TITLE: Who Says Open Source Doesn't Pay? AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: June 02, 2005 6:51 PM DESC: Google's Summer of Code program embodies a great piece of advice for students of programming: Don't let your skills erode over the summer. This advice applies to every student of programming, even those of us who are done with school. ----- BODY: Google's Summer of Code flyer Leave it to the guys from Google to offer the Summer of Code program for students. Complete an open-source project through one of Google's collaborators, and Google will give you a $4500 award. The collaborators range from relatively large groups such as Apache and FreeBSD, through medium-sized projects such as Subversion and Mono, down to specific software tools such as Jabber and Blender. Of course, the Perl Foundation, the Python Software Foundation, and Google itself are supporting projects. You can even work on open-source projects in Lisp for LispNYC, a Lisp advocacy group! The program bears a strong resemblance to the Paul Graham-led Summer Founders Program. But the Summer of Code is much less ambitious -- you don't need to launch a tech start-up; you only have to hack some code -- and so is likely to have a broader and more immediate effect on the tech world. Of course, if one of the SFP start-ups take off like Google or even ViaWeb, then the effects of the SFP could be much deeper and longer lasting. This is another slick move from the Google image machine. A bunch of $4500 awards are pocket change to Google, and in exchange they generate great PR and establish hefty goodwill with the open-source organizations participating. From my perspective, the best part of the Summer of Code is stated right on its web page: "This Summer, don't let your programming skills lie fallow...". I give this advice to students all the time, though they don't often appreciate its importance until the fall semester starts and they feel the rust in their programming joints. "Use it, or lose it" is trite but true, especially for nascent skills that are not yet fully developed or internalized. Practice, practice, practice. The Summer of Code is a great chance for ambitious and relatively advance students to use this summer for their own good, by digging deep into a real project and becoming better programmers. If you feel up to it, give it a try. But even if you don't, find some project to work on, even if it's just one for your amusement. Perhaps I should say especially if it's just one for your amusement -- most of the great software in this world was originally written by people who wanted the end result for themselves. Choose a project that will stretch your skills a bit; that will force you to improve in the process. Don't worry about getting stuck... This isn't for class credit, so you can take the time you need to solve problems. And, if you really get stuck, you can always e-mail your favorite professor with a question. :-) Oh, if you do want to take Google up on its offer, you will want to hurry. Applications are due on June 14. -----