Hey! I was a student at City College of San Francisco and made a post a few months ago thanking Open Hatch for their effort in enabling us put on our third epic Open Source Comes to Campus event.

With college being in recess for summer, I finally got to finish a summation on various experiences, thoughts and facts that I and my co-organizers had. I hope what’s below the cut will help future student organizers be prepared and current Open Hatch contributors become aware of what some student organizers are experiencing in the field.
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Thank you, from City College of San Francisco

by Tyler Brothers March 31st, 2015

Recently, the Coders Club coordinated with Open Hatch to bring the awesome Open Source Comes to Campus event to City College of San Francisco. With the amazing Asheesh Laroia at the helm and awesome bay area mentors at his side, the eight hour long workshop ended with the attendee’s intrigued and eager for more.

Mentor helping students get started contributing

Photo taken by Alan Martinez. See more photos on the Coders Club Facebook page.

All of us were appreciative of what Open Hatch and the mentors had done for us and City College, and some of us were motivated to put together a thank you letter. Below you’ll find a poem and some quotes from the attendees about their experience that’ll hopefully make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Words are Not Enough

a poem for those who inspire us

Though our time together was short,

Students helping each other solve a difficult problem.

your impact is strong.
We were set in motion,
by your great notions.

Our minds grew twice the size,
and our smiles: the cheshire cat’s.
Our bright eyes
and eager determination
were given rise
by your foundation.

So thank you OpenHatch,
for brewing this batch;
a expertly crafted brew
of lesson plan and presentation
that affected this generation.

I don’t think anyone knew
just what each could do,
so lets take a pause
and for all of us:
applause


Here are what some of the student attendee’s said about the event.

“Before open hatch I had doubts about picking CS as a major or a minor or just continue learning it in general. After the event I have decided to study computer science in greater depth.

Mentors did an amazing job. They were patient and nice and answered pretty much every one of my stupid questions. It was very interesting and inspiring to listen to each story. All in all, I couldn’t have spend that Saturday better.”

– Siuzanna Arutiunova, City College of San Francisco Student

“I was talking with a mentor about my uncertainty on choosing the computer science major. The mentor was kind enough to let me meet her for lunch and see what she does as a programmer! Thanks OpenHatch for such an excellent opportunity!”

– OpenHatch Attendee and City College of San Francisco student.

“OpenHatch enabled me to make real more of what I want to see in my college: the importance and relevance of open source ideology, industry best practices for working on real open source projects and a fun, free and safe environment for beginners of any background.

Mentors: it would not be half of what it was without you!”

– Tyler Brothers, Coders Club member

So thanks again, Open Hatch and mentors. What you all do is special and means a lot to all of us.

Sincerely,

The Open Source Attendee’s,
CCSF Coders Club,
and City College of San Francisco.

How Did We Do? Part I

by Shauna February 8th, 2015
Some goals on a field.

Goooals. Photo CC-BY-SA by Thomas Leth-Olsen.

A year ago I wrote a post titled ‘Goals for Open Source Comes to Campus in 2014’. This is the first of the promised posts – let’s review how well we met our goals, to help us better reach our goals for next year!

Goal #1: Increase the number of Open Source Comes to Campus events, and make them easier for others to run.

We wanted to grow our community by making our events easier to run, with less hands-on help from Asheesh and myself. I picked four concrete goals to help us measure that.

Number of events: We hope to double the number of Open Source Comes to Campus events, from 12 in 2013 to 24 in 2014.

Result: Exceeded! We ran 26 Open Source Comes to Campus events this year. You can see the full list here.

Feedback from events: For each event, we will elicit feedback in the form of surveys from students and mentors, and have debriefings with organizers. We hope to see a positive trend in the surveys. A positive trend would be an improvement of the average rating by 1 point or more (on a scale of 1-4).

Result: It turns out that it’s very hard to get people to fill out surveys. Across our 26 events, we collected 41 survey responses, which is unlikely to be a representative sample of our attendees, nor can it tell us much about trends. We’re still working on a way to get the sort of concrete feedback we’d like to have. If you’d like to get involved in that discussion, join us here.

Even if we had gotten a higher response rate, we’d have trouble measuring our success. Why? We didn’t ask for ratings of the overall event, only of the individual activities. Nor did we ask before and after questions using sign-ups. As a former research psychologist, I’m kind of embarrassed to be writing out this section.

But we did get some informal feedback. Let’s take a look.

We asked students to tell us their favorite and least favorite things about the event. Some sample responses (most people wanted to remain anonymous):

Favorite things:

“I loved being able to make my first contribution. I also thought the career panel was very informative.”

“My favorite thing was getting to make the small fixes in the first activity where we first learned how to use open source.”

“In our contributions workshop, we got the chance to talk to a data analyst about his work which was really cool!”

“I liked the in-depth tutorial on how to work on Github. I couldn’t figure it out on my own before.”

“Being able to contribute. Career panel. Just having someone around who I can ask questions.” ~ Chris Garry

“My favorite thing about the event was being able to speak to the mentors and gain insight from them. I enjoyed being able to speak to them and hearing their experiences. “

Least favorite things:

“There were not a lot of instructions going into the Contribution part. This makes sense to the extent that each project and bug have their particular niche, but it made for a challenging activity.”

“Not getting a broader introduction to the mentors. Maybe an online portfolio page for mentors so when we are done talking to couple of mentors, we can figure out what to do next since we might have forgotten what other mentors did by then.”

