For as far as I can remember, the idea of summer vacations used to be awesome – involving long plans about stuff to get done, places to go, things to learn, and assignments to dig. But when they finally arrived, at least for me, they started with long hours of sleep, endless procrastination, and lots of regret. I always used to wonder what it would be like to spend a summer ticking off all of those things laid out in checklists I made during all major exams before the summers started.
This summer of 2013, I found out. 😀
I was a big fan of the Digit magazine while at school. They used to ship GNU/Linux distributions with most issues, and I used to enjoy exploring them. Although I was no programmer/developer then, it was still a break from Windows XP (don’t look at me like that!). I still have a stock of all of those old LiveCDs at home!
The World Wide Web, Mozilla and GitHub
Let’s face it – my first major fascination towards WWW began with internet porn. 😛 That died soon enough, and I was quick at realizing that the power of being able to connect all the world’s people at almost no cost could be explosive.
Google and Facebook caught on, and in a few years I was writing computer programs that did meaningless things (I did that as schoolwork, and in my 20 years of life, no one from the Airways has approached me with offers regarding entire Airport Management Systems written in an hour).
I was learning to build websites as a hobby, people seem to want them all the time, and they’re particularly generous if you’re a decent designer. I learned HTML and CSS. I learned WordPress. I learned why people disliked Internet Explorer (and also spent quality time in the bath thinking of more trolls). I learned to love Mozilla.
A college senior got me a small assignment to do for one of Mozilla’s projects, and I was asked to “push my code to GitHub”.
Eventually I fell in love with GitHub. It taught me the fact that stuff on the web can be cool, free-as-in-beer, free-as-in-ads, generous with its code and still mint money (GitHub has open sourced its heart, the grit ruby library).
Sometime in March 2013, when I was at Bangalore to attend Startup Festival, my (awesome) college senior Yeswanth brought up the topic of GSoC. This wasn’t the first time someone told me about it; I had attended a presentation on GSoC a year earlier at a FOSS meet Yeswanth and a few other seniors had organized.
Now obviously, the only things that attracted me were – “Google”, “5000$”.
The rest of this blog post will cover my GsoC journey, and for those you hoping to apply next year, I’ve included some tips in bold occasionally 😉
Kernel development never really appealed to me back then, because I hated anything that was not web development. I would only scrape Melange for “html” or “css” related projects. I would only look at the ideas page of organizations like Mozilla, WordPress and Drupal, whose interests were primarily on the web front. If you’re new, scrape everything. You never know if Mozilla wants a custom kernel for a special project. You never know if CERN software is looking to manage its finances through a web application.
I was particularly interested in a couple of projects by Mozilla, one of which I had a bit of experience with. However, it wasn’t the sort of thing I wanted to spend my summer doing. Once again, Yeswanth to the rescue. If you don’t find a project motivating, don’t do it. I’m a bit of a designer, and a GitHub fan. A GitHub for designers sounded perfect – I had wanted to make the jump to building web applications for a long time. I had been discussing with Emily (my mentor) over email about it already, and thanks to Yeswanth, I decided I was going to nail it.
I discussed more with Emily, researched my brain out, did a few rounds of proposals,and we finally had something approachable.
On the 27th of May, I discovered I was selected. Now I don’t want to drill into the entire sequence of events, but here’s a few key things I learned and you should remember –
- Mentors are busy people. Email them and wait, they’ll reply soon enough.
- Yeswanth has spoken about it already – competition doesn’t matter. It’s how well you collaborate. I had several competitors too, way more experienced than I.
- Be nice. Help out people in the forums, ask when in doubt, and do your homework. Google before you ask something, learn to rest on the shoulders of giants 😉
An incredible summer
Needless to say, it feels good to see your name associated with Fedora (if only someone told me this was going to happen in the Digit magazine days). 😛 I’m good with building web applications now – although I’m nowhere close to expert level yet.
In the meanwhile, GlitterGallery’s growing! We’re adding more features and enhancing it’s UI in our free time. I’ve gotten rich enough to cover my school fees. That’s a lot of things for one summer! I only run Fedora on my computer now, and I’m also making my way to contribute to its core!
The coolest part? I was able to strike out everything in the summer TODO list I made during the end semester exams, and it feels really, really satisfying! 😉