I attended the Google Summer of Code Mentor Summit this past weekend
on behalf of PostgreSQL. We met at the Google campus in Mountain View.
This event was an unconference
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconference) and so, none of the
sessions were determined in advance.
Some of the highlights were:
* Leslie Hawthorn and Chris DiBona went into some detail with the
whole group about the selection process for GSOC. This session made
me feel as though we had relatively good chances for being accepted
again next year. Google, however, does not pre-announce
projects/products, so there is no sure thing about our (or any other
* I met MusicBrainz guys and was pleased to receive many bars of
chocolate they requested to be distributed to SFPUG and PDXPUG
* Attended three sessions concerning recruitment and retention of
students. This is a topic that many people were interested in, but
that few people feel they have a proper strategy for.
I also led a session on recruitment and retention of students to open
source projects. Some of the ideas that came out of that and the other
* Determine what makes you personally need to be part of Postgres (joy
of learning, scratching a technical itch, making a tool for your job,
fame). Find out which of those things your student also needs or wants
and try to give that or help your student achieve that thing.
* Have a clearly defined method for students to keep journals. Several
projects simply used MediaWiki and templates.
* Use git (or other distributed revision control), and have students
commit early and often to a branch that mentors have access to.
* The Etherboot project has a great system: http://etherboot.org/wiki/soc/2008
* Hold weekly meetings over IRC. These can be brief, but help get
students accustomed to your project's culture and way of doing things.
* Ask the student: "are you on track?", ask the mentor: "do you think
the student is on track?" on a weekly basis
* If you want students to stick around, find incremental
responsibilities to assign that are driven by their enthusiasm.
* Interview on the phone all your students ahead of time, not just the
ones you think might be a problem.
* Require a phone number on the application for the student.
* Require a secondary contact so that if the student "disappears"
there's a backup person to contact. (and contact that person BEFORE
I also made good connections with members of Git, Parrot, WorldForge,
Ruby and many other community leaders. I was particularly impressed by
the ideas and stories from the current Debian community manager, Steve
McIntyre and Gentoo member Donnie Berkholz. The issue of mailing list
moderation and the number of people required to keep mailing lists
functioning properly came up frequently. If you know a moderator for
a Postgres mailing list, please consider thanking them for doing a
very tedious, extremely important and often thankless job.
I also spent some time discussing with Leslie Hawthorn and Cat Allman
how to increase the total number of women mentors and students next
year. We have a couple ideas, and will be attempting to implement
them next year.
Overall, I thought the conference went quite well, and I hope we are
both accepted, and one of our mentors is able to attend next year.
And, be sure to register for the hotel early, and stay at the Wild
PDXPUG - http://pugs.postgresql.org/pdx
Me - http://www.chesnok.com/daily
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