“I was a little frustrated with how long the workshop lasted. It was a lot of info.”

“It was somehow fast when we started with ‘git’ especially for newbie like me. But I’ve got help and everything went great.”

“My least favorite thing about the event is that I did not have much experience with the languages that the projects on github used, so it was difficult for me to try to find a way to contribute.”

And then, to end on a nicer note, some more favorite things:

“The workshop was a great introduction to an intimidating field. I learned a lot, and got to interact with many other talented developers. I enjoyed working with other people that were also new to open source software, and felt like I was actually making a difference.” ~ Armand Halbert

“I really enjoyed the contributions workshop, as it gave me both some technical insight into projects I’m interested in, and gave me some information on how to go about contributing to projects.”

“Get to know people, to know how to use githhub, basically everything was great.”

Hands-off events: We plan to run at least one event with minimal-to-no involvement on the part of OpenHatch organizers. We hope our surveys show that these events are just as successful as those we have a more active role in.

“Hands-off” turns out to be an ambiguous term. Predictably, repeat events tended to be more independent than first time events, but we ended up being somewhat involved in every single event. This is fine by us. Our goal is to empower others to run open source outreach events, not to never attend their events or offer advice.

The closest we got to satisfying these goals were likely our repeat events at the University of Minnesota Morris (September 13th) and City College of San Francisco (March 22nd, September 13th). Experienced and highly capable local organizers Elena Machkasova (Morris) and Katherine Moloney (CCSF), along with new student organizers at both schools, did the vast majority of work in making these events a success.

Given our lack of survey data, we can’t really compare among events, though we did get a lot of great informal feedback about both events. It’s also worth noting that CCSF is continuing to run events every six months, while Morris plans to repeat yearly.

Repeated events: It’s as good a sign as you can get when organizers want to run more events. We’re hoping to run at least six repeat events this year, and for at least half our event organizers in 2014 to express interest in a repeat event.

Finally, something easy to tally!

Repeat events from previous years: 9

UMass-Amherst, City College of San Francisco (twice), George Mason University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota at Morris, Indiana University at Bloomington, Columbia University, and Princeton University.

New events this year: 15

University of Arizona, SUNY Stony Brook, Northeastern Illinois University*, Hartnell College, University of California-Davis, Claremont Graduate University, De Paul University*, University of Victoria, Bucknell University, Cornell University, Swarthmore College, University of Washington, University of California Berkeley, Baruch College, and Per Scholas.

Repeat events this year: 2

Special shout out to Hartnell College & SUNY Stony Brook, which held events for the first time in the spring, and did follow up events in the fall.

* It’s worth pointing out that our events at UIUC last year, and at NEIU and DePaul this year, included many of the same mentors and organizers. Just because they haven’t repeated schools yet doesn’t mean there’s not an active community!

Most organizers have expressed interest in follow-up events. Of the 24 schools we ran events at last year, twelve are currently planning to run new events with us this upcoming semester, with at least six others interested but still deciding or waiting until the fall. This surpasses our goal of “at least half” of schools expressing interest in repeating.

Summary

We easily met our goals for both the number of events we ran (26) and the number of schools expressing interest in repeating (17). We also met our goal of having at least one event run mostly independently. Our biggest issue was eliciting feedback from attendees and organizers about the success of our events. Fixing this will be one of our goals going forward.

A Semester of Events

by Shauna January 14th, 2015

(17 of them!)

Last fall, we ran seventeen events at campuses around the country, reaching hundreds of students and making abundant contributions and connections. Here’s a whirlwind tour of our semester:

September

University of Minnesota at Morris

Students and volunteers at Open Source Comes to Campus: Morris.

Photo by Noah Keitel.

On Saturday, September 13th, faculty, staff and other volunteers led by student organizers Thomas Harren, Chase Ottomoeller, Alex Widdel, and faculty Elena Machkasova ran their second Open Source Comes to Campus event. They followed up on an amazing first workshop last fall with another successful event! Volunteer mentors Jim Hall and Noah Keitel each wrote blog posts describing the event.

Noah writes:

Our group of students and mentors worked and learned together as we went. We were able to get the drone to takeoff, and land by mapping keys to functions in our controller, which in turn called the service which other students had worked on… We were just about to fix a few bugs to get the ARDrone to respond to forward, back, left and right when we ran out of time. But luckily, this is all open source code on github, so we can keep working together to tackle some of these bugs!

Jim describes his experience:

With help from Emily, Josh, and Alek, we migrated old web pages into the FreeDOS Wiki. The overall project to convert old content will take weeks or months, and this workshop provided a great kick-off for our documentation clean-up efforts… Daniel refactored the web code for the FreeDOS News page, which also feeds the news items on the FreeDOS website… Other groups provided improvements to a free Senet board game and to a drone control system.

I am proud to have been a mentor for this event. What a great way to help students and to serve the campus! I look forward to next year’s event!

We’re looking forward to it too, Jim!

City College of San Francisco

Students at CCSF event, September 2014

Photo by Alan Martinez

This September, the CCSF Coders Club held their third Open Source Comes to Campus event, led by rockstar organizer Katherine Moloney. Attendee and photographer Alan Martinez writes:

I learned a little more about GitHub at this event and have gained more confidence in collaborating, forking and cloning a repository, making changes locally and making a pull request. For those that are new to Git or GitHub this is a great workshop.

