GSoC 2014 Application

Our application for GSoC 2014 has been submitted. Ever wonder what kind of questions I have to answer in our application? In the interest of transparency, here’s how I answered the application questions.

Why is your organization applying to participate in Google Summer of Code 2014? What do you hope to gain by participating?

We are applying because we have had a good experience in the past, and each time we participate in GSoC we make our program better. It’s a good opportunity to reach students who might not otherwise have considered contributing to WordPress, and even if they don’t stick around as frequent contributors, it helps us to evaluate how we ramp up and communicate with new contributors.

How many potential mentors do you have for this year’s program? What criteria did you use to select them?
We have more than 20 potential mentors, selected from our trusted core contributors, not random project users. Most of our potential mentors have previously mentored either a GSoC project or a new contributor to the project, while those who have not will be given mentor training if we are selected as a participating organization. The mentor pool includes lead developers, component owners, and contributors with commit access, to help ensure that projects won’t lag waiting for that level of attention.

What is your plan for dealing with disappearing students?
We have a good system worked out based on past years that involves requiring weekly blog posts and check-ins, with an escalating warning system if they miss deadlines resulting in a failing grade if they just don’t show up. We also hope to minimize this as in the past by really getting to know our applicants in IRC before making selections.

What is your plan for dealing with disappearing mentors?
All projects are assigned 2 mentors, so that risk is minimal, along with the fact that most of our mentor pool includes folks who have high levels of responsibility in the project and are omnipresent in IRC, so disappearance is really only a risk in case of illness. In that case, the 2nd mentor takes a larger role, and one of our backup/floater mentors would step in as a 2nd (we have about a dozen folks who will be backup/floater mentors in addition to the 20+ available to take point with a specific student).

What steps will you take to encourage students to interact with your project’s community before and during the program?
Before: We ask them to submit a patch to a trac ticket so that we can make sure they are familiar with the codebase, and that creates some community interaction. We host pre-application IRC chats in our #wordpress-gsoc channel at posted times with specific mentors, which have been the most helpful in the past. We also have applicants send their proposal to the wp-hackers list for feedback, but the IRC chats and the trac tickets are far more helpful in terms of creating connection.

During: Each student posts their weekly updates right to the core team’s blog so the full core community is able to follow along and comment/give suggestions and feedback. We also set up IRC chats around midterm and at the end of the GSoC cycle for students to talk about and/or show off their projects and take questions from the community.

What will you do to encourage your accepted students to stick with the project after Google Summer of Code concludes?
This is the toughest thing. We just did a survey of all past GSoC students with WordPress to get some feedback on their experience looking back, and this year we’re going to try some scheduled post-GSoC communications from mentors and the program admin to try to recapture lost interest, and include them in an opt-in contributor mailing list so that if they’re not contributing right after GSoC because they’re busy with school, they can at least be reminded that we’re here, and that cool stuff is going on they might want to get involved in. We have traditionally retained a couple of students each year as long-term contributors, while the others tend to move on and just do a casual contribution now and then based on their personal needs.

Are you a new organization who has a Googler or other organization to vouch for you? If so, please list their name(s) here.
n/a

Are you an established or larger organization who would like to vouch for a new organization applying this year? If so, please list their name(s) here.
We are a veteran organization, though it’s probably worth mentioning that if we’re accepted, the smaller BuddyPress, bbPress, and GlotPress sister projects would be included in our organization’s project ideas rather than each project applying independently. This is because while there are great mentors in each sister project, they don’t really have the time/people to handle administration as they are all-volunteer rather than having some people paid to work on the projects full-time as WordPress has.

If you chose “veteran” in the organization profile dropdown, please summarize your involvement and the successes and challenges of your participation. Please also list your pass/fail rate for each year.
We’ve been a mentoring organization 6 times. We’ve had a number of successes with GSoC students becoming important contributors. For example:

  • Dion Hulse, GSoC 2007 & 2008, now a core committer and has been a GSoC mentor
  • Daryl Koopersmith, GSoC 2009 & 2010, was a core committer and worked full-time on core until last year when he went to work for Medium, but still consults with the core team when we need his help, and has been a GSoC mentor
  • Justin Shreve, GSoC 2009 & 2010, hired by Automattic and has been a GSoC mentor
  • Andrew Nacin, GSoC 2010, now a lead developer and has been a GSoC mentor

There are more success stories of people who became regular core contributors, but you get the picture. It’s worth noting that even we’ve also had cases where even if a specific GSoC project failed, the student still wound up being a success story in terms of the overall project by organizing events, getting involved with a WordPress-based business, writing plugins or themes for the free directories, etc.

The main challenge is usually choosing the right students so that our mentoring time is put to the best use. Someone failing because we misjudged their abilities doesn’t really happen anymore; if someone fails it’s usually because they wind up with too many summer commitments and they decide GSoC is the one to go, and they talk it out with their mentors rather than just disappearing. We’ve gotten pretty good at not over-extending ourselves by taking on too many students, and have donated spots back to the pool each year rather than take on more students if we’re not 100% confident about their chances of success and/or our ability to provide them with proper guidance.

Year: # of students, pass/fail, pass rate
2007: 10 students*
2008: 6 students*
2009: 8 students, 6/2, 75%
2010: 15 students,13/2, 87%
2011: 12 students, 10/2, 83%
2013: 6 students, 5/1, 83%

*The administrator for 2007/2008 didn’t keep records that we can find re pass/fail rates, but he says he thinks they didn’t fail anyone.

If you are a new organization, have you applied in the past? If so, for what year(s)?
n/a

Is there anything else we should know or you’d like to tell us that doesn’t fit anywhere else on the application?
We are also beginning a college outreach program, so if accepted to GSoC this year, we’ll include that in our outreach activities.

How likely are we to be accepted? The more good, fleshed-out ideas with possible mentors attached, the better our chances. Not having enough of those is what left us out in the cold in 2012. For some overall GSoC perspective:

  • In 2013, 177 of 417 mentoring orgs were accepted; 4144 students submitted 5999 proposals, of which 1192 were accepted.
  • In 2012, 180 of 406 orgs and 1212 of 6685 proposals (by 4258 students) were accepted.
  • In 2011, 175 of 417 orgs and 1116 of 5474 proposals (by 3731 students) were accepted.
  • In 2010, 151 of 367 orgs and 1026 of 5539 proposals (by 3464 students) were accepted.

We’ll find out on February 24 if we are being accepted as a mentoring organization.