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.
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
a Lisp advocacy group!
The program bears a strong resemblance to the Paul
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
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
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.