You can see the pictures that Alan took here!

October

DePaul University

Picture by Shamil Clay

Photo by Shamil Clay

Although this was DePaul University’s first Open Source Comes to Campus event, it was not our first collaboration with Chicago’s wonderful open source community. Several of this event’s volunteers, including lead organizer Sheila Miguez, helped with previous events at UIC and NEIU.

Enthusiastic attendees took to twitter to let us know they were enjoying the event:

Claremont Graduate University

April Moreno and the CGU GIS club put together a great event with an Open GIS theme. They were helped by longtime OpenHatch volunteer Carol Willing, who led the day’s tutorials, PyLadies Los Angeles organizer Esther Nam, who helped teach tutorial breakouts, and Camille Teicheira, who helped students contribute to OpenStreetMap remotely from San Francisco! April writes:

“Attendees were particularly impressed with the local tech community and with the community participation. Inviting external participants turned out to be a great idea.”

Bucknell University

Picture by Li Li

Picture by Li Li

Student organizers Melissa Rios, Li Li, Tung Phan, Colin Heinzmann, Son Pham, and Aleks Antonov are working hard to build an interdisciplinary learning community at Bucknell University. Their hard work as they planned this event made their passion for open source software and foundational technology clear. If you’re an innovator, entrepreneur, or open source aficionado near Lewisburg, PA, get in touch and we can continue to grow a community together.

University of Victoria

Picture by Shamil Clay

At the University of Victoria in October we had two firsts: our first ever non-US event, and our first event focused on a specific project: Mozilla Webmaker. The event was hosted by University of Victoria’s Women in Engineering and Computer Science and Computer Science Course Union, sponsored by Mozilla, and led by Mozilla community builder Emma Irwin.

Emma wrote about her experience:

I was surprised to learn that FOSS contribution is really just ‘skimmed’ over in computer science classes, and so I’m hopeful that events like this can eventually lead to a re-visit of curriculum in higher ed. To that end, I have some personal goals around the Web Literacy Map and running events that focus on contributing to Mozilla. Here are a few of the literacies we covered: Community Participation Collaboration Open Practices Coding/Scripting Infrastructure

Remote volunteer Errietta Kostala also posted:

Technology made giving the talk remotely remarkably easy, and there weren’t many surprises! I started by helping out over Skype: Emma had hooked her screen up in a projector and I could talk and share my screen with Skype’s screen sharing feature. I said a few short words about IRC and then jumped straight into demonstrating how to use a client and get on freenode’s #openhatch and moznet’s #introduction and #webmaker. Later on, students were encouraged to ask any Webmaker questions in the #webmaker channel were me and other contributors could help them out. I answered some of their questions and worked with them and had lots of fun. Overall, it was an awesome day/night both for me and the students, and I certainly hope to see them in #webmaker again contributing and having more questions!

November

Indiana University at Bloomington

Picture by Jessie Pusateri

Photo by Ruth Fraser

Last fall, when we travelled to Bloomington to run our first Open Source Comes to Campus event there, Jessie Pusateri was one of our most enthusiastic students. One year later, she stepped into the shoes of last year’s host Lindsay Kuper and pulled together an amazing event! The growing open source communtiy at IUB plans to continue running Open Source Comes to Campus workshops.

You can see photos from the event here.

Swarthmore College

pe_swarthmore

Swarthmore College’s Women in Computer Science, led by Rachel Stein, Shawn Pan, Jocelyn Adams and Meiri Anto, put together a great first event this fall, with mentors and students coming from around the Philadelphia area. One student enthused:

In our contributions workshop, we got a chance to talk to a data analyst about his work which was really cool!”

You can see photos from the event here.

Columbia University

pe_columbia2

The Application Development Initiative, led by Nate Brennand, ran their second Open Source Comes to Campus event in November, following up on a successful event last fall. One student tweeted:

Cornell University

pe_cornell

Women in Computing at Cornell, led by Jisha Kambo and Susan Chiang, ran their first Open Source Comes to Campus event, a loosely structured three hour event with a mix of tutorials and hacking on projects. One student wrote that he values “the freedom to be creative that comes with open source and learning about how to collaborate with a large community”, while others wrote that they enjoyed “Getting feedback from people moderating projects”, “realizing that Git could be used outside of CS” and “submitting a patch to ruby”. The main critique? Not enough time to work on projects and get to know the amazing mentors. We look forward to fixing that with another, longer event!

Pictures from the event can be viewed here.

Hartnell College

Hartnell College ran two events this year, thanks to the expertise and enthusiasm of their Computer Science Education Coordinator, Katie Cunningham. This time, returning students were able to jump right in to contributing, while newcomers went through our series of presentations and hands on activities. More than any individual activity, though, the students really appreciated talking to the volunteer mentors. One student wrote:

My favorite thing about the event was being able to speak to the mentors and gain insight from them. I enjoyed being able to speak to them and hearing their experiences.”

A few weeks later, Katie arranged a short, casual follow-up event, where mentors helped students follow up with the contributions they’d been work on remotely via IRC. This was a definite success, and we’ll be encouraging other schools to follow Hartnell’s example.

You can see pictures from the event here.

