Upcoming open source opportunities: Google Summer of Code and the Outreach Program for Women

Right now, there are two big initiatives going on for those interested in getting involved in Free and Open Source Software:


Google Summer of Code (deadline: May 3)

Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is a global program that offers students stipends to write code for open source projects. Students work from home, paired up with at least one mentor who can guide them through the process of collaborating with their project’s community. There are a huge number of projects suggestions available, and many projects also accept new ideas from students if you think you’ve got an idea that would be great.

The stipend is $5,000 (USD) for approximately 40h/week of work from June 17 to September 23, so this is a pretty decent short-term job.

The deadline to apply is May 3rd, but if you’re interested it’s worth getting involved now because it takes time to find an organization you want to work with, meet the developers, and get help from them in producing a really terrific application.

There are 177 accepted mentoring organizations, but let me take a minute to plug the two I’m involved with:

  1. I’m the org admin for the Python Software Foundation this year. As well as sponsoring development on the Python programming language itself, we’re an umbrella organization for a large number of projects that use Python, including my own favourite open source project GNU Mailman, a variety of scientific tools, development toolkits, and more. The whole list is here. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a lot of the mentors in person at PyCon this year, and I’m really excited to be working with them, and I think you will be too!
  2. I’m also involved with Systers, which as you may know is an organization for technical women. As one might expect, working with Systers is a great opportunity to work with technical women on an open source project! More information can be found on their wiki.

I know lots of other folk here are involved with GSoC: please feel free to advertise your projects in the comments!

Outreach program for Women (deadline: May 1)

If you’re a woman who’s interested in getting involved in open source, you may also want to check out the Outreach Program for Women which is similar to GSoC but not limited to students:

Outreach Program for Women (OPW) internships were inspired in many ways by Google Summer of Code and by how few women applied for it in the past. This was reflective of a generally low number of women participating in the FOSS development.

By having a program targeted specifically towards women, we found that we reached talented and passionate participants, who were uncertain about how to start otherwise. We hope this effort will help many women learn how exciting, varied and valuable work on FOSS projects can be and how inclusive the community really is. This program is a welcoming link that will connect you with people working on individual projects in various FOSS organizations and guide you through your first contribution.

Here’s the poster:

Not a student or a woman but want to get involved?

For those of you who are experienced open source contributors:

Many projects are still signing up mentors for GSoC. I usually tell people that this is a 0-10h/week volunteer job (although you do get a t-shirt!) where you get a chance to work with a protégé for the summer and show them the ropes. It can be very busy at times (especially right now when students are just starting and have lots of questions) but it’s very rewarding. Even if your project isn’t one of the ones participating this year, you can still help other projects by doing things like hanging out on IRC to help students set up their development environments.

For those of you not in open source but would like to be:

While these programs are only open to students and women, now is actually a pretty decent time to get involved with a new project because mentors are available to answer questions and students are asking lots of the questions so you don’t have to. Go join a mailing list or irc channel and see if you can follow along!

For everyone:

Please advertise these programs to students and women who might not otherwise see them! Put up posters where minorities not usually represented in open source will see them, help encourage people who might be too nervous to submit an application, and help connect these folk directly to projects whenever you can.

Got questions?

Feel free to ask in the comments below. I believe we have plenty of folk here involved with both programs who’d be happy to help you get involved!

7 thoughts on “Upcoming open source opportunities: Google Summer of Code and the Outreach Program for Women

  1. Margaret McGaley

    I’d love to apply for something like this, but I’m not available full-time. Is there any chance a half-time version could be made available next year?

    (For context, I’m a full-time parent with a CS PhD looking to get back to work, but the transition between me staying at home and my husband staying at home is the complicated part.)

    1. Terri

      Alas, I think there’s basically no chance of this happening with GSoC (it’s a huge program and a bear to run as is), but you might want to talk to the folk running OPW since doing a part time program might fit well with their goals.

    2. Liz Henry

      I’m not sure there are any paying part-time internships, but you could always pick an open source project to contribute to, and dive in. It might be good to look through the projects listed for GSoC and see if any of them look good for your areas of expertise!

  2. inediblemaking

    This looks like such an amazing opportunity.

    I’m a first-generation college student, GED recipient, and from a poverty background. Yes, I am also a woman. I have some experience coding, as I took a couple classes in college (2 in C, and JavaScript currently); however, I’m mostly green. I was looking at the application questions for the Outreach Program for Women and there are a couple questions about previous projects. If I don’t have any experience yet, should I bother with applying? I’m super interested in working in open source, and I know I want to be involved with technology going forward in my life. I realize it might look a bit silly to be 29 and so unqualified; however, it’s just taken me awhile to work myself up to a place where I could begin doing this type of thing. I am a fast learner, and very dedicated. I would love to participate. I just don’t want to make a fool of myself.

    Thank you for your time and attention.

    1. brainwane

      Yes, I think you should apply. Good for you! Go ahead and contact the mentors. There are women applying for OPW who don’t have ANY coding experience so you’re ahead of the pack!

      I do want to ask: what would it mean to make a fool of yourself? In open source sometimes we do make mistakes in public, or try things that don’t work out. I’ve done that, for sure. If you are worried that other people will think negatively of you for trying, then please be reassured that, in open source in general and certainly within the OPW application process, curiosity and trying are admired, even if you don’t get the goal you wanted to get the first time you try.

      1. brainwane

        I was looking at the application questions for the Outreach Program for Women and there are a couple questions about previous projects. If I don’t have any experience yet, should I bother with applying?

        It would be great if you could point to the specific application that’s asking that so I can tell the mentors that that question needs to clearly get across that it’s okay if you have zero experience!

    2. Liz Henry

      Nothing wrong with applying — absolutely give it a shot. I would advise mentioning that you have a serious interest, and have had some programming classes, and so on — but you really don’t have to talk about your lack of experience, or call yourself silly, in the application or anything you write about your interest. I think it is pretty normal nowadays to switch careers a couple of times over a lifetime. So, stick to the positive things! You sound super smart and motivated!

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