Saturday, April 6, 2013

Promote Lamarckian evolution through GSoC

A short TED talk by neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran inspired me to blog one more time about our upcoming Google Summer of Code project. Whether you are thinking of applying, are preparing to mentor, or are part of a team with some project ideas, give a listen (it's only 7:44 minutes) about how we are literally built to teach and learn from one another.

What caught my ear was his comparison of Darwinian evolution, which is very slow, with Larmarckian evolution, which can leap ahead, exactly as our culture does. The students who struggle in GSoC, are the ones out of touch with the team, and with their mentors. Sometimes it is the students who withdraw contact when they're in trouble, and sometimes mentors are the ones who are not staying in touch. Either way, the team can notice what is happening, and in a friendly, helpful way, draw the two back into contact.

Success happens when we communicate, because that's how learning happens. Students, when you encounter difficulty, please remember to get into the IRC channel, and if no one answers, write an email. Don't wait a day; don't wait an hour. The summer rushes by and you need all the time so that you can relax and do good work.

Mentors, please experiment with your student at the beginning of your bonding time, what forms of communication work the best for the two of you, or three of you if you have a mentor team. Google hangouts or other voice chats work, as long as someone writes an email summing up the understanding of the road ahead. IRC is important for the team, and students can get a bouncer account by asking the KDE sysadmins once their developer accounts are in place.

Stay in touch! As Vilayanur Ramachandran says,
There is no real independent self, aloof from other human beings, inspecting the world, inspecting other people. You are, in fact, connected not just via Facebook and Internet, you’re actually quite literally connected by your neurons.
So work with your brain, and stay connected.