University of Washington

Thanks to organizers Ben Marwick, Mako Hill, Ana Malgon, and Allan Ecker, mentors Darius Jazayeri, Jacob Vanderplas, Thomas Levine, Frances Hocutt, Venkatesh Srinivas, Kai Yang, Bryan Newbold, Jonathan Griffin, and to the generous sponsorship of the eScience Institute, the University of Washington boasted a well-attended first Open Source Comes to Campus event this fall.

University of California at Berkeley

Berkeley also ran their first Open Source Comes to Campus event this fall. Organized by James Maa and Alex Yang of Hackers at Berkeley and sponsored by Red Hat, the event drew mentors from all around Berkeley’s vibrant open source community. Featured projects included iPython, Peer Library, Oppia, and BOINC, the software and community behind SETI@Home. You can see photos from the event here.

Baruch College

I went to Baruch College in November to lead a short event similar to last spring’s Stony Brook event. This informal event, pulled together by Kannan Mohan, was smaller but still enthusiastically received, and we’re planning to do another event in the spring.

SUNY Stony Brook

Speaking of Stony Brook, student organizer Hanne Paine ran a follow up event with them this fall. We had difficulty finding enough mentors for the event, and ended up doing a shortened version that focused on a remote career panel and making changes over IRC. We’ll try again in the spring, hopefully at a better time for New York area open source enthusiasts.

Per Scholas

Photo by Jerome Dazzell

I also visited Per Scholas, at the invitation of organizers Sarah Conte and Jerome Dazzell. Jerome writes:

An amazing opportunity for our software testing class, where students gained a deeper understanding of open source software, projects, products and tools that foster open source collaboration, prototyping and community development.

Students with a programming and non-programming equally benefited from the workshop. Much of the internet is built on many open source technologies and the OpenHatch workshop did a fantastic job of tying it altogether.

Per Scholas’ cohort structure encourages a well-bonded and welcoming community, which in turn fostered a wide-ranging discussion on community norms, learning styles, motivations for contributing to open source, and more. Add to that a whirlwind tour of IRC, issue trackers, and submitting pull requests on github, and it’s no surprise we ran over our short event time slot. We’ll be back at Per Scholas this spring.

Princeton University

 Photo by Katherine Ye

Photo by Katherine Ye

Open Source at Princeton’s Katherine Ye, Lisha Ruan, Valerie Morin, Catherine Wu, Diana Liao and Annie Chu followed up on their event last fall with another successful event. With the local Drupal meetup and Two Sigma providing several mentors, there were plenty of projects to work on and a growing open source community at the school for students to become a part of. More than two thirds of students said they planned to continue contributing on the exit survey. One student wrote: “The people were very patient and helpful to me when I would get stuck and they did a great job helping through the processes” while another talked about “the fact that beginners were welcome with a very down to earth approach to GitHub”.

Drupal contributer and mentor at the event, Peter Wolanin, reports that three patches from students were eventually accepted into Drupal core: one, two, and three!

Looking Forward

We can’t wait to return to the schools above. We’ve learned so many lessons from our events this fall, and gotten to participate in so many wonderful open source communities, both fledgling and robust. But we’re also looking forward to going to new schools, too!

Interested in hosting an Open Source Comes to Campus event? Email us at hello@openhatch.org, or suggest an event on our new forums.

Teaching Open Source at UC Davis

by Shauna June 8th, 2014

Students at UC Davis

On Saturday, May 10th, we held our twenty-seventh Open Source Comes to Campus event at the University of California-Davis.  The event was organized by the Davis Computer Science Club and sponsored by Rackspace.  Many thanks to our amazing mentors: Thomas Kluyver, Britta GustafsonCharlyn Gonda, Conrad Fay, Kevin Liu, Michael Seydel, Jackie Zhang, Timothy Tong, Alex Mandel, Mike Covington and Asheesh Laroia.

At the event, we used the Software Carpentry sticky-note method for gathering feedback.  We asked students to tell us one thing they learned and/or enjoyed, and one thing we could improve on.

Sticky Notes at UC Davis

What Students Learned

Many students talked about the open source tools they used at the workshop:

* How to use git; Install IRC; Learn some commands
* GitHub. How to pick a project.
* Learned more git!
* I learned how to use IRC chat.
* I learned that you can tag git commits and use them to reference commits.
* IRC. Never used it before, and it looks like there are awesome channels for webdev.
* I learned about git revert, and how totally kick ass it is.
* I learned how to use git better.
* Learned how to navigate git.
* What branching in git actually is.
* How to collaborate using git.
* Git.
* How to use git; how open source software works.
* I learned how to set up git, and get little familiar of open source project.
* Git commands.
* Awesome way of interacting with tools while listening to lecture.

A couple of students mentioned types of open source projects they were excited to learn about:

* Open source possibilities for designers.
* Open source can be used for good (humanitarian projects)!

Others learned about how to find open source projects and get involved with them:

* Learned: how to get involved with open source projects by Googling information about the project and lurking the repository for information.
* How to properly find open source projects.
* I learned how to find projects to work on.
* I learned a process to start on open source projects.
* How easy it is to search for projects and find important contacts.
* Learned how to gain credibility.
* Learned how to gain exposure in open source projects.
* Found some cool open source projects that relate to my interests.
* I get to know more about open source projects! Found some cool projects and want to try to explore them. 🙂 Thank you!

And others learned about open source generally:

* How many open source projects are out there.
* How open source projects work.
* Open source is actually a big thing.
* Open source/free software doesn’t necessarily mean free as in $0.00, but it means that the source code is freely available to the public & changes can be made.

