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General Discussion

Google Summer of Code Application
User: kmaclean
Date: 3/6/2007 12:03 am
Views: 1653
Rating: 2


The Google Summer of Code Mentor Application site opened Monday (March 5). 

I have submitted the Application shown below.  If there are any glaring omissions or errors, please let me know.  We have one week to submit a corrected application (March 12).

I have also set up an ideas forum for student applicants to review (if we get accepted).



1. What is your Organization's Name?


2. What is your Organization's Homepage?

3. Describe your organization.

VoxForge collects transcribed speech audio for the creation of Acoustic Models, for use with Free and Open Source Speech Recognition Engines ('SRE's). An Acoustic Model is basically a file that contains statistical representations of sounds that make up the words in a large corpus of spoken audio. Currently, most Acoustic Models included with Open Source SREs are closed source (i.e. they don't provide the source audio because of license restrictions). VoxForge hopes to address this problem. 

VoxForge is trying to provide one of the most important pieces to the foundation of a Speech Recognition software stack. A mediocre speech recognition engine with an excellent Acoustic Model will perform better that an excellent speech recognition engine with a mediocre Acoustic Model. The audio and transcriptions that are used in the creation of the Acoustic Models are thus crucial to the whole Speech Recognition process.

4. Why is your organization applying to participate in GSoC 2007? What do you hope to gain by participating? 

a) Get more open source code created and released for the benefit of all
Free or Open Source Speech Recognition lags greatly behind commercial Speech Recognition. Open Source Speech Recognition Engines are not even good enough to be included in any of the major Linux Distributions (Fedora, Ubunto, Suse ...). This has many impacts, but none greater than the Open Source Community's failure to improve Linux Accessibility for people who would benefit most. Improved Speech Recognition on Linux would benefit: people with carpal tunnel injuries, people with mobility impairments such as MS, people with poor typing skills, or even the illiterate.
b) Inspire young developers to begin participating in open source development
Since practical Open Source Speech Recognition is still in its infancy, this would provide a great opportunity for a young developer to come in to the project and to grow as the project grows.
c) Help open source projects identify and bring in new developers and committers
VoxForge is a relatively new project, taking a different approach to addressing the need for Open Source Speech Recognition. There is a coding aspect but there is also a big promotion aspect to try to convince the open source community of the importance of donating their speech to the project. Having a Google Summer of Code student would provide some legitimacy to the VoxForge project that might encourage others to want to contribute, either in code or in speech.
d)Provide students in Computer Science and related fields the opportunity to do work related to their academic pursuits during the summer (think "flip bits, not burgers")
Commercial Speech Recognition is maturing quickly. Free and Open Source has a lot of catching up to do. Speech Recognition as a field of study offers a great deal of opportunity to a young student. Working with a project like VoxForge would let them understand the basic issues in creating workable Speech Recognition systems, and provide them with valuable experience for when they finish their studies and find themselves looking to start a career.
e) Give students more exposure to real-world software development scenarios (e.g., distributed development, software licensing questions, mailing-list etiquette)
Free and Open Source Speech Recognition brings many issues to the table:
Licensing: VoxForge has chosen the GPL license for distributing its speech corpora. This results in interesting questions from users trying to understand where Acoustic Models generated from the VoxForge Corpus might be used. Learning how to respond to such licensing questions would be valuable to a student, because the skills learned in discussing these questions are easily transferable to other open source projects or the corporate world.
Distributed software development: VoxForge is still a small project. So many of the issues that occur as a result of of distributed software development are not that great of a burden. However, we do use many of the the same tools (Trac, Subversion, Wiki, CMS ...) that are used by the larger open source projects, so that the skills learned on this project would be very useful and easily transferable to other open source or commercial projects.
Mailing-list etiquette: VoxForge mailing list caters to many types of people, and thus would provide an excellent environment for a student to reinforce or improve their communications skills. There are developers with interests in the technical aspects of Speech Recognition Engines targeted by the Acoustic Models created by VoxForge. There are speech audio contributors who have questions about the use of their microphones and audio cards, and who must be addressed is very different language than developers. VoxForge can provide an excellent learning environment to hone a student's communication skills.

