Report from Google Summer of Code Mentor Summit

Clemens Lang cal at
Sun Oct 29 23:05:22 UTC 2017

Hi everybody,

(The following is a condensed version of a post on my blog with
anecdotal content and information not relevant for MacPorts removed. If
you have too much time on your hands, you can find the full version at

>From Friday, October 13th to Sunday, October 15th 2017 I attended the
Google Summer of Code Mentor Summit for MacPorts. Unfortunately Jackson
Iscaac's visa was denied, so Mojca Miklavec joined me instead.

The weekend started off on Friday night with dinner and an opening talk
by the conference organizers at the summit location Google Tech Corners.
The two remaining days were almost entirely reserved for unconference
sessions on various topics. I attended a number of different sessions
but also extensively used the “hallway track” to get in touch with
others in open source. I will list some notable sessions below.

## Grading Criteria for Proposals
A discussion on how to avoid personal preferences and bias when choosing
proposals. There were a lot of good ideas and we ended up summarizing
that there should be a list of criteria published before GSoC and
available for students to grade technical and social skills as well as
the project and its planning. My personal takeaway from this session was
that GSoC consists of a lot of small projects that only have less than
five students, and big projects are surprisingly uncommon. (Detailed
meeting minutes for this session are available. Contact me if you are

## Google Track: What More?
A brainstorming discussion on what Google could do besides Google Summer
of Code to help open source projects. There were a lot of different
ideas, but from what I recall none of them were an obvious no-brainer. I
asked whether Google could provide build capacity, which was backed by
the Homebrew representative and some other audience members. I would be
very surprised if this was feasible for Google, though.

## Organizational Homes for FOSS Projects
This loose discussion on different umbrella projects was hosted by
Software Freedom Conservancy’s Brett Smith. I learned that openSUSE is
not only the open source version of the SUSE distribution, but also an
umbrella for various other projects. Unfortunately, this did not contain
as much information on the option to join conservancy as I had hoped for
MacPorts. We should possibly follow up on this topic separately.

## Convincing Large Companies to Use Open Source
Largely a discussion on which licenses are company-friendly and which
ones are not. Mentioned some of the problems companies face and where
open source could help, such as making license compliance easy by
providing machine-readable license specifications (e.g. using SPDX).

>From a MacPorts point of view, we should probably consider adapting the
standardized identifiers from the SPDX license list
( for our license field. Unfortunately that
would be some additional effort for licenses we did not distinguish so
far, such as the various BSD-style licenses.

## Fail Your Students!
Facilitated by the GSoC organization team, this discussion allowed
mentors to align on when and how to fail students. In quite a number of
cases it seems that if you are asking yourself the question whether to
fail the student the answer is likely “yes”. Google has an interest in
keeping the bar for successful GSoC participation high and does not want
mentors to waste their time. I learned that mentor availability is the
biggest scalability problem with Google Summer of Code, not student
availability or financial reasons. Additionally, suggesting the student
withdraw before failing him may make the decision easier for mentors and
less harsh for students.

In addition to the various sessions, meeting other people in the
hallways or over lunch was an interesting and very rewarding experience.
I met (among many others) William Woodruff from the Homebrew project,
and not only did we get along very well, but we also noticed that both
Homebrew and MacPorts face a number of similar problems such as build
CPU cycle availability in their endeavor to bring open source software
to the Mac.

Overall, the Google Summer of Code Mentor Summit was a fascinating
experience and very well organized. I had a blast at the conference,
learned a lot of new things and met many interesting people. I would
definitely attend again.

Mojca may be able to fill in some other spots and/or sessions I have not
attended. I understand she may still be travelling though, so it may be
a while.


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