More students at UC Davis

Things To Improve

Some students felt that the event didn’t challenge them or teach them anything new:

* I only learned about the /me command in IRC. Too easy. 🙁
* Too easy. 🙁 Since this was tailored to CS students, the materials should be a little more intermediate.

While another would have liked more preparation:
* Learning the basics of git beforehand!
A couple students asked for more examples and demos:

* run through an example open source project we edit.
* Thanks for holding this workshop. If you could have a project demonstration set up and we can see how it is edited, that would be great.

Some students wanted more explanation for why open source is relevant:
* Maybe explain how this is important in today’s world. Make this event accessible to everyone on campus.
* Question: How has open source been profitable to developers when people are able to download it?
* Maybe give some extra info about why open source is good, why we should open source code.
And there were some logistical issues, which we’ll keep an eye out for next time:

* Sound system for louder speaker.
* Have donuts and coffee at the time mentioned.
* Organization of the event should be better. We had no schedule. We did not know what to expect, when the breaks are, are there breaks? Lunch at 1 pm is too late.

Finally, some folks had suggestions for improving the curriculum:

* Want to learn about how people contribute to Python.
* Workflow to using git and GitHub
* Like to learn more about popular tools.
* Suggestion: during the git portion, explain what each command is for more thoroughly.
* OpenHatch: who are you? You never explained! How to get involved in projects other than finding bugs? What was the point of git exercise? It did not make sense. Also without looking at the hint, it was not clear at all.

event more students at UC Davis

We highly recommend the sticky note method!  We’ve had very little luck getting students to fill out exit surveys.  Writing some short, anonymous notes seems like a much better way of learning how your event went and what you can do better.  Thanks, Davis attendees!

I spent weeks going back and forth with Hanne Paine, a student and open source enthusiast at SUNY Stony Brook. For every date she suggested, we already had an event planned. Finally, we decided to wait until the fall to hold a full workshop.  I felt badly, though. I knew I’d be passing through New York City in April, right around the dates she’d been pushing for. “How about I just stop by for a couple hours on a week night and do a short intro presentation?”

It was a low muss, low fuss affair. Hanne arranged for a room and some pizza. I asked OpenHatch volunteer and Wikimedian Sumana Harihareswara to attend the event with me, and we figured out the curriculum on the train ride over. Hanne greeted us when we got to campus about ten minutes before the event was scheduled to start. “How’s it looking?” we asked.

Hanne smiled. “We have over 90 sign ups.”

a large crowd of attendees at Stony Brook event

Of the 90 signups, 75+ attended. This was more than we had seats for, and many students ended up sitting in the aisles and on the floor in the front of the room.  It was also a 40 to 1 student to mentor ratio – by far the highest we’ve ever had.

I wasn’t worried. We’ve designed the OpenHatch curriculum to work well with any size group. Many of the small group activities can easily be turned into pair programming (or pair brainstorming, or pair researching) exercises. I presented our “Intro to Free and Open Source Software” and our “Communications Tools” activities to students, who worked together and helped each other. Thanks to the Software Carpentry sticky-note method, Sumana and I were able to more easily find students who were really stuck.

two students work on an activity at Stony Brook event

After the communications tools activities, Sumana presented on learning styles. Drawing on the work of Mel Chua, she talked about the different ways that people learn and how certain kinds of learners might have special difficulty contributing to open source. Both Sumana and I have seen many a newcomer to open source assume that it’s their fault they’re not able to complete a task or understand a concept. Sumana discussed ways to overcome these issues, and the need for a diversity of learners in open source.

The final element of the evening was a career panel, where students asked question of Sumana, Red Hat’s Marina Zhurakhinskaya, and Mozilla’s Gregg Lind. Due to technical difficulties, it ended up being an IRC-based chat instead of a video discussion. Students asked a variety of questions, both expected (“How do you get paid?”) and unexpected (“How does open licensing work?”).

students at Stony Brook event

Takeaways

  • It’s not clear whether SUNY Stony Brook is an unusually great place for open source outreach, or if the nature of the shorter event attracted more people. Regardless, it was definitely the most impact we’ve had for the least amount of effort. We’re hoping to use this model for schools that can’t support a longer workshop, or as a “teaser” for communities that are not yet ready for a full Open Source Comes to Campus event.
  • Although these events can run with a small number of volunteers, it’s clear that those volunteers need to be trained and prepared. If you’re interested in leading a short event at a college – or other community group – near you, please contact us, and we’ll give you the support and training you’ll need to pull this off.
  • The difficulty scheduling a weekend event at Stony Brook has also pushed us to try running simultaneous events. This has by and large been successful, and something we’re planning to adopt going forward. More in a later post!

Thanks to Hanne Paine for organizing this event, to Sumana Harihareswara for helping present, and to Marina Zhurakhinskaya and Gregg Lind for joining us on the career panel. We can’t wait to return to Stony Brook in the fall!

laughing student at Stony Brook event

Open Source Comes to Princeton

by Katherine May 5th, 2014

poster for Princeton workshop

On November 24, Open Source at Princeton helped run an Open Source Comes to Campus event with OpenHatch. (Warning: the word “open” will occur very often in this post.) OpenHatch is a non-profit dedicated to matching prospective free software contributors with communities, tools, and education. They provide online tools for new contributors and organize and support outreach events. Open Source Comes to Campus is a one-day workshop to teach the tools and culture of open source development and to help students make contributions to real projects. Groups at 21 schools have run this event, including 10 women-in-CS organizations.

