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Re: my annual complaint

From: Kirill Kononenko
Subject: Re: my annual complaint
Date: Wed, 15 Apr 2009 10:01:12 +0400

I am sorry but when other competing organizations as us get a total of
60+ of slots, and have the same quality of code and work as us. There
is no reason I should think of mismanagement. That there are sponsored
by other companies that are friendly with Google  - yes. But
mismanagement, I am sorry it simply is not the correct word.

> I left out that host orgs are supposed to
> benefit from internship programs but not
> in terms of getting a windfall of cheap labor.
> Rather, they benefit because a good internship
> program helps the host organization to
> to better understand itself.  It's like holding
> up a very honest mirror in front of the host.
> It's a challenge to the hosts self-perception
> and pretensions.   It's challenging, and fun.
> At least back in the stone ages.
> -t
> On Tue, 2009-04-14 at 12:51 -0700, Thomas Lord wrote:
>> On Mon, 2009-04-13 at 21:32 +0200, address@hidden wrote:
>> > I don't agree with your negative asessment of the GSoC program on
>> > several grounds; but I do not really have time nor inclination to
>> > discuss this now.
>> That's fine.
>> > Regardless of that, there are two questions I'm going to ask you. First,
>> > do you really think that the GNU project can realistically gather the
>> > $50000 for a GSoC-like program? (Ignoring the various GNU projects
>> > participating as organisations on their own -- if you want all of these
>> > to go for an alternative program too, the sum required would be more
>> > like $300000 or so...)
>> I don't have a crystal ball so I can't tell.
>> All that could happen is to try.
>> $50,000 is less than 10% of what the FSF raised in
>> at least one recent year I checked.
>> $300,000 would represent a huge increase in
>> funds raised but I don't think it is the FSF's job
>> buy all of those other projects back from Google.
>> $50,000 is not an easy amount of money to raise, no
>> matter how you slice it but I would *guess* that
>> the FSF could do it *if* it prepared by articulating
>> a clear case for why it is desirable and what will
>> be done with the funds.
>> It would take some careful thought.  For example,
>> GSoC has the *practical* benefit of imposing
>> very little administrative cost on the FSF.  An
>> in-house program would consume extra resources.
>> By the way, what do you think of the format of
>> GSoC?  Is that the best way to do it?   Aside
>> from the Evils of Google generally and the
>> surveillance and viral marketing to students
>> specifically, the format is something else I don't
>> like about GSoC.   It is too easily gamed by those
>> in it for money rather than a good student experience.
>> Even for those in it for a good student experience
>> it is a lousy structure.
>> I think that students miss out by not taking an
>> internship in an actual workplace.  I think students
>> miss out by not having a larger number of older
>> people around keeping an eye on their experience.
>> I think when students go off the rails in a GSoC
>> project it is frustrating and tragic that they
>> aren't in an environment where people around them
>> can try to get them back on track.   Thinking back
>> to good internships I experienced when I was younger:
>> much of the value of the experience was outside the
>> main work whether it was socializing with more senior
>> people in the field, or talking "around the water cooler",
>> or joining a group to attend a lecture and discuss it
>> after - that kind of thing.   GSoC instead rewards
>> students for learning to be semi-anonymous worker
>> bees with an Internet API rather than well rounded
>> participants in an intimate professional culture.
>> > Second, do you really think that without the popularity of Google in
>> > general and GSoC in particular, we could find many good student
>> > candidates?
>> That would depend on what the FSF proposed to do with
>> the money (and on how well it advertised the opportunities).
>> > I know that for the Hurd at least, the GSoC project is *extremely*
>> > beneficial, and unless you can propose a realistic alternative, dropping
>> > out is indiscutable.
>> I guess that I'm old fashioned because where I
>> come from, way back in ancient history, what you
>> just said there is a sure sign of a very suspect
>> internship program.
>> The perfect summer internship gives the student
>> the opportunity, the tools, and access to the
>> teaching to *possibly* and *with a little luck*
>> accomplish something great.   The same internship
>> tries to put a little gentle pressure on the student
