Feb 2024 - This site, and Kamaelia are being updated. There is significant work needed, and PRs are welcome.

Note, this page relates to the Kamaelia team's involvement with Google Summer of Code from 2006 through 2008. In particular this covered the summer of 2008. At this point this page is for historical interest.

Kamaelia Summer of Code Mentoring

Summer of Code landing page, ideas

Since we have external mentors this year with Kamaelia as part of summer of code (external to BBC research this is!). As a result, I think it would be good to discuss how we've handled mentoring in previous years. This has normally been part of a welcome to the project email, but it's worth pulling out.

We have one expectation regarding students which has to be adhered to - communication. Schedules and aspirations do not always match, and unforeseen problems can throw projects out of kilter.

The way we usually work therefore is as follows:

Better to think of this (your mentor) as "someone who's looking out for you" rather than "boss". Becomes even more obvious why micromanaging doesn't make sense with that description, but "boss" is a far shorter word, even if totally inaccurate!

There's various ways to view this, but the key one is this - consider if you were working on-site:

Generally speaking, mentors should be willing and able to answer questions when students ask them, but students have to be willing and able to accept that they might not get an instant answer. If they don't, repeating the question over email (over the public mailing lists) is important, since it captures the question and answer. (Much like in a busy office you could go over and ask someone a question and they might say not now, drop me a note and I'll get on it)

Put another way, mentors should consider students as equivalent to new colleagues who need help being shown the ropes, rather than people who need micro-managing. This will vary across the board from technical issues through to admin.

As a result having a variety of modes of communication is extremely useful, and provides good reasons for the students to raise and air issues without concern, and the same for mentors. IRC is a critical medium in making this work.

However at the end of the day, getting excited about your student's work and sharing in their successes, and assisting them towards that generally appears to be the only common success factor. You can only do that if there's sufficient communication going on, and if your student has communicated a clear vision of what they want to achieve.

If that is the case, then both student and mentor can often have a very enjoyable and successful summer.