We were super excited to run this event, and it seems that people were as excited to attend—we received 80 sign-ups, of which about 40 people showed up. Here’s how it went.

students at Princeton workshop

The schedule

The workshop was held on a Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. You can see the schedule here. Sumana Harihareswara, our wonderful speaker from the Wikimedia Foundation and Hacker School, delivered the introduction to open source communications tools.

People seemed to really enjoy the activities. First, OpenHatch found two cute bugs, accessible to beginners and documented in issue trackers. They were “No December” (that is, in a certain version of Android, the month December disappeared) and “can’t print on Tuesdays.” Pairs of people looked at the bugs and tried to explain the causes to each other. I won’t spoil why they were happening—take a look at the handout here!

presenters at Princeton Workshop

Attendees also really enjoyed the git mini projects. They worked in groups of five with one mentor each. They cloned a sample repo that was the Princeton page with quirky changes added in, made changes on their machines, made pull requests, and got them merged in. After the merge, they could refresh the page to see their changes. It was rewarding because of the instant and visual feedback. Here’s a sample page and here are the pull requests.

Contributions

The contributions workshop was designed to be the capstone of the workshop, where attendees would finally have the chance to make their own changes. In reality, there were mixed responses. Some attendees left early, whereas some attendees got really excited about their bugs and stayed for an hour after the workshop ended.

a mentor talks to an attendee at the workshop

OpenHatch put together a great First Tasks page that listed welcoming bite-size issues for beginners to fix, including projects like Dreamwidth, WelcomeBot, the Open Science Collaboration Blog, and OpenHatch itself. We also had mentors familiar with projects like OpenStates, Debian, and MediaWiki.

The attendees made six pull requests total, of which three were successfully merged (yay!), two not completed by the students, and one fixed by the maintainer. Most contributions went to OpenHatch itself and OpenStates. Unfortunately, Dreamwidth, WCWeekly, and Open Science Collaboration blog didn’t get contributions, possibly because the maintainers weren’t present at the video call.

One sample pull request: Scott, a student here, worked on OpenStates. He found that a legislator had unsightly Javascript on her page, and diagnosed the cause in the source code, which was that House representatives’ pages were missing the closing </div> tag. A maintainer for the project emailed the source website, and the error was fixed.

You can find details of the other pull requests here.

Attendee statistics

We were excited about the fact that the people who signed up (and showed up) were about 30% women! (Compare this to the estimated 2% of women in the wider open-source community.) I hope our emphasis on reaching out to Princeton Women in CS and making the event beginner-friendly played a part in this.

In response to the question “Please briefly describe your involvement in open source,” most people had never contributed before, but many had used Firefox, WordPress, Eclipse, Ubuntu, and various other flavors of Linux. One great anonymous response: “My brother forced me to install Ubuntu and use gcc to code, but I never really did much with it.” Many people mentioned that they were particularly interested in contributing to Linux, Firefox, and Chromium.

The majority of people used Macs, more than half were already comfortable using the command line, and freshmen and sophomores made up about 70% of the registrants.

sign up stats

Future directions

Some things we learned:

  • People really liked the more structured projects, like diagnosing bugs and practicing making pull requests. Some attendees struggled with the more-unstructured contributions workshop. We would encourage mentors to take a more active role in guiding students.

  • Alternatively, maybe find projects with more bite-size issues to address. Maybe add features instead of fixing bugs? Writing HTTPS Everywhere rulesets could be well-structured and rewarding.

  • Some attendees wanted the lectures to be more interactive.

  • We should have encouraged people to follow the Hacker School social rules for a more welcoming environment.

  • The workshop was rather long, and we forgot to ask most people to fill out the exit survey.

  • Experienced CS students who attended the workshop weren’t annoyed by the review of the basics. In fact, one of them came up to us and said that he was very glad to see that we were going over git and version control, because a welcoming environment for beginners signaled that it would be welcoming for everyone else.

We’ve been continuing our work at Open Source at Princeton. Right now we’re running a long-term initiative with ThoughtWorks, a software consultancy, for students to contribute to OpenMRS, an open-source electronic medical records platform. You can find our documentation and progress here.

We’ll end with this encouraging exit survey response from an attendee:

“The skills you’re introducing people to… no, the world you’re introducing people to—it is so valuable for everybody that this world is nourished. And there is no better way to build the community around it than to pair people off with mentors who can give one-on-one attention to these future open source contributors.”

workshop organizers hugging

Thanks!

It took a lot of time and effort to make this happen, and we’d like to thank the following people and organizations.

Members of OpenHatch: Shauna Gordon-McKeon and Asheesh Laroia.

Members of Open Source at Princeton: Lisha Ruan, Katherine Ye, Valerie Morin, Dorothy Chen, Evelyn Ding, Colleen Carroll, Diana Liao, and Annie Chu.

Mentors: David Prager Branner (Hacker School), Omar Rizwan (Hacker School), Katerina Barone-Adesi (Hacker School), Jeremy Baron (MediaWiki, OpenHatch), Sumana Harihareswara (Wikimedia Foundation, Hacker School), Alex Clare (eBay, Hacker School), Alec Story (Google), and Paul Tagliamonte (Sunlight Foundation, Debian).

