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Google Summer of Code Mentors Summit

I was able to attend the Google Summer of Code (GSoC) Mentors Summit last weekend in sunny Mountain View, CA. I'd spent the previous few days working with a team to write a mentor's manual, so was full of ideas when it came time to create the actual sessions during the unconference.

The Mentors Summit is a great opportunity to mingle with the leaders in our many diverse communities. This year, the student participants were capped at 1000, and there were 150 participating open source projects mentoring them. Most of the projects were represented at the Summit.

I attended or presented at three sessions that I'll quickly summarize:

  • Casablanca: This wasn't a presentation so much as a discussion. There's one room designed to be a salon - with lots of interesting gadgets, toys and clay. A group of about 20 of us talked about what they'd learned about mentoring that year, and strategies for getting the most out of students, and recovering from student and mentor failures. Some of the smaller project representatives were in awe of the level of discipline and organization of the larger projects. Several useful wiki templates were shared, as were best practices - like having scheduled, weekly meetings with all mentors and students, and requiring daily blog writing and clear deliverable dates for bits of code.
  • Making our communities more welcoming. We arranged for a session to talk about bringing more diversity into open source projects - both gender diversity, as well as cultural. The list we came up with was general, but a good starting point for organizations new to exploring diversity issues:
    1. Build a reputation of being inclusive.
    2. Appreciate and recognize non-code contributions.
    3. Be nice to newbies!
    4. START YOUNG. Start going to middle schools and teaching computer classes.
    5. Do targeted outreach to the community you are interested in attracting.
    6. Tell about what open source does for the social good.
    7. Don't be invisible! Advertise what women are doing.
    8. Have personal contact with an individual.
    9. Have pictures that reflect diversity among your users and developers (other people like me use this software!)
  • Pretty Pictures: How to create non-text based documentation. We talked about the different projects, their approach to producing pictures, diagrams, videos and audio forms of documentation. Many tools were discussed and listed in the session notes. We also talked about software we wished we had, and ways of transcribing video and audio (I suggested that we pipe through Google Voice!). I enjoyed hearing about projects like xWiki's screencasts, and efforts that GIS and video encoder projects had underway to produce non-text documentation.

Much of the rest of the time at the conference was spent discussing individual projects, new cool things that we could be doing (PL/Parrot!), and the successes each open source project had in incorporating new people into their projects.

Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/warthog9/ used under Creative Commons license BY-NC-SA 2.0

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