The Mozilla Lab Global Science Sprint 2015

Author: Mario Antonioletti
Posted: 8 Jun 2015 | 10:03

I had not intended to go to the Mozilla Global Science Sprint 2015. However, EPCC acted as a hub for local developers who wanted to participate and Neil Chue Hong (Director of the Software Sustainability Institute, and based here at EPCC) asked me to set up the room and make the initial connection in case he was unavailable. I managed to set up the servers and then stayed.

So what is the Mozilla Global Science Sprint?

As far as I can tell this appears to be a match-making service, somewhat similar to the Google Summer of Code (GSoC), which I have been involved with before, though operating at a different scale - a global, connected 2-day event as opposed to the slightly more disjoint GSoC event. The Mozilla version allows Open Source Projects to advertise tasks, and for developers to come along to hone their skills and rise to any challenges presented. You also get to meet fellow developers/hackers from all around the world. Fundamentally, it allows Open Source Projects to get some tasks done but more importantly feed in new ideas and possibly grow their contributory community. If you have an Open Source Project then I would strongly recommend that you consider participating in this event if it happens again next year.

Registration was straightforward - you only had to add your details on an etherpad set up for the event. Throughout each 9-5 session over the two days a vidyo video connection is kept running, which allows you to see and communicate with the other participating developers. When I set up the system, at around 9am our time, the University of Melbourne were just closing their session. The University of Jaffna stayed on and we were joined by a London link, another from Exeter and also briefly by CERN as well as a number of other institutions in the Indian subcontinent and Europe.

An IRC channel was also made available for people to communicate and to leave a more persistent record of any requests to allow a bigger community to provide input. The possible projects available, which I had not looked at, had already been advertised so it was thus useful that a brief overview was given through vidyo about the projects available - it is useful to have project members available so that you can ask any questions at the session.

We were joined by another developer, Ernest Walzel from the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh and we collectively, and somewhat competitively, began by classifying photographs for the GeoTag-X project that is building a pilot for the analysis of photos arising from a disaster situation - crowd-sourcing the analysis which, I guess, allows them to annotate collections of photographs with metadata.

After this we began looking at classifying and extracting information from a collection of academic jobs that the Software Sustainability Institute is interested in for the purposes of their Software Research Engineer campaign. This was intended to be a temporary task but it effectively dominated what we did for the remainder of the 1.5 days.

Overall it was an interesting two days and I learnt quite a bit. I would strongly recommend attending next year if it happens again as a developer looking for challenges or, if you manage an Open Software project, consider putting in your project as a possible target for developers to try out well defined tasks. It's a bit of a shame that the Edinburgh venue was not so well attended - maybe it will be better next year.