(There was one mentor for every five students!)

Organizations: Jane Street, GitHub, and Google sponsored us, and Princeton Women in CS helped us a lot with logistics.

This workshop was inspired by the OpenHatch workshop held at Columbia University.

Teaching open source at Rutgers University

by Shauna April 17th, 2014

students at Rutgers OSCTC

On Monday, October 21st, we ran our seventeenth Open Source Comes to Campus event at Rutgers University.  We were invited to Rutgers by Sri Raga Velagapudi, who we met at Grace Hopper Open Source Day only two weeks before.  Myself, Sri, and Prachi Pendse, a CS graduate student, worked hard to pull off a great event on short notice.

This was our first weekday event, and unsurprisingly there were a lot of students coming and going as they fit the event in between classes. Despite being short-staffed (three staff and thirty students made for a 1:10 mentor:student ratio) we had little trouble keeping students caught up.  This was due in large part to the friendliness of the attendees, who often reached out to help students who were arriving late.  We also made use of the What You Missed wiki page.

The event was also shorter than average.  The time was mostly lost from our contributions workshop, the last activity of the day.  This meant that students were only able to get through the first steps of contributing, such as picking a project, and reading through an issue to understand it.  Students got a great deal out of these beginning steps, and did not seem to mind having to stop before they’d even decided what to work on.  This is an important lesson for events with longer workshops: students shouldn’t feel rushed or pushed to contribute, but encouraged to take their time familiarizing themselves the process.

We learned as much as our students did from this event!  We hope to return to Rutgers soon.

Teaching open source at UMass Amherst

by Shauna April 9th, 2014

 

Students working at Open Source Comes to Campus - UMass.

On Sunday, March 9th, we ran another Open Source Comes to Campus event at UMass Amherst.  We ran a first event at UMass last April, and hope to run another next year!  Many thanks to our wonderful in-person mentors Heidi Ellis, Karl Wurst, and Terri Yu, and to our remote mentors Marina Zhurakhinskaya, Sean Lip, Yana Malysheva, and Jacob Davis.

Contributions

  • The first contribution of the day came during the first hour!  One student noticed a mistake in our bug tracker activity and, with our encouragement, filed a bug.
  • During the contributions workshop, two students worked on issues in the Open Science Collaboration blog.  Both involved adding plug-ins to the blogging framework Pelican so the students were able to help each other with the process.  One student gave readers the ability to share individual blog posts via email and social media with the click of a button. Another student gave authors the ability to place parts of articles behind a cut.  Both enhancements have been merged into the project and are being used by the community.
  • One student attempted to work on the Open Science Collaboration blog, but had difficulty setting up Pelican on Windows.  Not to be deterred, she stayed an hour after the event was technically over working with a remote mentor to fix the problem.
  • Mentor Heidi Ellis led a small group of students interested in Mousetrap, a GNOME application that allows users with physical disabilities to move a mouse cursor.  Working together on a single machine, they found and reported a bug that was causing the program to crash.
  • Another student contributed to WelcomeBot, a small OpenHatch project which aims to welcome newcomers to our IRC channel even when no one else is there.  He implemented a vast improvement in how the bot recognizes when it’s being greeted or asked for help.

Notes

  • With deadlines for the Outreach Program for Women and Google Summer of Code coming up, we spent a lot of time talk about opportunities for students and how to pursue them. OPW organizer Marina Zhurakhinskaya talked with students over video chat during our career panel and mentored student applicants during the contributions workshop.  Several students remarked on how much they appreciated her help.  Although the focus we give to internships will vary based on proximity to application deadlines, we plan on highlighting these kinds of opportunities more prominently, and have made a wiki page on the topic to help us do so.
  • We tried out a new version of the Practicing Git activity. We aimed to retain the interactive elements of our typical activity while allowing the tutorial to be lead by a single presenter. The new activity also had the benefit of being not entirely a toy project.  The activity was generally well received, making it a good option for events where only a single mentor is comfortable teaching git.
  • The Contributions Workshop continues to improve.  All but one student stayed through the entirety of the workshop, with more than a third of students continuing past the official ending time.  Two student submitted pull requests to projects later that night.  At the same time, we did have some difficulty connecting students with our remote mentors.  We received a ton of useful feedback from the maintainers of our first OpenHatch-Affiliated Project, Oppia.  We hope that by introducing students to projects before the event, arranging for video-based introductions, and pairing remote mentors with local mentors, we can continue making the Contributions Workshop even more enjoyable.
  • UMass once again opened itself up to students from other schools, and once again Mt Holyoke was well represented.  Given the interest in open source from Mt Holyoke, we hope to run an event there soon!

Goals for Open Source Comes to Campus in 2014

by Shauna February 7th, 2014
Goooals.  Photo CC-BY-SA by Thomas Leth-Olsen.

Goooals. Photo CC-BY-SA by Thomas Leth-Olsen.

At OpenHatch we have big dreams. One of them? Keeping better track of our dreams.

When we sat down a few months ago to make a plan for 2014, we regretted not creating clear and public goals at the start of 2013. By committing to specific goals, and promising to measure and report the results, we’re pushing ourselves to make progress.  In the spirit of progress, here are our goals for 2014.

Increase the number of Open Source Comes to Campus events, and make them easier for others to run.

