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Do the right thing

Where there is human activity, mistakes are inevitable. want to avoid them? stay put, but you’ll miss plenty of opportunities. it is how mistakes are dealt with that makes the difference between mediocrity and excellence.

I made a mistake during the processing of student applications for the Google Summer of Code. Because of my mistake an application had an inexplicable status when the slotting of the accepted applications came. It was ranked correctly but slotted wrongly. The slot was instead assigned to the application just under the watermark.

You can imagine how the students felt when they saw the published results. The communication channels were all a buzz – with 1125 accepted applications out of more than 7000, there’s a lot of talk going on!

And you can imagine how I felt when I saw the outcome of my mistake. Left to my own devices, my options were all bad:

  • if I stay put and ask my organization to keep silent, it would be unfair. unfair to the deserving student. unfair to my co-mentors. unfair to the ranking process. unfair to Google.
  • if I have the error corrected, fairness is re-established. but at a cost. I could see the disappointment of the deserving student who got slotted and whose slot is then taken away.

I felt bad, but I had to take responsibility. Something had to be done quickly. If fairness was to be re-established, it had to be done as quickly as possible to limit the damage. And if somebody had a better alternative, I needed their help now.

I contacted Google. This was really not the right time. With 1125 accepted applications out of 7000+ there must have been a lot of dust flying around. So while leaving the door open for alternatives, I kindly asked for the slot to be reassigned to the higher ranking application.

Asking for more would have been in my opinion an unacceptable demand and a lack of respect for Google’s donation; for the other 170+ mentoring organization and for the allocation process we were all part of.

A few hours later, an email from Leslie filled my hearth with warmth and joy. She found an extra slot for us in the flying dust! I don’t know if it came from a not yet resolved duplicate; from students who had already disappeared; or even from a student who decided to spend the summer colonizing Mars instead of coding FOSS: Leslie saved the day and turned the situation into a win-win.

Thank you, Leslie. Thank you, Google!

Where there is human activity, mistakes are inevitable. Empowering people and organization take the chance of dealing with them in a way that makes everybody proud of being part of this excellent initiative.

Another exciting Summer of Code ahead!

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