Outreachy: Interview with HOT intern Nitika Agarwal

Outreachy balloons

Image cropped from GNOME Project Outreachy page. CC-BY

This past October, Mapzen was proud to announce our sponsorship of one internship for the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) through Outreachy (previously known as the Outreach Program for Women). Outreachy provides funding for FOSS internships for women (cis and trans), trans men, genderqueer people, and all participants of the Ascend Project regardless of gender. We were delighted to learn that the GNOME Foundation had heard about our sponsorship and decided to match the funds we provided, allowing for a second intern for HOT. We wanted to give you an update on the program’s progress, so we took the opportunity to ask Nitika Agarwal, one of the interns, some questions about her experiences with the program.

This is the second blog post in a series of interviews with Outreachy interns and mentors. Read our interviews with intern Jessica Marlene Canepa and mentor Kate Chapman.

How did you learn about the Humanitarian OSM Team? What attracted you to working with them?

The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team applies the principles of open source and open data sharing for humanitarian response and economic development. HOT works both remotely and physically in countries to assist the collection of geographic data, usage of that information and training others in OpenStreetMap.

OpenStreetMap is a project to create a free and open map of the entire world, built entirely by volunteers surveying with GPS, digitizing aerial imagery, and collecting and liberating existing public sources of geographic data.

OSM Tasking Manager is a mapping tool designed and built for the Humanitarian OSM Team collaborative mapping. The purpose of the tool is to divide up a mapping job into smaller tasks that can be completed rapidly. It shows which areas need to be mapped and which areas need the mapping validated. This approach facilitates the distribution of tasks to the various mappers in a context of emergency. It also permits to control the progress and the homogeneity of the work done (ie. Elements to cover, specific tags to use, etc.).

While researching the different project ideas proposed by the participating organisations in this OPW program, I found the project “Improving the OSM Tasking Manager v2 Homepage” along with two other project ideas very appealing for me, to contribute to them as a prospective participant of the OPW internship. Also, I found the organisation quite appealing, because of the work done by the community members and the possibility of contributing to the real open source project, and working with the experienced and motivated mentors. Then, I started working on submiting the patch and preparing the project proposal application.

Tell us about the OPW program. What kind of structure and support is provided for interns?

Outreach Program for Women, OPW is a free and Open Source program organised by the Gnome Foundation that motivates women to get involved in the Open Source Software by offering internships (of around 13 weeks) twice a year. The best part of the OPW program is that it allows newcomers to work on open source projects.

OPW is an excellent program through which you can get in touch with experienced and motivated mentors who are always willing to help you with any sort of issue throughout the internship period and resolving your queries. And you receive a decent amount of stipend for your hard-work in return!

Research the project ideas: First research options on the project ideas page proposed by the developers of the participating organisations if you are interested in to work on and have the desired skills to work on that project idea.

Discussion with the Project mentors: Communicate with the project mentor and other developers of the organisation on their IRC channel to learn more about the project idea.

Submit an initial patch: After getting enough of an idea of the project and the organisation, submit a patch by resolving some already present bugs which will show your skills and interest in the organisation to the cordinators and developers. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from the developers on the IRC channel.

Project Proposal: After getting enough of an idea of the project, start working on the project proposal during the application period. Include your project abstract, a detailed solution proposed, tentative timeline to complete the project tasks, information about yourself, your academic background, contact details and why you think you are the most suitable to work on this particular project.

Submit the application: Now you need to submit the project application on the Gnome website before the specified deadline.

[Ed. Note: Instructions for Summer 2015 applicants will be published in the coming weeks)

What have you been working on since the start of your internship?

I’m working on the HOT Tasking Manager v2 homepage with the mentors Pierre Giraud and Kate Chapman. The project involves improving the homepage of the HOT tasking manager v2, since the current design makes the other projects (jobs) such that the last / most urgent ones hide all the rest. The project was split into modules: Feature request analysis, Frontend Design (User Interface), Community feedback and discussions, Backend Design (mostly for the database), Implementation and Testing. Currently I’m working on the implementation part of the project.

What are your plans for after the internship is over?

After the end of the OPW internship, my plan is to contribute to the OpenStreetMap organisation as an active member of the community. I’ll be around to help others as best as I can and contribute to the OSM Tasking manager project to extend the functionality or work on other project ideas. I’m also planning to get involved with other open source organisations and contribute to them.

What advice would you give someone considering applying for the OPW internship?

For the candidates looking to apply for the OPW Internship, I would like to suggest some things to keep in mind while working on the OPW application:

  • Be Honest: Be honest about your experiences and the skills you have to work on the project, identifying the open source applications that you are currently using or have used in the past. Don’t over-inflate what you have done but don’t gloss over it either.
  • Be Curious and Be Yourself: As you work on researching the different project ideas proposed by the open source organisations for the OPW Internship and then contacting the mentor to introduce yourself and then discuss the project idea, be yourself. Lurking on the IRC channel of the organisation and sending mails to the org’s mailing list are the best means for contact to seek help and guidance from the developers.
  • Communicate your Status: You should communicate about the progress of the project work on a regular basis to the mentors and the community developers through emails, weekly meetings on IRC and blog posts. Commit your code frequently. This will really help you to get proper guidance and feedback from the mentors, also the mentor will be updated on what you are working on.
  • Plan: Nothing can be achieved without planning. So you need to plan out the tentative timeline for the completion of the project’s tasks and mention it in the application.
  • Be Patient: Getting started is the hardest part in any new endeavour. So, you need to be patient until you have the sound grasp of the developer tools and understanding of the underlying APIs which will lay the foundation of your contributions.
  • Complete the Patch Submission Requirement: Your application will not be considered without the patch submission. It is possible to submit a patch on short notice, but submit a patch either to fix some bug or develop new feature. The patch submission will show that you have the desired skills and experience with common tools used by the organisation.
  • Have Fun: There will be times of both frustration and great pride. Allow yourself to experience both and have fun while working.

Making a difference in open source software requires leadership, hard work and problem-solving. OPW, in my opinion, has been a great success due to the dedication from the leaders and the GNOME community. The OPW program has been embraced by many FOSS communities.

Disclaimer: Please note that the above answers are my own thoughts and suggestions and don’t hold me or the community responsible for any information mentioned above.

Outreachy is getting ready for their summer internship and Mapzen is planning to sponsor another intern. If your company would like to sponsor an internship for an open source project, get in touch with Outreachy now. Applications for the internships will open March, 3, 2015.