Why Women’s Summer Outreach

Dom Lachowicz asks why an enormous number of women are applying to the GNOME Women’s Summer Outreach Program when they didn’t apply to Summer of Code.

Well, I’m still each-way about applying (because I’m spending two successive weeks in July at the ACL/HCSNet Advanced Program in Natural Language Processing and ACL/COLING 2006), but, for what it’s worth:

Potential major disadvantage: WSOP’s payoff is less ($3000 vs. $4500)

The time expenditure is commesurately less, two months rather than three, although Lachowicz doesn’t think that there’s a scope difference to compensate. This is a good thing for me. I’m a southern hemisphere student and also a PhD candidate, both of which mean that July and August are not some kind of idyllic vacation waiting to be filled up with code. I want my September back.

Potential major disadvantage: WSOP’s number of advertized positions is less (3) than the general SoC allotment (20)

I expected that the applicant pool would be much smaller too, turns out I was wrong about that.

Potential major disadvantage: WSOP was advertized when a lot of North American schools have their summer recess, where SoC was advertized while students were still in class

Not relevant to me. What is relevant to me is that I was very very early in my studies (my school year starts in March) when SoC opened up, and had no idea if I had the time for it. Especially since (as seen below), SoC is longer.

March to May is probably the worst time to persuade Australian students to be part of this kind of thing: they’re still trying to wrangle their school year into shape.

As for North American students, for those who remain on campus (ie postgrads) it’s likely that summer is a good time to do word of mouth advertising. Less people have time to get enthused about a summer of coding when they’re still finishing their spring of marking or taking exams. That’s speculation though.

Potential major disadvantage: On top of that, I have to imagine that GSoC was advertized more broadly than WSOP

Not in groups where I hang out. WSOP has been advertised to LinuxChix of course, but also to SLUG!

Here I have to comment on the nature of the advertising. I was personally approached about applying to WSOP and generally it seemed to be a little bit more about here, let us help with your application (although perhaps not now that applications have gone crazy) whereas the SoC stuff came across more as think you’re ready to play with the big boys, c’mon, prove it! I wouldn’t be surprised if this impression is false and based solely on the WSOP is for women factor, but nevertheless it is a feeling I have.

Potential major disadvantage: GSoC was open to both men and women, and WSOP is open only to women

I suppose this does make SoC appeal slightly more to me, but it just doesn’t scream major disadvantage. I’m not entirely sure why Lachowicz thinks this is a major disadvantage. One possible reason that that it makes SoC more prestigous, but prestige isn’t the reason I’m interested.

In summary

The major appealing factors of WSOP are:

  • The program is shorter
  • It was advertised more extensively as unambiguously cool in places I’m exposed to
  • It had more personal touch
  • It happens to be at a slightly better (as in, only mostly awful) time of year