Searching for a GSoC Student
The mission: Recruit about 20 mentors to help guide four students through four projects that will ideally be integrated into future releases of Joomla 4.
Can it be that hard? With 2021 applications having closed last week, Philip Walton recaps the GSoC 2021 process so far.
“It should be easy.” They said.
Back in August 2020, the brief I received was that there would be about 60 - 80 prospective applicants. They will all need to be enrolled into Glip, and channels made so they can communicate with their mentors.
But first things first. Joomla! Had to be accepted as a GSoC organisation first and then the process could start rolling. That was the plan at least.
Come December/January and things started moving forward, the mentors all stepped forwards, no need to ask as they were eager to help. That made the job a lot easier and all the time Benjamin Trenkle was advising and guiding the process. Shivam Rajput, my Assistant Team Lead, was a huge help getting the application in on time working until 5am his time on the first day we could apply to make it happen. The first student requests started to dripping in.
Then the good news: We did it! Google accepted our application. Now students really started contacting us through various means.
The experience from the past was that for most students, GSoC was an all or nothing event. They do the tasks required for assessment, get a positive evaluation and then left. This was because we had no real onboarding process integrated with the GSoC experience to help onboard those that did not make the proposal stage or the final cut. This time we want to change that.
Patrick Jackson and I set up some Saturday online chat sessions early for me in the UK late for him in Australia. Students would join and we would walk them through setting up the local environment and how to use patch tester. Another session organised by Shivam saw us presenting to over 70 students in India one Saturday. We soon started to see characters appear amongst the students and every day a few more would join. It seems our preparations worked.
It was sometime later that the official opening date for student applications arrived. By that time we already had over 90 students and the channels were being made so they could chat with their mentors.
Day to day the running of the process grew as more joined and I worked out quicker and quicker ways to respond to each student and connect them to their potential project. Systems were put in place to cope with the growing numbers now rummaging through Joomla's repositories.
Onboarding students to get them familiar with Joomla started to see some glitches. Several Github issues that were many years old, and in branches that had long been left to gather dust were reactivated. Soon some of the maintainers were being overrun by requests.
So as we hit the 100 students interested mark, we made it clear that only issues in the last six months and on the J4 branch were the ones to look at. Still, more students joined. 125, 150…. The numbers grew, the training sessions happened and homework was set to help determine the best students for the projects.
Along the way, several contacted with personal issues. One poor chap had a road accident and was silent for a while although now on the mend and back working with Joomla. Others fell victim in their countries to covid or chickenpox and they would drop out for a while then return when better.
And still, the numbers grew. 200 with a few weeks to go. Benjamin had warned there would be a last-minute rush of applications and there was at the same time as the students needed more help to finalise their proposals. And all the time more joined drip until a sudden flood at the end.
The final countdown
Google closed applications on April 13th at 18:00 UTC. By then our total interested students numbered 240. We were still getting some asking to join in the last hour and have even had a few want to join after the closing date.
In Glip, 133 channels were created to allow interested students to communicate with mentors. The proposal submission process has then seen a total of 131 proposals submitted to Google Summer of Code for Joomla this year. That's a lot of work for the 20 mentors and it is they we should all be so grateful to for all the time and effort they have put in over the last few months.
So now we’re in the next phase. Mentors are going through the proposals at the moment and assessing the suitability of potential candidates. During the next month, we’ll be assessing the final candidates, and will submit our successful candidates to Google to fill our four available project slots for 2021. Google will be announcing the accepted student projects on May 17 at 18:00 UTC, so watch for an announcement by Joomla welcoming our new GSoC Students shortly after.
Takeaways for GSoC Mentors
It’s been challenging - but mainly due to the volume of interest. Proposals were a 100% increase last time, and student interest has grown 300%.
I have learnt so much during the process and will be far better equipped to deal with the process next year either as a lead or as a guide to a new lead. There’s plenty of things we can look to introduce to streamline the process next time around, especially if picked again. These include:
- Encouraging students to get involved throughout the year in learning about Joomla leading up to the GSoC application period
- Running outreach events with groups around the world to get students engaging with Joomla and work towards unearthing great candidates
- Work with Google as much as possible to educate students so as to increase the quality of proposals
- Work with other code mentoring programs to facilitate more student involvement in Joomla and potentially for Joomla to participate in other coding intern initiatives
Huge thanks to all the mentors, you have been amazing and given so much time.
To Benjamin who is the Mr Fix it in the background and such a big help, Shivam who has been both admin and mentor making my job easier and keeping us on time, and Patrick who has helped with the sessions and allowed me to get my tea breaks!
I leave the last word to a student who applied, didn't feel he would make the final cut but wants to stick with Joomla.
"My experience at Joomla is amazing. Awesome community and it's actually fun to contribute (Though I haven't made any real contribution yet, oops) But I don't think I'm qualified enough for GSoC. I've been brainstorming a lot but I've realized backend is a completely new topic to me. Though I really want to stick to the community and want to contribute so that I can learn something from it."
Find out more
Thank you Himanshu, and you were a very good student to work with, helping the others and giving your time to the project