The painter and the electrician


When setting up the Summer of Code program, it probably didn’t occur to Google that it was so complicated to give away 2 million dollars…

In order not to give 30% of their grants (I guess than anybody could use 1350 bucks !) to the IRS, the participants from abroad need to go through some tricky paperwork (W-8BEN, ITIN, W-7, etc.). Well, it may not be that tricky when you know what to do, but for the moment we don’t really have a clue. Google doesn’t seem to know exactly what to do either, and they obviously want to do this right.

Anyhow, on the mailing list where accepted participants talk together, there are now litterally hundreds of emails per day, providing new information from each one’s local tax counsellor/IRS office/ambassy, asking what to do if one lives in smurfistan but has a schmarkese nationality, or trying to sum up what has been said in the 467 previous emails of the day.

I just find it really funny, interesting, and a bit surreal, that students who have been selected to write code are all talking together about how to fill in exception number h) of the fourth section of form W-674, finding out about tax treaties, different types of grants, tax withholding, etc. Another week and we can all become tax consultants !

We are just a bunch of painters, all on our way to become electricians, because the light in our workshop won’t work. So here we are, all together in the dark in the same huge workshop, discussing together and bumping into each other, trying to get the circuits A157 and C976 to connect, repairing fuses 54, 89 and 103, replacing wires, etc. Somehow, it’s just like some kind of detective story ; it’s quite unexpected, and although it might look silly, I just find it really interesting !

More news from the front now : my mentor is French (just like I am), which will probably make communication easier. He contacted me today (after I contacted the mentoring organization the day before yesterday), and we have an appointment together (on the “IRC” chat system), along with another person working on the same project (I will not be posting names or project details here, I hope to keep it this blog easy to read and understandable). That’s tomorrow morning (French time). They all seem to be really very nice, patient and helpful. More news tomorrow !

PS : although I love to use (a few) smileys in my emails, because I think they can make things easier sometimes, I will try to keep this blog smiley-free. It’s not the same kind of communication. I’m not speaking to anyone in particular ; and I hope my poor writing skills in English will be enough not to be misunderstood !