so far, I'd like to publicize a few notes for applicants:
  • Provide a detailed timeline for your project. "I expect to complete work in 10 weeks" doesn't cut it here. Tell us what milestones you expect to achieve and how far along. You could instead estimate how long a specific goal will take to implement. Yes, your estimate could ultimately prove wrong, but that's not necessarily the end of the world. We really want to see that you have a concept of time management and prioritization.
  • Don't plagiarize. If we know you're plagiarizing, we'll invalidate your application. If you can't deliver an application without plagiarizing, you shouldn't be applying. We don't mind if you use some of the text on our ideas page to help with the abstract, but keep in mind that a serious application won't rely on simply copying and reformatting what we've already said.
  • Don't be afraid to come up with a unique idea! The ideas page are not the only ideas we'll entertain. We love to see well thought-out, original ideas, especially ones that make us wonder why no one proposed it before.
  • Make sure your proposal is for a specific project idea. A general "I want to work with Pidgin for the summer" is a sure ticket to the reject bin.
  • You don't have to write an encyclopedia for the application, but you do have to give us something to work with. There's an old adage that "less is more." Sometimes that's true. Sometimes the opposite is true. The point here is that you should be verbose enough to explain your idea, but don't ramble. I know this can be difficult to judge. Just re-read the application, make sure it makes sense, and make sure it doesn't drag on needlessly.
  • You have to apply using the SoC webapp, not our mailing lists. We have to have applications submitted via the SoC webapp in order to review them and have them in the running for our student slots. This is a Google thing, and it makes everyone's lives a lot easier.
  • The application isn't final until submissions close. We will provide feedback on your application if it needs work. You can modify your application to address our feedback until applications close. Use this to your advantage!
  • We don't yet know who will mentor any given project. We don't assign final mentors and backup mentors to projects until we have decided which projects we want to accept. Asking us about this is just wasting your time.
  • We expect you to treat the project as a full-time job. That means at least 35 hours per week. We want to make sure everyone gets the most out of Google's money, and this is one way to do that. Since you'll technically be a contract worker, we expect the contracted work (your project) to take priority.
  • We expect you to remain actively involved with us after the Summer of Code finishes. Quite frankly, if you're going to collect the checks and run, you're missing the entire point. The Summer of Code is intended to attract new contributors and get them involved in open source software, turning them into long-term contributors. Participating in the Summer of Code and then disappearing isn't serving that intention, and leaving us with code we have to maintain ourselves is quite rude. If that's your intention, please don't apply. Let the potential for acceptance go to someone who will stay with us.
Keep these in mind, and happy applying!