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GSoC 2018: The ‘Google money’

Google Summer of Code is a global program seeking to bring students to open source projects. Their approach is to pay them for their contribution. This works pretty well.

Applying to GSoC

On February 2018, the GSoC organizations were announced, and two teachers hosted an event at my university, where they introduced the program to us students and encouraged us to apply. There were also two former participants of the program that shared with us their experience and some tips to raise our chances of being selected. Most of the conversation revolved around the ‘Google money’.

After that I went home and spent some time searching for an organization or a project that matched with my skills/interests, I made a list with the ones that did, and started going through it and making it shorter. I ended up with a list of all CROSS projects. CROSS is the Center for Research in Open Source Software, it is part of the University of California Santa Cruz, and had a lot of cool projects, most of them were about things I had just learned on a Distributed Systems course and that I did found very interesting.

The next day I started spamming Noah, the mentor assigned to the projects that I was planning to apply to, I wrote him an email, and over Gitter (on the CROSS-GSoC chat, and a private chat). I downloaded the repo of one of the projects and tried to make it work, and I couldn’t, so I spammed Noah again. Turns out I couldn’t make it work because of an error that I found by chance. Noah fixed it and thanked me on the commit message. I was hyped. Google money hyped.

Weeks passed while I talked with Noah about the projects and what they were expecting, until the day came to actually apply and present a proposal. I made a proposal to CROSS to work on ZLog, a distributed shared-log. The work consisted on making a high performance cache.

After that day I started visiting the GSoC page at least 4 times a day, every day, just in case they were to publish some news or anything. Even though on the timeline they posted clearly indicated the day that the selected students were to be announced.

Finally the day arrived and there I was, refreshing the GSoC page every 30 seconds to see if I had been selected. I was so excited to see my name there when they finally posted the news. Then the news started to spread and some of my friends stared to talk about it, then my teachers were retweeting it, and mentioning me, and then the university account also shared the news, and suddenly I had a ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ feeling. I ended up calming myself thinking about the Google money.

Working with CROSS

The GSoC timeline defines an ‘induction period’ where the organization and the students get to know each other and define how they are going to work. On this period I met the people from CROSS, they were really nice and seemed willing to help us students in any way they could. I found out that they are in many ways academic oriented and I really liked that.

Then the work started, I met on a weekly basis with Noah, and everything went fine finding problems and solutions and stuff. What I really liked about Noah’s mentoring was that when I had a problem, he would only give me so much information so that I know where to look, but still find out most things by myself. This made me learn a lot about different things, even some things that I did not expect to learn about: Docker, OSs, CI, etc.

The evaluations went well, and didn’t cause me to constantly check the GSoC page to see if I had passed, mostly because Noah told me not to worry, that I was doing well, and that the Google money will arrive.

After GSoc

With the help of my advisor, I was able to present this work as part of my graduation project, which was very convenient for me, since it was like getting payed for doing it. She also talked to Noah and Carlos from CROSS, to work on something related to ZLog and possibly make a publication. This is still in progress.

Overall it has been a great experience. And now that I’ve already spent the Google money, I realize that the really important thing is that I’ve learned a lot, worked with awesome people, and being a GSoC participant is a great thing to have in my resume. I hope in the future to participate again, as student or mentor.