Why: Last year we had many more invitations to run events than we, with our small team, could possibly accept. We’re only human – and we don’t want our humanity to keep students from being introduced to open source! While we will continue planning and attending workshops ourselves, we’re focused on making it so anyone, anywhere can run an Open Source Comes to Campus workshop.

How: In phase one, we documented our planning process and put all of our materials – curriculum, publicity, etc – online. Phase two, currently underway, involves recruiting schools to run events and using their feedback to improve our process.

Measured by:

  • Number of events: We hope to double the number of Open Source Comes to Campus events, from 12 in 2013 to 24 in 2014.
  • Feedback from events: For each event, we will elicit feedback in the form of surveys from students and mentors, and have debriefings with organizers. We hope to see a positive trend in the surveys. A positive trend would be an improvement of the average rating by 1 point or more (on a scale of 1-4).
  • Hands-off events: We plan to run at least one event with minimal-to-no involvement on the part of OpenHatch organizers. We hope our surveys show that these events are just as successful as those we have a more active role in.
  • Repeated events: It’s as good a sign as you can get when organizers want to run more events. We’re hoping to run at least six repeat events this year, and for at least half our event organizers in 2014 to express interest in a repeat event.

Improve the Open Source Comes to Campus curriculum

Why: We’ve worked hard on our curriculum, and have seen the payoff from that in a few key areas. Over the course of eight months and a lot of trial and error, our introduction to version control went from a confusing, too-long lecture to a well-liked, hands-on activity. We want all of our curriculum to be as well-received as Practicing Git – and we’d like to offer more curriculum options for organizers, so they can tailor events to the needs and interest of their participants.

How: Through feedback, we’ve identified the ‘Contributions Workshop’ as the element of our events that needs the most work. We’ve also identified the ‘History and Ethics of Free Software’ section as needing significant improvement. We will continue to brainstorm ways to improve the activities and test those changes by eliciting feedback from attendees and mentors. We’ll also talk to event organizers and community members about what new curriculum elements to add and how to add them.

Measured by:

  • Existing weak areas: For the ‘Contributions Workshop’ and ‘History and Ethics of Free Software’, we hope to go through at least one new iteration of the activity, and to see a positive trend in survey evaluations of these activities.
  • New sections: We hope to add at least two new sections to the curriculum. Current ideas for sections include more openly discussing the mental blocks that keep people from contributing to software, an expanded IRC activity, and an introduction to Linux (either through installations, or a virtual machine).

Partner with open source projects to help students form relationships with communities.

Why: While it’s great to see students submit pull requests at our events and get their changes merged, the truth is that most open source contributions – especially to new projects – don’t take place in an hour or two, even for open source veterans. We’re refocusing our efforts on helping students connect with open source projects that will welcome them into their communities.

How: We’re going to recruit OpenHatch-affiliated projects to participate in Open Source Comes to Campus. We’ll work with these projects to improve their guides and introductory materials, and to help them identify good tasks for students. After events, we’ll help projects follow up with students. We’ll be a resource to help students continue to contribute.

Measured by:

  • 10 OpenHatch-affiliated projects: We hope to have at least ten such projects actively participating in our events by the end of the year.
  • 2 new contributors per project: For each affiliated project, we hope to help them find at least two ongoing contributors from among our students. An ongoing contributor is a student who has made at least one new contribution to the project, separate from what they worked on at the Open Source Comes to Campus event.

Keep students involved in the community after events are over.

Why: We’ve been so focused on improving our events that we’ve neglected the important work of following up with students and seeing how involved they’ve become with open source. While there’s a lot of value in simply knowing more about open source and how to use it, we do hope that some of our students continue to contribute to the community. We want to see if our students are staying involved and, through outreach, help them do so.

How: Most students will work one-on-one or in small groups with at least one mentor during the event. We will ask mentors to take brief notes on their students – their level of enthusiasm, their interests, and the types of problems they encountered. We will also gauge student interest through our exit surveys. We plan to follow up with every student who submits an exit survey as well as every student we receive feedback about from a mentor. Additionally, we plan to do some community-building around OSCTC alumni and organizers.

Measured by:

  • Identifying students: We will attempt to collect contact information and notes on interests and goals for at least half of students at each event.
  • Following up with students: We, or a local organizer, will attempt to follow up with 100% of students we’ve collected contact information for. We hope that 20% or more of those students will go on to participate in the community (or will already be doing so).
  • Community events: We plan to host community events for students, including: a monthly online meetup for OSCTC alumni on IRC; a monthly online meetup for OSCTC and other open source organizers on IRC; and 5 in person meetups for alumni in Boston and San Francisco.
  • Using the mailing list: Our alumni mailing list is currently very quiet. We plan to start sending a monthly email to attendees letting them know about opportunities available to them and events in their area.

How you can help

If you want to help us reach our goals, there are a lot of things you can do.

To help us increase the number of Open Source Comes to Campus events you can invite us to your school!

To help us improve the Open Source Comes to Campus curriculum you can test out our current curriculum and give us feedback. This is especially great if you’re new to one of the topics, such as git, or navigating bug trackers. You can also help us develop new activities.

To help us partner with open source projects you can talk to us about what it would take to make your project an OpenHatch-affiliated project.

To help us keep students involved in the community you can send us information about opportunities such as Google Summer of Code or good tutorials/resources that we can send their way.

Watch this space

I’ll be revisiting this post over the course of the year to check our progress towards our goals.  And in December, I’ll make another post letting you know how we did.  See you then!