>> to work seriously and at least try to be useful.
>> But there are higher priorities than those:
>> A good internship program gives a student a chance
>> to begin to see and experience the profession they
>> are working towards and to understand it better
>> (something GSoC utterly fails at).
>> A good internship program gives a student a chance
>> to develop professionally and as a human being.
>> The very last thing one wants to hear about an
>> internship program - at least where I come from -
>> is that it is important to the success of the
>> project into which the student is hired.
>> It is supposed to be the student's chance to
>> shine, not a chance for the host project to form
>> a reliance on the student.
>> In fact, if a manager says "We don't have enough
>> workers here and we're almost out of budget.  Let's
>> ask the firm to give us a student intern," then
>> that is a red flag warning that (a) that manager
>> should not be allowed within 20 yards of a student
>> (b) that project is in trouble, quite possibly through
>> mis-management.
>> Where I come from, when people tell stories about
>> "internships from hell" the story often includes
>> elements about managers who decided to rely on interns
>> for something critical.
>> A good internship program is supposed to be a
>> professional duty (of the host organization) -
>> the main goal is to "pitch in" on education.
>> A good internship program is supposed to be a
>> way to share the wealth.  E.g., a successful
>> project has been coming in under budget or the
>> revenues from it are doing surprisingly well
>> so there's a choice:  give everyone a tiny bonus
>> or buy a nice pool table for the break room
>> or take everyone on a field trip to wine country
>> for a "team building retreat" (get drunk and have
>> fun) or ..... nah, let's host an internship.
>> Alice over there has a free enough schedule and
>> a good bs-cutting demeanor to be the student's
>> boss.  Bob, down the hall, has a couple of months
>> before his XYZZY project gets crazy busy and he's a
>> great teacher to stick his head in every now and
>> again.  4 of the folks on the team went to the
>> university down the street where we can recruit
>> so there's plenty of shared culture around.  The
>> student can minimally just help fix simple bugs
>> in the new FrooBaz driver but if they look like
>> they can handle it, give them a shot at the
>> SpingBrt module (and, if they blow it, Carol will
>> get to it in September).
>> I don't mean internships are supposed to be
>> ecstatic and painless experiences.  Not at all.
>> Perhaps the student will run afoul of Difficult
>> Dave who doesn't like anyone.  Maybe the student will
>> waste too much time listening to the ramblings of Eccentric
>> Elaine. Those are realistic working conditions
>> and in this case - the student's first exposure
>> to such things - there are other adults watching
>> out of the corners of their eye to give some
>> gentle guidance and help the student navigate.
>> None of that is present in the GSoC format.
>> Saying "project X will have trouble making progress
>> without the cheap labor of students" is pretty
>> much the opposite of what I think of as a good
>> internship program.
>> And what about reporting?   If there's to be
>> reporting to a third party about the performance
>> of an intern it's supposed to be (in the stone
>> age I come from, at least) to the teachers closest
>> to the student in the student's academic life -
>> teachers being the professionals in the situation
>> who are supposed to use those reports to the benefit
>> of the student.  How in god's name we get from there
>> to a system of reporting that amounts to tattling
>> to a prospective future employer is beyond me....
>> Hey, give a bad report about your student in GSoC
>> and, gee, maybe you're hurting their future employment
>> opportunities even though the real reason for the
>> fail was that the student's parents were going
>> through a messy divorce which you would have known
>> if you interacted with the student other than on the
>> "X-dev" mailing list.
>> I believe you when you say that asking the Hurd
>> project to not use GSoC is beyond discussion.
>> I'm sure it is.
>> That makes me sad.
>> I should just be resigned to it:  let's just
>> redefine our profession being a kind of anonymous
>> human-hosted web service with a mailing list
>> API that you feed in sub-market (and sub-living)
>> wages and get out needed code.
>> Maybe these kids are learning everything they
>> really need to know, after all.
>> -t
>> > -antrik-
>> >
>> >

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