Representing Drupal at the GSoC 2017 Mentor Summit


I've been mentoring students as part of Drupal's Google Summer of Code (GSoC) program for the last two years, where we guide students in working on Drupal projects over the summer. (For the projects I've been involved in, see User-friendly encryption now in Drupal 8! and Client-side encryption options now available in Drupal.) This year, our organization administrator, Matthew Lechleider, invited my to the Mentor Summit.

The Google-provided summit creates a forum for members of free/libre and open-source software (FLOSS) organizations to come together to discuss GSoC, mentoring and FLOSS in an unconference format. I met attendees from all over the world, who flew in from far-reaching places to interact as part of a wider community. Generally, two mentors are invited from each organization, but some had more and some had less.

I arrived late Friday night, having missed that day's introductory sessions due to some trouble at the US border. Historically, in my experience, we Canadians haven't had too much trouble getting across the border for technology conferences. This has recently changed so it's now necessary to provide proof of intent for being in the country (a signed invitation from the organizers) as well as proof of business activities (corporate and tax documents). Needless to say, all of this took a significant amount of time to prepare. Eventually though, I was allowed through and made my way to Sunnyvale, California.

On Saturday morning, the day started with Lightning Talks, where attendees gave presentations on their student projects having only a few minutes each to speak. There were so many presentations that it was necessary to split the session into two, continuing after dinner that same evening. While there were several interesting projects highlighted, the most interesting to me was Jitsi's speech-to-text service. Besides making video conferences accessible through textual media, it also allows for automated note-taking. This was one of the truly amazing projects completed by a student over the summer.

In talking about Drupal with other folks, I was surprised to hear that many other delegates do not have paying day jobs associated with their organizations. They work on these projects on the side, and generally don't get paid for them. For example, nobody in the Kodi contributor community gets paid; it's all volunteer work. While there are volunteer contributions to Drupal, many of those contributors eventually turn that knowledge into paid work. I suppose we're a lucky bunch, being able to work on an open-source project and get paid for it. And speaking of Kodi, I'm happy to report that they're using Drupal for their Web site!

There were quite a few conversations about messaging applications, with a large XMPP delegation. There were also folks from the Zulip and Rocket.Chat communities. It was interesting to hear from a former XMPP developer who's shifted completely to Matrix with the Riot client, exactly as I've done. I use that client and the federated protocol to bridge with other communications networks such as proprietary closed-source Slack and classic Internet Relay Chat (IRC) whenever possible. Matrix already integrates with these two protocols, and has built-in support. The goal is to eventually use only one messaging client, instead of the many applications we all have installed on all of our devices. Rocket.Chat has already started working on Matrix integration, while Zulip hasn't. They're open to it, and may move in this direction eventually, but for now they're focused on user-experience innovations. In the Drupal community, we've had a very long discussion about using Matrix for our communications alongside IRC, and have finally put a plan into place to make this happen. For those eager to jump in, it's now possible to use Matrix as an always-on IRC bouncer client to connect to Drupal's IRC channels for communication within the community. To sum up, it looks as though everything is moving towards Matrix.

Alongside Drupal, representatives from other content management systems (CMSes) also attended. There were folks from both the Joomla and Plone communities. It would have been great to connect with them, but I didn't get a chance. I was hoping that Airship would have representation as that crew has been doing a lot of excellent security work with PHP projects (including helping us), but they weren't in attendance.

All in all, it was an excellent conference. In my humble opinion, it's really important to stay in touch with this greater community, cross-pollinate with folks doing similar work in the public interest, and keep contributing!

This article, Representing Drupal at the GSoC 2017 Mentor Summit, appeared first on the Colan Schwartz Consulting Services blog.

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