The MariaDB Foundation has had 2 projects accepted for Google Summer of Code 2018, of which one we deemed successful. Teodor Niculescu (firstname.lastname@example.org)’s work was part of an effort to improve MariaDB’s query optimiser by providing faster histogram collection using equal-width histograms. His project is not yet in a release worthy state, yet we are working alongside him to get it feature complete (hopefully for our 10.4 version). We are glad that Teodor has chosen to present his work at the MariaDB Developer Unconference in Tampere and also remain within the community, although currently busy with his studies as is expected. 🙂
Upon successful completion of Google Summer of Code, the MariaDB Foundation was invited to take part in the Google Summer of Code Mentor Summit. The summit takes place every year and is hosted by Google at one of their offices in the Bay Area. The summit is an excellent opportunity to understand the behind the scenes aspects of organising GSoC, as well as a chance to network and exchange ideas about the program.
This year I attended the summit with a number of goals in mind. For these to make sense we need to look briefly in history. MariaDB has been part of GSoC for more than 6 years. Over the years we have observed a decline in the number of applications, despite our efforts to try and come up with more interesting projects. The number one goal for me was to figure out why this has happened and how we could improve our appeal in the future.
Google has done a few changes to the program over its lifetime. 2 years ago, Google decided to adjust the stipends so as to accommodate more students overall. The adjustment was done according to the cost of living of each individual country. This means that some countries get less per student, while others get more. The way the cost of living was computed is up for debate, but it seems to work out well, given the increase in number of students enrolled in the program.
As MariaDB is not an easy project to get into, it is to be expected that it’s not on everybody’s list apply. With the overall decrease of stipends for most countries, it is natural to consider that students will have a harder time deciding on the opportunity cost of doing GSoC over an internship or maybe a research project. Discussing this at the mentor summit proved this to be true to some degree and shows that we must make greater efforts in bringing people into our community.
On a related note, it takes real commitment from organisations to get the word out that they will be involved in GSoC. There are some mentors that reach out to hundreds of students at a time. Other orgs’ experiments have also shown that we still have a long ways to go to spread awareness about the program. Africa and South America are highly under-represented. If more orgs put effort in speaking about GSoC this can change for the better.
As takeaways for the MariaDB Foundation from the Summit, we need to plan our GSoC projects as soon as possible. We also need to spread our projects across various tiers of difficulty to encourage all students to participate. The key point about GSoC is not to get a feature that one of our senior developers could implement in 3 months, but to get new people into the Open Source Community. This means that we need to focus on what students can learn from the projects we propose and how these projects can be a way into the community. We never expect our students to get a project production ready, the key aspects are interaction and learning. If you come out of the program knowing what it means to contribute to open source, then we have all done our job.
With all this said, expect us to prepare even more for the next GSoC and if we do get accepted, to come up with even more interesting projects for all skill levels. The current list is still available for anyone looking for a challenge, not just during the program. The Foundation’s mission is to ensure collaboration and continuous development for the MariaDB Server. GSoC is one of the projects we use to reach our goals and this is why we hope to continue with it in the future.