The Google Summer of Code student application period wrapped up last week, and the overall number of applications is down from 2008. However, this is shaping up to be a good thing.
Googler Leslie Hawthorn blogged about the numbers, and noted that the number of proposals (nearly 5,900) is actually down from last year, but the quality is up:
We expected some decrease this year, as we heard from many of our mentoring organizations that past experience had helped them refine their application process and that they'd instituted new requirements for applicants, such as submitting a patch. A quick survey of our mentoring organizations, with 96 out of 150 organizations responding, revealed that 60% of organizations who had participated in past instances of Google Summer of Code received higher quality applications this year, with only 3% responding that application quality had decreased. We'd also heard that the number of completely untargeted applications this year decreased dramatically.
The 2008 SoC drew more than 7,000 applications -- so what happened this year? Better communication between mentoring organizations, stiffer requirements over 2008, and generally a stronger overall focus on quality over quantity. Many organizations even started to require a patch as part of the application process, which seems to have weeded out some of the "spam" applications.
Speaking for one of the mentoring organizations, the openSUSE Project had both: An increase in applications, and better applications overall. We had some great applications and projects in 2008, but the overall interest and participation seemed to pick up this year.
In part, I attribute this to better communication between the project and students. At least for openSUSE, I noticed an uptick in students seeking out mentors / potential mentors and discussing the applications with them.
And this is exactly what Summer of Code is really about: Getting students involved with FOSS projects and helping them be productive within those communities. Contrary to popular belief, Summer of Code isn't just about producing useful code -- the code that comes out of the program is a result of a successful collaboration between the student and project.