This is my final GSoC update post. My name is Paul Schaub and I participated in the Google Summer of Code for the XMPP Standards Foundation. My project was about implementing encrypted Jingle File Transfer for the client library Smack.
Google Summer of Code was a great experience! This is a sentence you probably read in almost every single students GSoC resumé. Let’s take a look at how I experienced GSoC.
GSoC for me was…
- tiring. Writing tests is something almost everybody hates. I do especially. In the beginning I imposed on myself to do test-driven development, but I quickly began to focus on real coding instead. Nevertheless, often I sat down for hours and wrote tests for classes and methods that were designed to allow easy tests, so I have an okayish test coverage, but it is far from perfect.
- nerve-wracking. Dealing with bugs of sub-protocols I never worked with before drove me crazy sometimes. Especially that SOCKS5 Transport bug has a special place on my hit list. All in all I think the Jingle protocol has some flaws which make it harder to implement than it should be and those flaws (more precise – the decisions I derived from the Jingle XEP design) often really bugged me.
- highly demotivational. Can you imagine how devastating it can be, when you spend days and days getting your implementation working with itself, only to see it miserably fail when you test it the first time with another implementation? It didn’t help that I tested my coded not only against one, but two other applications.
- desocializing. I had to dedicate a huge part of my day to coding. As a result I often had no time left for friends and family.
- devastating. In the end I wrote far more code than I should have. Most of it was discarded along the way and got replaced. It really annoyed me having to start from zero over and over again. Also giving up on goals like using NIO for asynchronous event handling pricked my pride.
- to the highest degree depressing. Especially near the end I sometimes sat down and starred at my screen for some time without really knowing what to do. Those days I ended up making small meaningless changes like fixing typos in my documentation or refactoring. Going to bed later on those days made me feel bad and kinda guilty.
But on the other hand, GSoC also…
- taught me, that coding is not only fun. Annoying parts like tests are (sometimes) important and in the end it is very satisfying to see that I managed to tame my code to a degree where all test cases run successful.
- gave me deep insights into areas and protocols that were completely new to me. Also I think you can only fully gain understanding of how things work if you tinker with it for more than just one day. Finding and fixing bugs are a good exercise for this purpose.
- was super motivational. Contrary (or let’s say additional) to what I wrote above, it is highly motivational to see your code finally work hand in hand with other implementations. That’s the magic of decentralized protocols – knowing that on the other end is a completely different device, running a completely different operating system with a language you might have never seen before, but still in some magical way, both implementations harmonize with each other like two musicians from different countries do when playing together.
- was very social by itself. Meeting online with members of the community was a real pleasure and I hope to be able to participate in conversations and meetings in the future too. Also there were one or two (or three…) evenings that I spent gaming with my friends, but *shht* don’t tell anyone ;P.
- taught me important lessons. While I usually aim too high with my goals, I learned that sometimes you have to take a step back to set more reasonable goals. Nevertheless ambitious goals can’t hurt and I heard that you grow together with your challenges.
- was satisfying as f***. Sure, sometimes I was feeling bad because I could have done more on that day, but in the end I was a little surprised seeing the whole picture and how much I really accomplished.
An overview about what I achieved during the Google Summer of Code can be found on my project page.
This week I did some more changes to my code and wrote more tests *gah*. I’m really proud that my JET proposal found it’s way into the XSFs inbox. I’m really excited, what the future may bring for my specification 🙂
I want to take the chance to thank everyone in the XMPP community for welcoming me and allowing me to become a part of it. I also want to thank Florian Schmaus for mentoring me and giving me the idea to participate in GSoC in the first place.
As a last impulse – why do we need Google (thank you too btw :D) to initiate programs like GSoC? Shouldn’t there be more public, government financiered programs? I certainly think so, even though Google did a very good job.
So in the end GSoC was really a great experience. Sometimes it was hard and challenging, but I’m sure it would have been boring without a certain degree of difficulty. I’d absolutely do it again (either as a student or maybe a mentor?) and I can only encourage students interested in free software to apply next year 🙂