This past weekend the Google Open Source group invited all mentors from organizations that participated in the 2017 Google Summer of Code (GSoC) program. As you may know, Ardupilot was one of the very lucky organizations that participated this year, it was our first year participating as Ardupilot and it was a great experience. You can read more about it in this blog post from Olivier
We finished the summer with some great contributions from all 4 students selected to participate this year, and we sincerely hope that they continue to contribute to our code base now that GSoC has finished. The mentors summit is an annual unconference that every project participating in the Google Summer of Code is invited to attend. I had not been to an unconference (or rather to one that really worked as an unconference) before, and I have to say that it was a great experience, very enlightening and energizing!.
This year there were 149 organizations attending from around the world, with 329 mentors, and over the course of two and a half days, we had over 90 sessions, on many different topics, and almost all of the sessions were suggested by the attendees, excluding the opening and closing sessions. Google just facilitated 10 rooms to run concurrent conversations and the attendees decided what the discussions were going to be. It was amazing to see how well the sessions shaped up, and all kinds of topics came up and all of them had people interested in the topics.
The open source software community around the world is very…. lets say “unique”: Every person is different and they all have different interests, but what they all share is a passion for what they do on their projects. Often the participants have “day jobs” and what they do on their projects is something on the side and that means that they do it because they want to do it and because they like to do it, not because someone told them to, and that makes for a very passionate bunch. And this is not always fun and games, this same passion can sometimes spark some heated…..”conversations” but nevertheless we can all keep it civilized.
The meeting gives everyone a chance to meet people that otherwise would probably never get a chance to meet. And sometimes even inside the project, the contributors don’t get to meet each other in person because usually they are scattered around the world. This event gives these contributors a chance to meet each other. Maybe they have been collaborating and talking for years before and thanks to this event they can finally meet each other. It was also great to be in the room and realize that the creator of a piece of software you often use is sitting next to you. In my case Homebrew, MacPorts, Mono, MuseScore, Blender, GIT, FFMPEG, Kodi(XBMC), VLC, CGAL, just to name a few, all had people there, and it was great to see who the creators of these pieces of software are and get to know them.
A very unique idea that seems to be a very popular “Tradition” of GSoC Mentors meeting is the chocolate table. We were asked to bring a bar of chocolate from our part of the world and set it on a table. This table ended up with A LOT of chocolate, some very interesting varieties and all really good! Besides that there also was a bunch of swag for everyone to take… but the one I liked the most would have to be the G-socks!
This was also my first time at Google, and it was a very interesting experience to see how they have really embedded their values as a company into every aspect of their daily tasks. When you come from other places that don’t have such a free, inclusive and open minded environment, its easy to take things you do day to day without knowing that they may offend others, and you don’t realize that until you are in a situation where these things are so embedded into the culture of the environment you are in that they just seem out of place. And this makes for an environment where respect, and collaboration come naturally and makes you feel safe and confortable. Also the office space with the cafeterias, coffee break areas, co-working spaces, bikes, parks, volleyball courts, basket ball courts, etc..., inspires creativity and collaboration. I think having this event at the Google campus was a great idea from the team there. It would not have been the same if it had been held at a hotel or a conference center.
All in all it was a great weekend, full of activities (I haven’t slept since yesterday and probably will feel it all week) but I would do it again in a heartbeat. So I don’t know if I am speaking for the whole team here, but I am definitely keen on preparing next year's ArduPilot’s participation in GSo, where hopefully Google will select us once more to participate. Thanks to all the Google Open Programs Office team for hosting us this weekend and making such a great event. We are looking forward to doing it again next year!