Cheap Yet Laudable Extravagance

April 14th, 2007

Today I would like to call out Google, and applaud them for continuing to support a wide variety of projects through their innovative Summer of Code micro-funding program.

This will be the third summer Google has offered a $4500 stipend to students willing to work “for free” over a summer on one of more than a hundred qualified projects. They also provide a nominal $500 “mentoring stipend” to the sponsoring project, for each student.

It would be easy to dismiss this is a cheap way for Google to promote development in open source projects from which they take value, while enhancing their reputation among the developer public, and also indoctrinating the loyalty of a bunch of students who will soon be entering the work force.

It is all of those things, but it’s also something wonderful. The list of projects this year number over 130, and the list of students over 900. If you do the math, you realize that Google will spend as much as $4.5 Million on the stipends over those few summer months (the full stipend amount is only paid if the student’s work is deemed “passing” by the mentoring organization). One only needs to look at the breadth of projects being sponsored to realize that while Google may benefit from the net rewards of the program, there are many other organizations and people who benefit as well.

$4.5 Million is a lot of coin, but in the context of the billions in revenue that both come into Google and go out of Google in the form of acquisitions, the money is chump-change. For chump-change, Google realizes it can dramatically affect the development momentum of 130 projects, give 900 students a sense of pride and experience in a team-working environment, and endear the development world to their good deeds. That kind of equation makes this investment a no-brainer for the corporate behemoth.

On a philosophical note, what kinds of cheap yet laudable extravagances can you afford to share with the world? It might be only answering a question on a mailing list, or sharing a bit of tricky source code. Google reminds me that we don’t always have to sacrifice much to benefit much. And our peers will applaud us, too.

6 Responses to “Cheap Yet Laudable Extravagance”

  1. mj Says:

    At the moment we’re still working hard on bringing in the pennies but I’ve told the dev guys that I want to see a list of open source projects that they’ll give 20% of time too. That’s an idea I was fond of and Google showed me the way. We’re only a small company but we can afford 20% projects. (and yes, the devs have to submit their projects for approval. And the product has to be mac compatible (as in running on *n*x and not just Windows). And we have some clauses to do with which of the mny FLOSS licenses it can be under (We’re BSD bigots).

  2. Taybin Says:

    It’s great that there are still companies that are willing to invest in the next generation of programmers.

    And speaking as a mentor last year, it’s a terrific experience for everyone involved.

  3. Elliott Harris Says:

    It really is something special. Not only does it provide us with some very talented people with great ideas, but it really gives us a big drive towards development. It’s something every developer, mentor or not, can really get behind, and definitely brings some inspiration to the whole team.

    Unfortunately, Adium got a little hosed with SoC last year, as two of our big projects were based around Java, and Apple deprecated the bridge, but things are looking very good this year. Hopefully we can integrate and use things more quickly, as we are just getting around to the “SoC 2006” version of Adium.

    They really have got a wonderful program, and I hope they keep doing it for a long time.

  4. cjwl Says:

    Yea, this is a very cool program, I was hoping to take advantage of it this year for Cocotron but I had to reallocate key personnel to the iPhoneatron project.

  5. Sebastiaan de With Says:

    Oh, I don’t know, offering a free blog redesign? ;)

  6. Jeff Dlouhy Says:

    Definitely a sweet program. By participating in GSoC I’ll be able to contribute to app I really like (Camino), as well being able to hack Obj-C and Cocoa all summer long :-).

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