Google Mentor Summit

· by Steve · Read in about 3 min · (436 Words)

Had a good time at Google today  - their campus is absolutely massive and there are quirky things like the replica of  SpaceShipOne hanging over the main stairwell (pictured) and a T-Rex skeleton inexplicably present in the grounds - apparently its name is ‘Stan’ athough I actually think ‘Alta Vista’ or ‘Lycos’ might have been more appropriate.

The mentor summit went well, I met Greg (aka Xavier) in person finally which was cool, along with loads of other people including Marten from Crystal Space, the guys from BZFlag (I’d met Sean from BZFlag at Siggraph before so it was good to talk again), plus developers from Theora, Eclipse, Apache, Drupal, Joomla and lots of others. Just being present at a gathering of so many senior members of popular open source projects was really quite cool - some people were saying it was the largest gathering even counting OSCON. Security was tightish, but I’d imagine Microsoft would have had a lot to gain by bombing the place this weekend; damage Google and over a hundred or so top open source projects in one strike? Hmm…

Once again I’m struck by what an awesome thing it is Google is doing here - more so having seen just how many people they’ve flown in at their own expense, to host at their own campus over a weekend. So much money and effort going into assisting open source projects that are mostly unconnected to their business - sure there’s a ‘halo effect’ in terms of publicity, they get to recruit people as a spin-off, and it’s in Google’s interest to challenge proprietary software traditions through disruptive models, but largely I got the impression that, at in individual level, this was as much about Google people just wanting to give back as self-interest. They make extensive use of open source, so they’re pumping resources back in on the expectation that in the round it’ll be good for them for the whole open source model to thrive.  More cynical companies could be cherry-picking that investment more closely to target things that are very specifically going to benefit them, but instead they’re funding the whole sector based on general merit - I can’t imagine funding open source game projects is ever likely to be of direct benefit to them for example. I don’t know how many more years it’ll carry on, but while it does I think it’s something rather special. To use the phrase Leslie from Google used a lot all day, I’m ‘feeling the love’ - it’s pretty hard to imagine any other company doing what they’re doing. Google, you rock.