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Groundhog protecting his holeIt’s good to see Fahim keeping his Google Summer of Code 2008 branch up to date. His advanced mask editor was (and still is) ahead of its time and we have not yet found how to integrate it in the Hugin panorama creation process.

Fahim is an example of a student who has succeeded the transition from Google Summer of Code into the community. He will even join us at LGM. A Google Summer of Code project is an exciting, exceptional time. When in your lifetime have you had the opportunity to spend three months full time doing what you want to do and be paid for it? It is critical to manage the transitioning back to daily life.

During the summer you are on a payroll. After that, very few open source projects can afford to pay their developers a salary. You’ll have to do with other rewards such as reputation, kudos, karma, or just having fun scratching your own itches.

Money comes with the obligation to work full-time. No such expectation from a volunteer Open Source contributor. It’s not even part-time, it’s spare-time – those slow evenings or rainy weekends when there’s nothing else to do.

So how to manage the transition from full-time paid “employee” to spare-time volunteer contributor?

  1. Manage expectations – yours and the community’s. Be realistic about how much time you can devote to the project and what can be done in that time. Don’t overload yourself.
  2. Start with a formal break. Even if it is just a week away from the project, it will make it clear to you and to the community that one period is over and a new one is beginning.
  3. Be aware of your changed availability. Spare time is usually much less than part time. Three month full time is the equivalent of giving back to the project every Sunday afternoon for two years.
  4. Get back to the project with a small, self-contained task adapted to the time you have on that day. Remember the qualification tasks? With your expertise now you can probably get a similar task done in less than two hours.
  5. End your first day back on the project with a commit and a mail to the mailing list. Finish that self-contained task to get a feeling of accomplishment.
  6. As you become increasingly confident with your new role of spare-time contributor, grow the scope of what you pick up and spread it across weeks and months.
  7. Most important: have fun and scratch your itches. If not, consider parting ways and make a better use of your precious spare time. Nobody will hold that against you, it is your prerogative to dispose of your free time as you want.

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