Google's Pandemic-Minded GSoC Will Be A Lot Less Interesting This Year

Written by Michael Larabel in Google on 31 January 2021 at 01:00 AM EST. 24 Comments
While it's sign-up time for open-source organizations hoping to participate in this year's Google Summer of Code, GSoC 2021 changes in the name of the pandemic are leading some organizations to debate whether it's still being involved with this student coding effort.

One of the main frustrations from organizations with GSoC 2021 is that there are lowered time expectations for participating students, so in turn less large projects/work can be tackled. The pay is also lowered with the reduced time expectations and so in turn some very talented developers may find more compelling summer internships/jobs elsewhere. Basically they dropped from the previous 350 hours to 175 hours per project and with that also halved the payout to students.

Back in October was the announcement that GSoC 2021 would be shortened to just a 175-hour project during the 10 week span. This was in the name of "the pandemic straining folks’ time." But that decision was made all the way back in October before seeing how the pandemic would really play out for 2021, many people having more time on their hands at home due to the pandemic, and that announcement also mentioned "starting in 2021" so it sounds more like a permanent change of course than some temporary measure due to COVID-19.

The payout from Google is also lowered as a result (indications are that it's halved). Students wanting to participate in this coding period still must be at least 18 years or older and still in schooling. Another difference this year is that while previously the expectation was participating students had to be going to university, now they will also accept students going to "coding camps" and similar activities. With that lower barrier to entry, it may also lead to less qualified participants.

On Friday, Google issued a call for mentor organizations to apply to be part of Google Summer of Code 2021. But with these changes not all recurring organizations are eager to apply.

The X.Org Foundation, which also encompasses Mesa and Wayland projects among others, is part of GSoC almost every year. Yet this year the board is deciding whether to still participate. "GSoC has some major changes this year (time is halved and pay has been lowered), so there's some discussion on whether it would still be worth it for to participate or not. As well, there's some question around if we should start getting involved with Outreachy."

So they are deciding with the lessened time requirements whether it still makes sense to get involved plus the lowered student requirements. In the case of the usual X.Org Foundation projects they tend to be larger in nature and thus more difficult finding suitable or worthwhile projects with the lowered time expectations. As well, the X.Org Foundation is deciding whether to get involved with Outreachy as the year-round effort offering projects to women and other minority groups in tech. Outreachy hasn't lowered their time requirements and are now paying participants about twice that of Google Summer of Code.

We'll see over the course of the summer how the GSoC changes this year play out and if it indeed lead to less open-source project involvement and less interesting technical coding projects.
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