How open source changed Google - and how Google changed open source

We chat to Google's head of open source software

Here's basically a very small nation, and if you look at it, there's a couple of universities that really glommed onto Summer of Code as a way of expanding their curriculum. Think about that. 79 Computer Science students in a small university in a small country in the midst of a civil war, all doing remarkable work. This is the promise of the internet and computer science made flesh.

LXF: Is that how you'd imagined Summer of Code to be?

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CDB: Not really. I don't want to portray myself as like a visionary. I never saw Summer of Code like that. I saw Summer of Code as a way that we could bring new people into open source. People we never would have seen before, because we were literally financing students so that they wouldn't have to go home and do something random that isn't Computer Science over the summer. So for me it was just a way of keeping computer scientists engaged for the summer and, hopefully, on open source.

And it turned into something much more than that. Something more revolutionary than that in my opinion, and that's really a testament to the open source teams that have shown up and mentored, and all the rest. Remember, for every open source developer in the Summer of Code, there's a mentor and a project. Without the mentors, it wouldn't work.

The only thing Summer of Code does, that's revolutionary… is it pairs up an experienced open source developer who's used to working remotely with other people with a neophyte developer. That's the remarkable thing because in the end that student can always go to their mentor and they can say, 'I'm having a problem.' Or the mentor can watch the incoming change list and say, "You're having a problem. If you do this and this, you're be doing good. If you do this and this, you're going to be doing bad." You don't even get that in most jobs!