[tor-dev] Trip Report: GSoC Mentor Summit

Damian Johnson atagar at torproject.org
Mon Oct 22 00:22:55 UTC 2012

As per conferencing tradition Friday was spent on travel and meeting
the other attendees. Some of the highlights for me were...

* David from KDE

Besides demoing some KDE eye candy we discussed their project
infrastructure. KDE is a federation of smaller projects and had over
sixty students this year (ten times the number mentored by Tor).

Their project's scale has led to some unusual infrastructure
decisions. For instance, they have a partly decentralized git
infrastructure where pushes go to a single master host and pulls are
from any of several mirrors. The config they use to do this leads to
some... odd behavior. For instance a 'git pull' updates your tracking
branch but not the origin branch reference. The result is that to do a
pull for realz you need to call *both* pull and fetch. No doubt they
also get fun behavior from mirroring delays...

We also talked a bit about post-review and defaults they could set to
better support their setup. KDE has the largest public ReviewBoard
instance, but the above git setup makes it a bit confusing to use.

* Sukhbir from Debian

In 2011 Sukhbir applied to us for GSoC to work on TorBirdy. We loved
his proposal, but due to prior commitments he ended up working with
Debian instead. Since then he has become a GSoC mentor for Debian and
involved with the Tor by implementing his earlier proposal for

Sukhbir's interested in getting even more involved with Tor so we
discussed other projects that might interest him, and ways that we
could better publicize TorBirdy on our site.

* Arc from Python

When I found out that Python had a mentor at the summit I made a
mental note to hunt him down and ask about packaging best practices.
After an unexpected discussion about rugby I found out that it's
actually easy to support both python's 2.x and 3.x series by including
a 2to3 conversion at build time. This can be done via either distutils
or distribute...

distutils: http://python3porting.com/2to3.html#running-2to3-on-install
distribute: http://packages.python.org/distribute/python3.html

I also asked him to look into his crystal ball for when python 3 would
take over the world and he said 'Next year. Ubuntu and Fedora are
ready and willing to make the switch. The last main holdout is Gnome.
They tried to migrate but work there isn't finished yet.'


Saturday was the first day of the unconference. After an amusingly
confused attempt to have each of the couple hundred attendees shake
each other's hand there were sessions. Some were a little interesting,
but I spent more time on the hallway track since that's the real
benefit of the summit. The only useful tidbits I got from the talks

- Do outreach early. The successful GSoC students who stick around
tend to be the ones that get involved before the application phase. We
should try harder to recruit college students to hack on tor, with the
carrot that this'll give them a leg up when applying for the program.
OpenHatch (http://openhatch.org/) might be something to look into for

This would be a nice task for a community manager if we get one.

- Google Code In (https://code.google.com/gci/) is a program somewhat
similar to GSoC where highschool students become involved with open
source. Last year they had 18 organizations and this year they're
narrowing it down to 10. I was already highly tentative about having
us apply and now that I've heard more I'm sure we don't have enough
bandwidth for the hand-holding this would require.

As for the hallway track...

* Adriano and Luis from Umit

Last year Adriano showed me Open Monitor
(http://www.openmonitor.org/), a censorship detector written in
python. Sounds familiar? I thought so too, and tried a few times to
get them to talk with Ooni Probe and vice versa without success. My
impression is that they're UI developers (a skillset we sorely lack in
the tor project) with a rather unscalable backend, while Ooni Probe's
backend is far more mature but lacks any sort of UI for rendering real
time censorship information.

I made another stab at getting the two projects to talk, after which
the meeting took a weird turn with Adriano arguing that 'some
censorship is good'. Evidently they decided that Open Monitor won't
look for censorship concerning 'porn or terrorism'. I argued that this
was a slippery slope and that censorship monitoring shouldn't try to
pass a moral judgment on the content being censored, but after a time
it was clear that we were talking past each other.

I still think that we should leverage their UI expertise, but that's
up to the Ooni Probe devs.

* Open Source Lab

Met with a couple administrators from the OSU's Open Source Labs
(https://osuosl.org/). They provide hosting for several of the largest
open source projects including Apache and the Linux Foundation. Mostly
we talked about amusing legal threats they get for hosting the phpBB
project. Evidently lawyers are quite skilled at clicking the 'this is
a phpBB forum' link followed by 'hosted by the OSL' before sending
their angry emails. We also talked a bit about setting up non-exit
relays. They might be pretty receptive to this if we want to follow

* Sumana and Rob from Wikimedia

Unsurprisingly Wikipedia occasionally has issues with spammers using
Tor. We talked about some possible options, such as requiring accounts
for Tor users to edit with a sort of proof of work in account creation
to make ban evasion more of a pita.

* Terri from Python

Mailman 3 is coming, and with it an interface that *doesn't* look like
it came from the 1980s! Most importantly for us, the new version of
Mailman provides a forum interface, letting email and forum users
communicate by whichever method they prefer. This would be a good
answer to our forums ticket (https://trac.torproject.org/3592). She
estimates that it'll be ready in six months or so.


Flying out on Sunday cut my day short, but there was one session that
I thought was interesting. Gnome and Wikimedia are launching a program
similar to GSoC to encourage more women to get involved with open
source. It runs later this winter. One gotcha is that Google's not
involved so mentoring orgs need to cover the $5k stipend.

I like the idea. Is this something we want to take part in? If so then
I'd be happy to administer the non-financial parts of it.

Cheers! -Damian

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