A disappointing SoC experience

I was the official mentor for a Google Summer of Code student this year -- Martin van Loewis was "technical mentor" -- and I found it to be a disappointing experience. At the beginning, I felt guilty about not being more on the ball about pushing the student to do more work; by the end, it became clear that whatever the student's original intentions had been, this project was certainly not their priority.

Next time, I will inform the student(s) of my expectations upfront; insist on weekly status reports, however short; expect to see working, tested code checked in to a public repository; and, if these expectations are not met, the student will not be paid for the first half of the summer. (If they are met, the student can expect (at the minimum) positive recommendation letters from me, on top of the salary.)

More generally, I would suggest that people not take GSoC students with whom they have had no prior contact, unless those students are local and can be pressured with direct social interaction ;). Oh, that, and don't accept proposals that are inaccurate with respect to technical details: the odds are against those people actually learning the technical stuff.

I don't regret signing up for this -- it was a learning experience -- but I regret that the opportunity was wasted, for the PSF, for Google, and for the student.


Legacy Comments

Posted by infixum on 2007-08-24 at 16:03.

You'll soon be advising people and acting as a committee member on
doctoral dissertations and masters theses.  Better to have this
experience first on a 3 month project than on a 24 or 48 month one.
That's the learning experience silver lining you mentioned.  Thanks
for your continued interest in and contributions to the Python

Posted by Greg Wilson on 2007-08-25 at 08:06.

Sorry it wasn't a more positive experience for you --- I've now been
sole mentor on four, and co-mentor on two, and they've all been very
rewarding.  Better luck next time...

Posted by Floris Bruynooghe on 2007-08-25 at 12:13.

As an ex-GSoC student (2005) I can entirely agree with explaining your
expectations up front, they are so reasonable that I'd almost say
essential (and it's sad you have to mention them explicitly).  But I
must disagree with your suggestion to not accept students unless you
don't know the first.  One point (IMHO) of the SoC is to lower the bar
for new people.  You should be more strict on the technical proposal
if you want to be more strict (which is reasonable, you don't want to
be wasting your time).    Lastly I'd say mentors should also have an
obligation of providing feedback every $weeks and run the code.  ;-)

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2007-08-28 at 08:37.

I had a similar experience in 2005, or maybe worse... I had a student
who wrote a promising proposal, then after the initial contact I
didn't hear from him at all anymore. Fortunately I had a second
student who did put in the work.

Comments !