GSOC Application Guide

So, you’re interested in working with the Open Lighting Project as part of the Google Summer of Code? If so, you’ve come to the right place; this guide was written to give you the best chance of being selected for the program.

Before continuing you should read the GSOC Student Guide. That contains general information about the program, which we won’t cover here.

Noble Intentions

If you’re looking for an easy $5000 over the summer you’re in the wrong place. Acceptance into the program is going to mean a lot of hard work on your part. You should be prepared to spend 40 hours a week on your GSOC project. That’s 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. We can make allowances for certain events, say your sister’s wedding, but don’t plan to go to Europe for two weeks in the middle of the program.

However, in return you’ll be working with experienced developers and learn the tools used within the Entertainment Lighting & Software Development industries. If you decide to work on OLA, the tools and development process used reflects what you’re likely to find as you move into the workforce.

Engage Early

The bar for applicants is raised every year. Where as in the early years the project admins would make a decision once the deadline for student applications had passed, these days we have a fairly good idea which students will be selected prior to applications closing.

How do we know? Because the good students are already engaged with the community. It’s never too early to start and we’re starting to see students contacting us in January, two and a half months before applications open.

What do we mean by ‘engaged’ ? Here are some things you could be doing:

Remember GSOC is about writing code. Even though answering questions shows you’re interested, code is king.

Which brings us to the next point …


Our community is made up of many individuals. Some are hobbyists, others work for companies within the Entertainment Lighting industry. When communicating with others, consider that your future employer may be reading what you type and forming an opinion about you. Heavy use of abbreviations (thx, pls, r u, etc.) will come across as immature. We don’t use that language in the workplace, so don’t use it here.

On Asking Questions

Let’s imagine you’re having a problem installing OLA. What do you do? Take a moment to think about it and write down your answer.

Now go and read this excellent essay by Eric S. Raymond on How to Ask Questions The Smart Way. Did you change your answer? If so, good, you’ve probably just avoided making a newbie mistake.

Project Ideas

Once you’re engaged with the community, fixing bugs, adding tests and generally showing us what an awesome programmer you are, it’s time to think about a project for the Summer. Take a look at our GSOC Ideas Page,  but feel free to suggest your own idea. Your applications should be as detailed as possible. Consider writing a mini design document separate from the propose where you can explain the problem you’re trying to solve and describe your proposed solution. The OLA Merging Algorithm design is a good example.

Think about what feature you would like to see. You’ll enjoy the summer much more if you work on something you’re passionate about.

The GSOC Challenge

We’ve posted a challenge for all students to complete. This allows us to evaluate your code and learn how you approach problems. If you’re already working on the OLA codebase by the time the applications open, you should find the challenge easy.

Consider Your Value

When you apply for a job, the employer is going to evaluate what value you’ll bring to the company. We do the same when considering the student applications. Mentoring takes a good deal of our time and our mentors have their own day jobs and want to continue contributing their own code to the Open Lighting Project.

Therefore, when considering which students to select students we think how will the Open Lighting Project as a whole be improved, if I spent my time this summer mentoring this student vs writing code myself. In in business this is known as force multiplication. Think about what you can do to tip the ratio in your favor.


Finally, Mark Atwood gave an excellent talk on How to get an Open Source Job. Everything he says is relevant to this project as well.

Hopefully this guide has given you some ideas on how to improve your chances of being selected. If you have any questions, join the IRC room and ask away. If you don’t get an answer immediately don’t despair, it may just be that everyone is either asleep or at work. Ask again at a different time.

Check back often, we’ll be updating this guide as we go.

Good luck !