Monday, February 24, 2020

[GSoC] I am new here.. Help urgently.

Most of the time these questions come from students who are new to the organization, or open-source as a whole.

My suggestions:

Join the relevant communication channel/medium for your project. 

It is not necessary to post "I am X from Y. I am interested in caMicroscope". It is obvious that this is why you are here.

Read the project description and then ask specific questions if needed, with your interpretations. 

For most GSoC projects, the descriptions are often intentionally left somewhat "vague", not to hinder the students' creativity in building the solution and in the project proposals.

Please also do not abuse the Slack by overusing the tag features such as @here or @mentors_name. Someone will reply to you eventually. No need to ring the bell too quick, too often.

Also, always make sure to read the previous discussions on the channel. That will help with avoiding repeated questions while giving you the answers quickly.

[GSoC] Framing your questions correctly

There may be some shortcomings in open-source documentation. Feel free to seek help from the mentors. But make sure to give your best effort on finding them yourself first. Sometimes, they are there. Just you could not find it. Sometimes, the mentors have already provided the link to the documentation as an answer to another student in the mailing list or Slack. Make sure to go through the previous messages.

A serious turn off for me, when a student cannot find something - but they present it as a failure of the organization or the mentors. 

For example,
"How can I run your software? Your project lacks an installation guide!!". 

This is an actual message I received (paraphrased).

Such messages come across quite arrogant. Especially when the documentation is indeed there -- linked from the home page. The student just missed it! That's completely fine when a student fails to notice documentation and seeks assistance in locating it, except for the tone of the student in these messages (as if they found a huge shortcoming in the project).

The right way to frame this question without giving some attitude:
"Somehow I couldn't find the install instructions. Any help?"

I think GSoC students (actually any software engineering undergrad) need some training in communication skills. Not my responsibility as a GSoC mentor to teach communication skills to the GSoC candidates, especially in the application period when we are bombarded with candidates with a diverse range. Some great. Some so-so.

Being polite in your communication with the open-source community and the potential mentors helps a lot, especially in a competitive program such as GSoC. We want to find kind and pleasant people to work with. Not ones with an attitude. :)

Sunday, February 23, 2020

[GSoC] Google Summer of Code Frequently Asked Questions

GSoC has its own Frequently Asked Questions. However, students always come up with more interesting questions that deserve a personalized answer. I decided to compile my own FAQs for GSoC based on my experience as a mentor and an org admin.

1. I am new here. Can someone help me, like now?

2. Can I have some advice on how to get started in an open source organization, and specifically as a GSoC student?

3. What if the project idea that I am working on doesn't get into the final list?

4. Is there a place where I can discuss with my fellow citizens in my mother tongue about GSoC?

5. I sent several emails and got a reply to only 3 from the mentors. Why not they reply to all my questions?

6. Can we apply to a project idea as a team or is it compulsory to be an individual effort?

7. My company is a GSoC organization now. Can I apply as a GSoC student with them?

8. Can I apply for more than one project?

9. Your project lacks documentation on how to install!!!

I will add more answers when I come across more questions.

Some answers may be subjective and reflecting based on the organizations that I have worked with (AbiWord/4 years, OMII-UK/1 year, Emory BMI/4 years, and caMicroscope/1 year).

Please also note that Google can change its policies each year. In case of a conflict, Google has the final say in the GSoC policies (obviously!). :)

Friday, February 21, 2020

caMicroscope in the GSoC 2020!

We have made it into Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2020! This is the first year for caMicroscope as a GSoC mentoring organization. But we have an experienced bunch of mentors from previous GSoCs. Please view our project ideas at

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Getting an SSSS

In Singapore
SSSS refers to "Secondary Security Screening Selection". It is supposed to be "random". But I continue to get it. In January, I got an SSSS while flying back from Colombo to Atlanta, via Dubai and London. This time, also when flying back from Singapore via Doha.

This time, it was just a swap on my hand and I was good to go. It was only in Doha. I did not have any additional measures in Singapore. 

But, when I flew from Colombo to Atlanta via Sri Lankan Airlines and British Airways, the Sri Lankan airlines managed to give me flight tickets only until Dubai (the first of the 3 legs). Then British Airways in Dubai gave me only the second leg, until London. In London, they took me and several others downstairs for additional checks. Basically, they went through each and every pocket of my hand luggage and also swapped my shoes (after removing). But the silver lining was, I got to board earlier together with the first-class dudes. I was the third to board even. British Airways and London LHR Airport are my least favorites ones in Europe anyway.