A Report From Google / Portland State Summer of Code 2015

Bart Massey

Google Summer of Code is a unique program. One of its most interesting features is that Google seems relatively agnostic about program goals. The fantastic people at the Open Source Program Office admit to wanting to:

Other than that, things are pretty open, which gives a lot of flexibility to those participating in the program.

Portland State, in our eleventh year with GSoC, is a relatively unique Org. Portland State is obviously not an open source project; neither are we focused on a particular kind of software or service. Instead, we concentrate on two attributes of projects: individual focus and academic relevance. Portland State serves as a home for GSoC projects that might otherwise not find an Org within GSoC, either because they require especially theory-based or academic mentoring or because there is no GSoC Org that fits. Even more than most Orgs, we insist that Students do a self-contained piece of technical work: many of our projects are "from scratch".

Another unique aspect of Portland State GSoC is our local mentoring focus. While our Students come from all over the world, most of our Mentors are drawn from the Portland, Oregon area. (The principal exception is for professors and project leaders that are "natural mentors" for a particular project.) This geographic proximity, possible only because of the huge diversity of open source talent in the region, gives us the opportunity to work together in some really effective ways.

A new practice this year was to require a brief daily blog post from each Student. This proved to be an excellent way for the Mentors and I to keep track of progress, and got the Students in the useful habit of reporting and reflecting on their work. I tracked all the blogs using RSS, which worked well. While technical difficulties with blogging on our Drupal collaboration site marred the experience a bit, it still worked out fantastically well: we plan to do it again (if accepted) next year. You can read most of the blog posts here.

As with every year of GSoC, the results for Portland State this year are fantastic. We supervised projects covering a wide range of activities. Other than a couple of hiccups before the program even started, all of our students successfully finished their work. Here are descriptions of our projects and their outcomes. Descriptions in italics were written by the student and lightly edited by me.

This was one of the best years ever for Portland State GSoC. I was really impressed with the students and with the work that they produced. I learned some valuable lessons that will be applied to the program if we are accepted next year, and as always really enjoyed the process.

Thanks again to the Google Summer of Code team. Chris, Cat, Carol and the rest of the crew have done amazing things to create and maintain this special program. Thanks also to Google for its generosity and funding. Thanks to my backup Org Admin, Percy, for his continued help and support. Finally, thanks huge to the Mentors and Students who literally made it possible for Google / Portland State Summer of Code 2015 to happen. My gratitude is deep and sincere: it has been an honor to work with you.