2020-10 Outreachy Progress

Summary

  • 238 people filled out final applications for the Dec 2020 cohort
  • Planned changes to the May 2021 application period dates
  • Brainstormed long-term goals
  • Helped Anna prep for interviews with new Outreachy mentors

Admin

The contribution period for the December 2020 cohort kicked off on October 7. It was six days later than we had expected. We had to work weekends to review all the initial applications.

This meant applicants only had three weeks to make contributions. Some mentors have been asking for a shorter contribution period, so this a good experiment.

The final application numbers look on par with past December rounds. For this round, 238 people filled out final applications. We’ll see whether the number of selected interns is also on par with past December rounds. I have already seen a couple of mentors who feel applicants did not have enough time to make more complex contributions.

May 2021 planning

We expect to have even more Outreachy initial applications in the May 2021 internship round. One factor is that in-person student internships are cancelled, which will drive students in the northern hemisphere to look for remote internships (like Outreachy).

We also expect more interest from students who might otherwise participate in Google Summer of Code. Google is cutting the number of required hours in half, and lowering the stipend for student interns by half. Google announced the reduction in hours on the GSoC blog, but did not announce the stipend change yet. The GSoC handbook says intern stipends will still be calculated using pay parity percentages (PPP). Interns will be paid a minimum of $1500 USD and a maximum $3300 USD.

That means Outreachy will pay more for its initial stipend ($2,000 USD) than the total Google Summer of Code stipend. I expect this will mean a greatly increased number of initial applications from students.

Next round, we’re going to build in three weeks between the initial application deadline and the start of the contribution period. That should give us enough time to review all initial applications.

Unfortunately, that means initial applications will close long before Outreachy mentors get their projects submitted. That means some applicants may not know whether they can find a project that fits their skills.

It can’t be helped though. Making mentors submit their projects three weeks before the contribution period opens is too much of a burden on mentors. Many mentors already have trouble keeping projects earmarked for Outreachy from being either completed by other contributors, or becoming obsolete before the internship starts.

Long-term goals

Anna, Sage, and Karen brainstormed long-term Outreachy goals. Those goals will be reviewed by the Outreachy Project Leadership Committee (PLC) in November. It feels good to be able to plan long-term, rather than always being reactionary.

One goal we have is to increase the number of Outreachy mentors for communities who already participate. We especially want to encourage more Outreachy alums to become mentors. We don’t know what is preventing them from mentoring, although we have some hypotheses.

Anna has been prepping to do interviews with mentors who are new to Outreachy. The goal is to understand what motivates people to mentor for Outreachy, and what the barriers new Outreachy mentors face. The end goal is to create resources to encourage people to mentor Outreachy interns, and to remove barriers as much as possible.

Sage has been supporting Anna’s interview prep by making a list of new mentors. The list is based on mentor sign up data in the Outreachy website, and a spreadsheet of historic Outreachy intern and mentor data from before 2017.

Once interviews with new mentors for the December 2020 cohort are completed, we will do additional interviews with people who haven’t signed up to mentor. We have a list of Outreachy alums who indicated they were interested in mentoring in the 2019 longitudinal study. We’ll contact them to see what kinds of barriers they face to get started as an Outreachy mentor.

Development

Anna got their website development environment working. Sage gave them a tour of the website and the administrative backend. This will allow Anna to see what the user experience is for mentors who are adding projects and choosing interns. That’s essential for understanding any barriers mentors face, which will be useful for Anna’s interviews with new Outreachy mentors.

Jamey and Sage worked on updates for the Outreachy website. We’re ready to upgrade to Django 3.1, but we want to wait until after the intern announcement to deploy. The website sees a lull in usage during the internship period before the mentor CFP starts for the next internship round. We’re targeting December 1 to upgrade.

Sponsorship

Sage reached out to several different sponsors this month to see if they could fund the Outreachy general fund.

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