One of the best things about GSoC is the group of individuals from diverse cultures and different open source organizations that participate each year. This also means that you cannot make any assumptions about communication. Specifically:

Issues we see interested contributors do that will irritate your mentors and community very quickly (and likely result in you not being accepted into the org):

  • Never address a person with a gendered title (Sir, Mam, etc. unless the person has indicated that a certain title is acceptable). The best thing to do is just say ‘Mentors’, especially during the application period of the program when you may not know mentor’s specific displaynames yet.
  • Never assume a person’s gender based on display name, profile pic, etc.
  • Never reach out to mentors during the application period via social media like LinkedIn, etc. to get them to answer your questions if they haven’t responded in a couple of days.
  • Don’t expect instant answers. Remember you are working with volunteers.
  • One of the best ways to destroy your reputation early is to repeatedly ask questions on the chat channel or the mailing list that are covered in a FAQ or other types of documentation.


  • Respect the mentors, org admin, other GSoC applicants and the org’s community members. Respect everyone equally regardless of their gender.
  • Always read the Program Rules, FAQ and this guide first!
  • Avoid humor when communicating with the entire GSoC community. It does not translate well to large groups and is likely to be misconstrued by someone.
  • Remember that other peoples’ time is just as valuable as your own.

How to Use a Mailing List

Every community uses mailing lists differently. It is extremely important that you spend some time understanding how to participate in a way that is acceptable to the community. Read the mailing list archives, observe for awhile first and be sure to inquire about and read any codes of conduct or guidelines before you post.

Some specific guidelines that should apply across communities:

  • Follow the mailing list posting style. Do people top or bottom post? Follow the norm.
  • Keep your posts on-topic. Avoid tangents and posting “I know this is off-topic but…” type posts. If you have any doubt, email the moderator before you post.
  • Don’t cross-post to multiple lists. Communicating well on mailing lists means knowing where and when to post items, if you have any doubts regarding what is appropriate, ask the moderator.
  • Never send community members unsolicited personal messages. Especially, if your content is along the lines of “the way you talk about code really turns me on.” Inappropriate!
  • If you are offended by a response or post, walk-away. Do not respond when you are angry.
  • Avoid posting to the mailing list if you are significantly under the influence of anything that makes you behave out of your norm. Just like drunk-dialing is bad – so is drunk emailing to your open source community mailing list.
  • Avoid profanity.
  • Don’t post chain letters, marketing messages or other types of non-topical spam.
  • Always check the archives before re-posting your message. Lots of mail clients don’t send you duplicates of your mailing lists posts. Check the archives before you re-send!
  • Always read the entire thread before replying. Seriously, read every message in a thread first!
  • Don’t use the mailing list as your own personal Google. Take the time to research the question first. Check the archives, search the project documentation first, Google it yourself.
  • Don’t begin or get involved in religious or political arguments.
  • Never proselytize on the mailing list.
  • Do your best to always assume the best of the poster. We all have bad days. Sometimes, a non-native speaker may appear to have an offensive “tone” in the post where no offense is meant.
  • Avoid unintentional “tone” in your postings. If you have any doubt read your message out loud or have someone else read your message before you post.

Like a bullhorn

When you post to the GSoC contributor list you are essentially using a bullhorn to broadcast your words to 10,000 people across time zones and international boundaries. Use your bullhorn wisely, or it might be ripped from your hands by an unruly and angry mob, or by a responsible moderator.

How to Use IRC

Many projects use IRC for real-time conversations. Often these IRC conversations appear very casual. It is always best to assume formality if you have any doubts about who may be listening or participating in the conversation.

The Fedora Project has a great FAQ on how to use IRC. Read it!

Some additional guidelines:

  • Include your preferred name in your IRC signature information.
  • Never private-message (pm) someone that you don’t know without first asking if it is OK in the public channel.
  • Read the topic before asking questions.
  • Stay on-topic for the channel.
  • Before asking questions in #gsoc - read the FAQ!
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