GSoC Cheatsheet

Google Summer of Code changed my life.

It taught me many of the core fundamentals I now rely on daily, such as how to navigate huge codebases, how to approach complex problems, how computer networks work, and how any request flow on the internet can be faked through scripts. It was also the ticket to getting my first big internship handling security for Trell, a social ecommerce company. In this post I’ll try to lay out some tips and tricks and do’s and don’t s of GSOC that will give you a more holistic view of the big picture. But first,

Is there anything better than GSoC?

This is a very situational question. What I mean by this is if you are looking at GSoC only for the Google tag, there is no alternative, but otherwise…
GSoC in India only pays out 1500 dollars for the standard medium project, which translated to about 1.24 lakh rupees. While this may sound incredibly enticing to the average Indian college student, there are other such companies out there offering such FOSS internships with much higher stipends. For example,

  • Linux Foundation Mentorship : stipend $3000
  • X.Org Endless Vacation of Code : stipend $6000

For more such examples refer to this list

What do I need to know to thrive here?

I did my GSoC in the summer before third year, and by this time had been well acquainted with the Terminal, Git, Python and Web Scraping, which was basically the skill-set my proposal required. So it varies project to project but please make sure you have your CS fundamentals rock solid and are passionate toward the project you are applying to. Do not have the I will learn on the job attitude in CS, I guarantee you will not get far with that.

Do’s and Don’t s

  • Open source is fantastic. Money and fame will follow if you are passionate about your craft, and are known to give back to the community. So start building your Open Source portfolio on GitHub as soon as possible. This means putting all of your code in cool repos and making it shiny with detailed ReadMes. You won’t believe how soon you’ll find yourself addicted to it.
  • You are allowed 3 proposals each year, so skim the orgs list much much ahead of time and shortlist the ones you find interesting. This number can be more than three for now since they can be filtered down later. Also remember that the orgs that participated the year before are very very likely to stay the next year, so if the list for your year has not come out yet, treat the y-1 year list as gospel.
  • Although technically each org has an ‘official ideas list’, and you can just go off of that, but this list will have great competition. So find the communication channel for the orgs/projects you aspire to be in, and join it as soon as possible. Talk to the maintainers of the project (who will be your mentors) about what features or ideas they would like implemented or what bugs/quirks need to be eliminated with the highest priority. This will give you an edge over your competitors as in the end, the mentor’s opinion is all that matters.
  • Make pull requests solving tagged issues of your project well before your coding period starts. Cement it in the minds of the maintainers that YOU are the best choice.
  • Show potential. It will all boil down to the mentor’s impression of you. Convince them that you are the best choice for the job, and you are 75% of the way in (the rest will depend on the quality of your proposal).
  • Your proposal is your Statement of Purpose, it could all just come down to the fact that your competitor has explained how he/she would carry out the proposed tasks better than you, so explain each section of your proposal in great detail, and include a detailed week-wise work plan in the end (we all know it will never work out that way, but nevertheless).

  • DO NOT be impolite to your prospective mentors, even if they are to you. Most orgs receive hundreds of applicants and it becomes stressful for them to guide each prospective mentee throughout the process. Also keep in mind that mentors receive no monetary compensation unlike you.
  • DO NOT use a generic proposal format. The goal is to make it stand out among the aforementioned hundreds of applicants.
  • DO NOT do it only for the money without passion. If money is your sole motivator, I can already tell you that your experience will be horrible.

My GSoC Work