HOWTO ment­or in the GSoC (ini­tial com­mu­nic­a­tion with the stu­dent)

Every ment­or in the GSoC has a dif­fer­ent way of hand­ling stu­dents. Here is what I do.

The stu­dent in­tro­duced him­self to me as re­ques­ted by our soc–ad­mins in the ini­tial mail to our stu­dents. He looked up in which timezone I am (pub­lic info) and presen­ted his timezone (and rough loc­a­tion) to me. That is nice. He also offered dif­fer­ent com­mu­nic­a­tion chan­nels (ba­sic­ally EMail and IM).

I con­firmed what he looked up, and presen­ted what I did in the past GSoC in which I par­ti­cip­ated so that he has an idea if am new to the game or not. I told him that quick/​short ques­tions are bet­ter asked via IM, while long ex­plan­a­tions or ques­tions are bet­ter handled via EMail. I also gave him a rough over­view when he can ex­pect quick an­swers from me and when I am not avail­able.

Fol­low­ing are some ques­tions I asked him, so that I get an im­pres­sion about what to ex­pect and that I can plan a bit (some of those may already be told in stu­dent ap­plic­a­tion, but I prefer to have everything in one place):

  • From when to when do you in­tent to spend how much time for the GSoC?
  • Any hol­i­days /​ non-​availability planned dur­ing the GSoC?
  • Any uni­ver­sity–stuff (exams/​lessons/​…) dur­ing this time (the uni has high­er pri­or­ity than the GSoC for Google)?
  • Any­thing else in par­al­lel of the GSoC (some paid work, tak­ing care about ill (grand-)parents, …)?
  • At what level of know­ledge do you see your­self re­gard­ing computer-​science/​programming/​OS-​concepts (re­l­at­ive to oth­er stu­dents and re­l­at­ive to the top­ic)?
  • How do you want to start about the pro­ject (where do you want to start, what do you in­tent to do… just a quick over­view… a bit more than say­ing “I add X”, but not as far as copy&paste of code ex­amples)?

More im­port­ant than that (IMO), is to give an idea what is ex­pec­ted from the stu­dent:

  • you have FreeBSD-cur­rent in­stalled (on a real PC or in a vir­tu­al ma­chine)
  • you give me a re­port about the status each week (“did noth­ing” is also a val­id re­port, it gives me the info that you are still alive and did not lose in­terest in the GSoC)
  • if your sched­ule changes in a sig­ni­fic­ant way, give me a little no­ti­fic­a­tion (e.g. “I can not do any­thing next week”)
  • if you spend more than 30 minutes with a prob­lem, pre­pare an email with the prob­lem de­scrip­tion; if this pre­par­a­tion did not solve your prob­lem, send me the mail (if you solve the prob­lem 5 minutes later, no prob­lem, I prefer to get a mail too much than to have you stuck with some­thing for an in­cred­ible amount of time)

A ment­or does not know everything, off course, so the stu­dent should be sub­scribed to hackers@ and current@, and if there is a spe­cif­ic list which matches good to the pro­ject he is work­ing on, then to this mail­ing list too. This al­lows the ment­or to tell the stu­dent to send a mail with the ques­tions to one of those lists without much pre­par­a­tion to re­ceive all an­swers.

An­oth­er help­ful re­source is the FreeBSD ker­nel cross-​reference. For some people my doxy­gen gen­er­ated docs of parts of the FreeBSD ker­nel may be help­ful (put un­for­tu­nately not a lot of doxy­gen-markup is with­in our source code).

I also told that he shall pre­pare him­self that I will ask him to send a ref­er­ence to a patch of his work long enough be­fore the GSoC ends to an ap­pro­pri­ate mail­ing list, and that com­ments from there re­gard­ing changes he must or shall do are not some­thing bad, but a way to im­prove the res­ult and/​or his skills.

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