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From Mark Hindess <>
Subject Re: London graduate events
Date Thu, 22 Apr 2010 08:28:22 GMT

[I've removed concom from the CC as my reply is less relevant to them.)

In message <>, Ross Gardler writes:
> On Saturday I was at an event run by the Graduate Developer Community
> in London. I'm dropping this here so that concom/comdev are aware of
> some of the activities that are taking place.

I was one of the organisers and a mentor/committer so I thought I'd make
a couple of comments.

> The event was designed to introduce graduates to open source and was
> hosted at IBMs offices (nice place for a BarCamp).
> There were about 40 students and 7 or 8 projects (5 ASF projects and 3
> non-asf). From what I could tell most ASF projects were represented by
> IBM staffers (Tomcat and Wookie being the exception).

That's an accurate assessment.  The IBM bias was definitely not
intentional though but inevitable as two IBMers working on Apache
projects happened to be involved in the organisation and had contacts
on a third project in IBM.  We were supposed to have some committers
from the Maemo community but they got stuck in Sweden due to ash/flight

We plan to run the event again and I'd be happy to hear from committers
on other projects that would be interested in being involved next time.

> There was a quick intro to open source in the morning, followed by a
> three minute intro from each project. After this the students provided
> three prioritised choices of projects they wanted to work on and were
> allocated to a mentor from one of their project selections.
> The rest of the morning was spent getting the students PCs setup with
> the appropriate code.

I learnt a huge amount from this part.  It makes you realise what a
typical new users experience is really like.  (For instance, trying to
build a large code base on a lower spec'd laptop than your own makes
you realise that the minor annoyances in your build system are actually
major annoyances and deserve a higher priority than you are giving

> Lunch was provided.

Thanks to IBM Innovation Centre sponsorship.

> After lunch each mentor helped their students find a bug they could
> work on, or helped them find som documentation to improve or something
> similar. The goal was that by the end of the day all students would
> have submitted a patch.
> As you might expect this was not fully successful. Students are often
> less able than we would hope and some needed lots of hand holding.
> Nevertheless, over the course of the day 15 patches were submitted
> to the projects. I'm not too sure what kinds of patches the other
> projects had but for my project (Wookie) we had some Javadocs and
> a bug fix to some C# code. In other words reasonably simple but
> everything counts.

Three of Harmony's five students contributed a patch.  They were also
reasonably simple fixes but they were real problems that definitely
needed to be fixed.  I started working on Harmony by fixing issues
like these, as a way to learn more about the code base, processes and
community.  It is an approach that means you can start at a level you
are comfortable with and learn as you go along at your own speed.

For this to work though, I think you need to have continued commitment
which is hard to sustain when you are just starting out.  The intended
motivation for continued involvement was that students would get
something on their CVs that would help distinguish them from their
peers by showing that they are motivated and that they have some of the
important skills to work in distributed teams, etc.

If these events are to be successful, then I think we need to work on
continuity.  We are thinking about getting students back, if we run the
event again with some of the same projects, so that past students may
learn more and also help new students.  It will be interesting to see if
we can make this work.

> As a mentoring exercise it was pretty successful. It remains to be
> seen if any of these students continue to contribute to open source
> projects.  What is certain is that the students seemed to get a great
> deal from the day.

Even if they don't come back to the projects they worked on hopefully it
makes them realise that projects don't have perfect code and that the
barrier for entry is actually much lower than you might imagine.

It was exhausting but I had a great day, learned a lot from the
experience and enjoyed working with the students.


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