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Google Summer of Code 2006 a Success - InternetNews.
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Google Summer of Code 2006 a Success

The projects are in and the mentors have filed their evaluations. In the final tally, it looks like Google's Summer of Code 2006 was a success.

The program, having just finished its second year, provides funding to students and open source organizations for project development.

In 2005, Google accepted 410 projects. In 2006, Google's Summer of Code accepted a whopping 630 projects spread across 102 mentoring organizations. In 2005, there were only 41 mentoring organizations.

Each student who successfully completed their projects over the summer were to receive $4,500 from Google, while each open source organization was to receive $500 per successful student.

Leslie Hawthorn, open source program co-coordinator at Google, told internetnews.com that the program had an 82 percent overall success rate in 2006.

For those who didn't complete the program, Hawthorn didn't see any one common thread.

"More often than not it was a 'life happens' situation when students drop out," Hawthorn said.

Hawthorn and Chris DiBona, open source program manger at Google, cited one particular student effort as being somewhat of a surprise.

Steffen Pingel was voted in as a committer for the Eclipse Mylar project as a result of his Summer of Code efforts.

"Think about it, this student went from being a college student who knew nobody in the project to becoming a peer with people from everyone from IBM to BEA to you name it in just a matter of a summer," DiBona said.

Another interesting effort cited by DiBona yielded an OpenGL GUI Widget system in Ruby .

"Being able to do that within the framework of Ruby along with OpenGL so now you can make a program in Ruby that can run on any platform that will give you a great user interface is a cool idea," DiBona said.

Google was also a mentoring organization for the Summer of Code, though students didn't necessarily work on projects directly for Google.

"The reason why we have the Google category is not for the things that we want, which sounds kind of weird," DiBona explained.

"The whole point of the Google category is that there are some students that are working on things that are extremely specialized and can really only be judged adequately by their student adviser at school, so we allow for a certain amount of those kinds of students. It's more procedural than it is strategic, I guess."

From a financial point of view, Google's 2006 Summer of Code effort pumps millions of dollars into the open source community. Yet there isn't a tangible return on investment (ROI) that is easy to measure.

"We get a benefit from every project is how I see it," DiBona said. "But it is kind of intangible."

Google can measure the recruiting angle of how many students ended up working for Google but that is only one possible metric that doesn't encompass the scope of what Google is trying to achieve.

"It's very hard to say that this student made this project better that we then used and made Google.com better which then led to advertising," DiBona admitted. "You can't track that."

He went on to explain that Google thinks that open source is important, and that the program is a good way of supporting open source.

"We made the strategic decision to support open source, and this is one of the ways we do it," DiBona stated. "How you then try and determine ROI, I don't think that's even possible."

In 2005, only 30 percent of students stuck with their projects after the Summer of Code ended.

Hawthorne expects one of the goals this year to be for students to stick with their projects. She actually also has a plan for improving retention in future years of the program.

"We'd probably add a little more documentation to the program to make it more clear to participants that active engagement with their development community is part of the program," Hawthorn said.

The problem that Hawthorn heard from some of the mentors was that it was sometimes difficult or intimidating for students to deal with the community at large instead of just their own mentor.

The idea is that if the student is able to collaborate with the community at large they'll have a better chance of continuing with the project after the summer is over.

According to Hawthorn it's also likely that there will be a 2007 Summer of Code.

She noted that the program has a lot of support internally at every level so it's likely that Google will be doing it again next year.

For DiBona, it all boils down to giving back to the community from which Google benefits so much.

"I really like open source people and open source developers a lot personally, they're idealists their hearts are in a good place," DiBona said.

"I get to make more of them and help move projects forward and bring fresh blood to open source, and I just think it's so cool to be able to do that.

"Google does derive so much value from open source software, that it's not like this is the least we can do, cause I'm sure we do a lot less. But it's pretty terrific to be able to do that here."