Google Code In is an annual coding competition for high school aged 13-17 around the world. Various organizations (called mentoring organizations) publish bite-sized tasks which they feel students can complete within a given time span. I chose to work with the Wikimedia Foundation for this competition (and I have not regretted my decision in the least!).
FOSS development is a universe in itself, and had I not discovered the super-awesome and helpful Wikimedia manuals, I definitely would have gotten lost during my intergalactic travels! 🙂 It may seem trivial to “hard core coders”, but I’m telling you: it’s not.
I had been selected as a finalist in the previous edition (GCI 2014), so this year, I was determined to step it up a notch. Last year, I completed about 18 “clonable” tasks (tasks which, ideally, each student should claim once or maybe twice, just to get the hang of it), so it might not be such a good idea to consider my performance from last year as a model! The intimidating manuals for setting up a development environment, submitting my first patch, etc, also kept me away from coding tasks.
This year, I made sure to read up on every aspect of the Wikimedia Foundation before joining the competition, and I have to say, it’s been a truly remarkable journey for me! The mere fact that I’m creating something which is being used by millions around the world sends my mind into a tizzy!
A (normal) conversation between two people:
Person A: Hey, do you know the answer to this?
Person B: Oh, I don’t know, but it’s probably on Wikipedia.
Person A: Oh yeah, thanks!
Wikipedia, along with countless other projects, is run by the Wikimedia Foundation. I had been one of those people who thought Wikipedia was just… meant to be there. I had no idea about the hours and months and years of hard work which was put into creating it. Each page we view has innumerable scripts running in the background, each one working on making our experience better.
For GCI 2015, I started off with a few simple tasks, which just involved editing a couple of lines of code, in order to learn the entire workflow better. As I completed more tasks, they progressed in difficulty and complexity too. My repertoire of programming languages only included a tad bit of PHP (he basic syntax). However, that wasn’t the case a few weeks later. There I was, incorporating SQL into the PHP code of Mediawiki core, creating lines and lines of my own code! (I have to say, the most challenging task I have completed so far has to be this one. 45 patches!!!). My parents aren’t surprised anymore when I stay up late into the night, and wake up early in the mornings to get some coding in before school!I can guarantee that without the helpful mentors and the Wikimedia organization in general, I would not have been able to complete most of my tasks. Day or night, someone would always be available to answer my never-ending stream of doubts on how to go about a certain process! They would take time out of their busy schedules, just to help me fix an error in my code, coaching me through the entire process! I have never faced the issue of a mentor being unhelpful, or leaving me out on my own.
And finally, for the cherry on top: the prizes. Two grand prize winners, selected for each organization, receive a 4 day trip to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California!
Overall, my main takeaways from this competition would be:
- Realizing that open source development is not as easy as it sounds
- Interactions with various Wikimedia mentors, and their shared knowledge
- Finding out that PHP doesn’t support dynamic instantiation and function calling
- Understanding the epicness of Wikimedia
So what are you waiting for? Get coding!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.