For the 3rd year, our application has been successful and google will pay students to work on CiviCRM for the summer. This is a wonderful opportunity to get new features or improve existing ones. Just as important is the chance to get new contributors that may remain contributors for years to come, to help students discover how to contribute to a "real world" project, and get experience working in an open-source community.
We have already a solid list of mentors that have been contributing to CiviCRM for years and a lot of project ideas.
"It sounds awesome!" can I almost hear you saying. "How can I help?". I'm glad you asked
The most successful organisations have a lot of members in the community involved to help the students delivering solid results. Everyone having an idea can go on the wiki page and add it as a project suggestion. It has to be something that is big enough to be done in a summer, and interesting for a student to take on. When in doubt, you can always come to #civicrm on irc or in the GSoC forum and discuss it. If you see a question from a potential student, please discuss it with them.
If you know IT students or know how to reach some (eg. at the school you attended or a university nearby), you can promote our google summer of code project.
More specifically, this is how you can help:
It is usually a very gratifying experience to help a student become a member of the community, improve their coding skills and get someone working on a project you like full time for many weeks.
It is as well time consuming, and it usually takes over 5 hours per week to do the job properly. This year, we'll ask the mentors to have a short weekly meeting to be sure the planning is respected and the student stays on track, and to be sure the student can find the answers needed to let him/her move forward. The mentor doesn't necessarily need to have all the answers, but s/he has to direct the student to places where answers can be found.
For most students, it will be the biggest project they will work on and most don't have a deep experience interacting with a big and multi-cultural community like our. They will need the mentor guidance to find the best way to ask and contribute, when to dig further on their own and when to ask for help.
We have more than 10,000 organisations using CiviCRM. If only a handful are willing to bounce ideas with the student, clarify their needs, give feedback on the UI and beta test, that will be of tremendous help to the students to deliver something that can be useful for everyone.
Those students that "meet" real users that encourage them and care about their project and deliver something genuinely useful are the most motivated and usually stick with CiviCRM after the end of the summer.
Start looking at the list of projects ideas. Most need you to be more detailed and to decide what part you can achieve. You will need to contact the potential mentors and to prepare your application.
Besides becoming familiar with the project and define its scope, you will need to learn a lot about the tools we use to develop and document for CiviCRM (git, jira, installing a development environment, write unit tests...)
We'll detail how to prepare the application and what tests you'll need to pass in a separate blog, but you can already start discussing the projects you are interested in. These discussions can take place on stackexchange, on the forum, wiki. You can also get involved by fixing one of the open issues on jira. All the above are strongly encouraged and will be taken into consideration when deciding which students we will take for this summer.
This year, we are going to have a project committee that will ensure the relationship between the students and mentors is developing nicely, will help promote projects to a broader community, will be sure everything is running smoothly and will make sure the students learn as much as possible from this experience. In other words, I need help, please mail me ;)