“The same procedure as last year, Ms. Sophie?” – “The same procedure as every year, James!” – at least when summer is coming, every year Google starts its “Google Summer of Code” (GSoC). This contest is a yearly event since 2005. Wikipedia states:
The Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is an annual program, first held from May to August 2005, in which Google awards stipends (of 5,000 USD, as of 2013) to hundreds of students who successfully complete a requested free and open-source software coding project during the summer. The program is open to students aged 18 or over – the closely related Google Code-In is intended for students under the age of 18.
The program invites students who meet their eligibility criteria to post applications that detail the software-coding project they wish to perform. These applications are then evaluated by the corresponding mentoring organization. Every participating organization must provide mentors for each of the project ideas received, if the organization is of the opinion that the project would benefit from them. The mentors then rank the applications and decide among themselves which proposals to accept. Google then decides how many projects each organization gets, and asks the organizations to mark at most that many projects accordingly.
Sounds nice, eh? Submit a nice project, do some cool coding and get 5000.- US-$ for having some sort of fun!
While writing Open Source software (FLOSS/Libre Software), often there’s no money it. It’s an honory task, just for the benefit of creating a better world. A little bit, at least. Doing some coding on FLOSS and getting paid is great, eh?
But think twice! Maybe Google is not that friendly company it always states that it is? In the first place Google is a company and wants to earn money. And it has a mantra: “Don’t be evil!” But the companys main purpose is to earn money and it will do anything to achieve this.
Think of GSoC as a cheap marketing project for Google. A contest for whitewashing Googles image. They can say: “hey, look! We are supporting the FLOSS community! We are not evil!” And you can look at GSoC as a cheap recruitment program for Google. Overall it appears that Google has a bigger benefit from GSoC than the participants as a single or than FLOSS community as a whole. There is a danger that the community gets pocketed by Google instead of enforcing the FLOSS standards and being as independant as possible.
Sure, you need to pay bills, get something to eat and so on, but do you really want to help Google to whitewash its image as a monopolistic company? Or would it be worth to try out some sort of crowd funding when you have a great idea for a program you want to write?