How to Get a Head Start
The last thing you want is for the coding period to start and then realize that you don't have all the tools you need installed and configured to actually begin work. Don't let this happen to you! The community bonding period is the perfect time to get these things sorted out.
Get Your Development Environment in Order
Each project has a unique set of tools and packages required to work with developers. These often include:
- Language interpreter
- Text editor
- Version control system
- Modules and libraries needed by the software
- Database, mail or web server
- Real-time communication tool (e.g. irc client, instant messaging)
Some organizations require testing on multiple operating systems and/or platforms. Make sure you know what is expected of you as early as possible. Read the available development documentation and contact your mentor to figure out exactly what tools you need to succeed. Also learn the the bug-reporting process that your organization uses and also understand the the project's release management strategy.
Once you get your development environment setup start practicing! This includes getting familiar with the coding standards, codebase, and testing and documentation policies of the open source project community. Do a few practice commits and work on understanding how source control works within your project. Brush up on any new skills and start asking questions.
Do Some Background Research
Look through the projects bug database and read through the user list to understand your end users. Peruse the mailing list archives and go through the project's existing documentation.
Take advantage of the community bonding period to connect with your mentor, and other students in the program. Set up a blog, get involved on relevant forums and mailing lists and in general, start interacting with the development community. Make sure you have what you need to succeed, and if you don't, ask your mentor for help.
Start Working with Your Fellow Students
GSoC is not only about working with your mentor. There's this amazing group of outstanding and motivated students too.
Student mailing list
Google has a private mailing list for the GSoC students. Go ahead and introduce yourself on the student mailing list. Talk about your project ideas, get feedback on your proposal. The mailing list also has GSoC participants from earlier lists. Use the student mailing list as an additional resource. Your questions can be technical or non-technical. Of course, remember not to be a bullhorn and be mindful of the mailing list etiquette.
They're just like me!
There are many students who have faced or are facing the problems like you. Don't be scared to ask your questions. This is more true for the students who have been accepted to the same organizations as yours. You can ask them about how they got their dev setup working. Help each other out on the irc and mailing lists. Don't be afraid to ask and don't be afraid to answer!
Make friends around the world
GSoC is a great opportunity that helps people and communities collaborate across boundaries. Use this opportunity to learn more about diverse technologies and cultures and be respectful of the cultural differences.
Meetup and discussion groups
You can always find students who are excited by the same ideas as yours. Use your GSoC contacts to organize meetups and discussion groups. You can meet up with people who are. It's always good to put a face on the names that you've been friends with. Help each other out with coding problems.
Organize Student Chapters
You can even consider starting a local student chapter for your community if you can find enough interested people. It's a great way of socializing, making and keeping new friends and also spreading word about your community, open source and GSoC.
Review Your Project Plan
Do you have a good project schedule? Have you informed your mentor of any planned absences? Make any project adjustments you may now recognize as necessary based upon getting your dev environment setup and your new understanding of how the project works.