Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Summer of Code: Conclusion

(Summer comes)

Originally I have planned to write a "things not to do" post, but now I've dropped the idea. Positive advice is better than negative one, and people that do those things are not going to read it anyway.

So let's conclude Summer of Code posts. If I had to sum up everything with one word, it'd be "communicate."

This blog is going to take a break, until I get a new idea what to blog about. That might be my Ph.D. topic – efficient spatial indexing. Or something else.

Good luck with your applications!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Summer of Code: Summer comes

(CV and qualifications in the application)

So the application is completed and submitted and, a few weeks later, the acceptance notification day comes. Then one of two things happens: either your application was rejected, either it was accepted.

It it was rejected, do not let these news sadden you too much. The positive thing you are carrying away from all this effort is the practice in writing technical project applications. This is a very useful skill and makes you much better prepared for the next such contest.

If it was accepted, congratulations; now get busy with the project! Some advice for the summer:

  • So this is your full-time job now, just with very flexible hours. See [4] for an example of time commitment requirement.
  • Communicate with your project. Hard to overstate, hard, although possible, to overdo. In particular, do not write to mentor only when it's more appropriate to write to the mailing list – most of the technical questions should go there.
  • Communicate with your mentor, especially if something went wrong or you have doubts about the project:
    • If you feel that project scope is too big.
    • If you think that the project deliverables need to be adjusted.
    • If you experience some strange difficulties involving the organization, for example, if getting source code repository access takes ages.
    • If you feel that discussions with other project developers are unproductive in some, maybe even bad, way.
    • Don't be afraid to do so. Remember that your mentor wants you to succeed and will do what he can to help you.
  • Check-in code often to your branch. It's much better to post small incremental patches than to work silently for two months and then de-lurk with one big code change. In addition to the usual source code version control advantages, the organization will see your progress and you will get feedback earlier - when you actually can act on it.
  • Do not expect to follow your project plan to the letter. It is almost guaranteed that things will change. When you see it coming, discuss the necessary change with your mentor and make it. Repeat as needed. Do not stick to the original plan just for plan's sake.
That's almost it! Conclusion next.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Summer of Code: CV and qualifications in your application

(Writing the application)

An important part of the application is the one where you talk about yourself instead of your proposal. Here your goal is to show that you are actually able to do what you promise to do.

  • If you do not have previous experience with the project codebase, suggesting that you will "work really hard" or that the feature "will be totally awesome!" might not cut it [1]. In such case playing with the code (see above) is important.
  • In similar spirit, "I use this application every day!" is not enough, especially if the application in question is a very popular one, (e.g. Firefox) [1]. There is nothing wrong with stating that, but make sure that this is not your only qualification.
  • Good personal references/recommendations help.
  • Previous projects help, especially in the related area.
  • Do not copy paste your CV from some other application if you fail to tailor it for the one you are applying for [1].
  • Be prepared to back your experience claims in CV with specific examples and descriptions, for example, of the projects done.
  • Needless to say, lying and padding is bad.
Yet your effort to write the application is ultimately more important than your CV. If you have limited time and have to choose between gathering personal references and spending time on a technical part of the application, choose the latter.

Next: summer comes.