GSoC 2013 application
Octave's application for GSoC 2013.
GNU Octave (http://www.gnu.org/software/octave/) is a free numerical computing environment largely compatible with Matlab. It is an old project, started in 1992 by John W. Eaton and used by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide as a free alternative to Matlab.
GNU Octave has an extensive core of functions useful for numerical computations in several fields, such as numerical analysis, optimisation, signal and image processing, and control theory. Its sister project, Octave Forge (http://octave.sourceforge.net/), helps in speeding up development, increase user contributions and test code before it is included in GNU Octave's core set of functions.
Organization home page url
Main organization license
If you chose "veteran" in the dropdown above, please summarize your involvement and the successes and challenges of your participation. Please also list your pass/fail rate for each year.
If you chose "new" in the dropdown above, have you applied in the past? If so, for what year(s)?
Yes, in 2012. We participated during 2011 and 2012 under GNU. Additionally, in 2012, we also mentored two students under European Space Agency (ESA) Summer of Code in Space (http://sophia.estec.esa.int/socis2012/).
Why is your organization applying to participate in Google Summer of Code 2013? What do you hope to gain by participating?
Octave has participated during the last two years with four students under the auspices of the GNU project. Due to the success of those experiences, where many members of the Octave community helped mentor the student, we are trying again.
We hope to get good code from interested students and ideally establish a line of collaboration with them for the future. We also want to raise awareness of Octave amongst the free software community.
Google Summer of Code represents a unique opportunity to pump up work into highly needed low level improvements to Octave, as well as high level field-specific functionality. We believe the interaction with fresh minds will bring not only new code to Octave but also will augment the developers group.
Did your organization participate in past Google Summer of Codes? If so, please summarize your involvement and the successes and challenges of your participation.
Yes, during 2011 and 2012, under the GNU umbrella. Four students have successfully completed projects for us in the past, all of which is live and in our main source tree. In addition, we mentored two students in 2012 through the European's Space Agency independent Summer of Code In Space.
The challenges have been about managing very diverse problem domains and finding people who are competent in all of them. We have not had trouble keeping students interested, although we have seen lulls in their productive output a few times, which were always thankfully remedied with a little prodding.
What is the URL for your Ideas page?
What is the main development mailing list for your organization?
What is the main IRC channel for your organization?
#octave in Freenode
What criteria did you use to select your mentors for this year's program? Please be as specific as possible.
Every single project includes at least one core Octave developer as mentor. These are proved, veteran members of the project, active on its development, and familiar with the code base.
But GNU Octave is a project with applications in very diverse domains so each project also includes mentors with expertise in the related field. All of these have previously contributed with code, have commit access to either Octave or Octave Forge source tree, and are active in the mailing lists. Most also keep a constant presence in the IRC channel.
What is your plan for dealing with disappearing students?
First, make all reasonable efforts to accommodate the student and make them feel welcome. Frequent contact with the student, prompt response to student queries, periodic status reports from mentors about the contact of the student. Also encourage the student to participate in the public mailing list and IRC channel, with or without mentor. Their progress should be regularly applied to our source tree, if necessary, in a feature branch. All of these have shown to be effective with all students in previous years.
Should this fail and the student disappears for unforeseen reasons (which we hope will be very unlikely, since it has never happened before and nobody vanishes without good reason), make reasonable attempts to contact them via alternative channels up to a private phone number. If more than 2 weeks have passed without a response, we will analyse the code submitted thus far, and prepare it for integration into our source tree.
What is your plan for dealing with disappearing mentors?
Distribute the workload amongst the remaining mentors. The mailing list is active enough and questions almost never go unanswered. Reassign the student to a backup mentor. In the worst case, the project admin can become a mentor for the student until another backup mentor is found.
This should be infrequent and we hope to prevent this to begin with by selecting mentors with proven involvement in Octave or other free projects. We are also pairing new mentors with older ones.
What steps will you take to encourage students to interact with your project's community before and during the program?
Invite them to IRC, be nice and friendly. Set clear expectations on the minimum frequency of email progress updates of every two to three days. Longer updates, should be done on a blog and aggregated at http://planet.octave.org.
Everything should be completely open. Almost all interactions with the student should be public, e.g. contacting the mentor should happen in the public IRC channel or CC'ing the maintainers mailing list.
For some projects, there may be way to bridge them directly into industry projects. We hope that we can increase the student's participation this way.
What will you do to encourage that your accepted students stick with the project after Google Summer of Code concludes?
We will constantly merge their code into our codebase, and GNU Octave is a project with many test users that give constant feedback on new features and bug reports. We will forward these to the students so they get the feeling of doing something that is being used by others, and that is useful to the community from the very start.
In addition, students are likely required to use Octave during their academic year and even during their professional careers. As such, they are prone to stay involved with its development, even if at a lower lever than during the summer.
Are you a new organization who has a Googler or other organization to vouch for you? If so, please list their name(s) here.
Yes, GNU can vouch for us.
Are you an established or larger organization who would like to vouch for a new organization applying this year? If so, please list their name(s) here.