Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Upstream Challenge 2014 wrap up

This weekend marked the end of the 2014 edition of Upstream Challenge, an awesome competition aimed at getting more students to contribute to Open Source projects. I figured I'd lay down some thoughts about how it went.

This year we had around 340 submissions, ranging from one line patches, to pull requests containing dozens of commits. By number of submissions, the projects that received a significant number of contributions (more than 20) were Marble KDE, WoUSO, libcmis, Linux Kernel, privly and digiKam. Having rated a bunch of them in this competition revealed them to be very well written, and very significant to each project.

I'm also a bit disappointed that despite my efforts to get people to contribute to Firefox, only 3 patches were entered in the competition. (2 other contributions were made, but students either didn't care or didn't want to submit them to this competition). The lesson I've learned from this is that it's better to find a couple of students really passionate about a project, and focus your energy on them, rather than try to inspire dozens to make a leap of faith and dedicate their precious time to a project they may or may not care about.

[ As a side note, one of the students I mentored last year completed a very successful internship at Mozilla this summer. ]

So, what did go well in the competition? 
* Well, this year the awards were a bit more evenly distributed. The first place in each track got an Amazon Fire HDX tablet, second prize was a Pebble smart watch, and third place was a Raspberry Pi.
* We got a lot of quality patches in Open Source projects.
* The competition had a lot of visibility among students, even though only 19 entered any patches in the competition.
* More projects than last year.

What could have been better?
* The procedure for entering new projects and patches in the competition was still a bit cumbersome, and required using the mailing list.
* Evaluating the patches could have been more transparent. Although I feel it was fair, the quality and impact criteria were a bit loosely defined.
* A system of entering, describing and reviewing your own patches would have been really awesome (maybe next time)
* We should have had much many more events promoting the competition.
* The person who designed the website changed the license of the source code, so the website got crippled just after the event.

What next?
We are starting to plan for next year's event.

I would like to thank +Valentin Ilie +Razvan Deaconescu +Daniel Baluta +Marius Ungureanu for their effort and dedication in organizing this competition, as well as Mozilla and Intel for sponsoring it.