5. Did your organization participate in GSoC 2005 or 2006? If so, please summarize your involvement and the successes and failures of your student projects. (optional) 


6. If your organization has not previously participated in GSoC, have you applied in the past? If so, for what year(s)? (optional)

We have never applied in the past. The VoxForge project has been on-line since May 2006, and really only in the public eye since October 2006, when we had an article in Slashdot.

7. What license does your project use?


8. URL for your ideas page 

9. What is the main development mailing list for your organization? 

The CMS we use allows users to receive e-mail notifications of any new posts on the forums for the site – so we essentially have a hybrid mailing list.

The general forums page at: can be used to post development questions.

We also use the Trac issue management system at

10. Where is the main IRC channel for your organization?

Email and Skype.

11. Does your organization have an application template you would like to see students use? If so, please provide it now. (optional)

  • You:

    • Why are you interested in open source software in general, and in this project in particular?

    • What interests do you have, and how do these interests relate to this project?

    • What past experiences might help you with this project?

    • What skills (design/programming/testing) do you have that can help this project?

  • Your Idea:

    • Project Purpose/Vision Statement(1 or 2 lines);

    • List Project Benefits to Open Source Speech Recognition Community generally and to this project specifically;

    • List of Objectives (more fleshed version of the Vision statement);

    • List of Deliverables required to meet the Objectives (“in-scope” items);

    • List of High level Tasks required to create the deliverables;

    • Critical Success Factors;

    • Constraints;

    • Assumptions;

    • Risks (schedule risk, technical risks, other risks, ...);

    • Things explicitly not included in your project idea (i.e. “out-of-scope” items).

    • Schedule for milestones and deliverables

12. Who will be your backup organization administrator? Please enter their Google Account address. We will email them to confirm, your organization will not become active until they respond. (optional)


13. What criteria did you use to select these individuals as mentors? Please be as specific as possible.

  • Positive contributions to the project and its community, level of involvement, enthusiasm.

  • Scripting/development skills (most scripts used in the context of Open Source Speech Recognition are in Perl).

  • Knowledge and experience of Speech Recognition and how to create Acoustic Models, Grammars and Language Models, and Pronunciation Dictionaries.

  • Knowledge and experience with, one of the main Open Source Speech Recognition Engines: Sphinx, Julius, ISIP, and/or HTK.

14. Who will your mentors be? Please enter their Google Account address separated by commas. If your organization is accepted we will email each mentor to invite them to take part. (optional)

  • kendmaclean at gmail dot com

15. What is your plan for dealing with disappearing students?

  • By doing every thing we can to prevent students from disappearing in the first place. We will do this by creating a supportive environment that will encourage students to stay on the project to completion:

    • by creating a sense of ownership by getting them to define the details of their projects.

    • by conducting regular meetings in addition to providing email support.

    • by asking the community for feedback to show to the students that their work is valued.

    • by highlighting their accomplishments as the project progresses on the News page.

    • by creating a project plan with defined milestones, and having the student sign-off on the deliverables (so they know up front what they are getting in to), and track progress to address any scheduling issues early on and provide additional help where needed.

    • By have a series of milestones throughout the project which require certain deliverables to be completed. This will allow us to gage how well the student is progressing and offer additional help as needed.

  • Screen the candidates carefully. The detailed application template will help in this regard to ensure that only interested students apply.

  • In the unlikely event a student does disappear, we would look for a replacement to complete the work as planned - likely by trying to contact other students who applied, but were not selected.

16. What is your plan for dealing with disappearing mentors?

  • Because the project is relatively new, I am the only mentor, so far. I am committed to seeing the ideas to completion (whether one of our own ideas or an acceptable student proposal). I will help the student in any way I can.

  • Find a back-up mentor from the VoxForge community.

17. What steps will you take to encourage students to interact with your project's community before, during and after the program?

  • Before the Program:

    • Encourage the student to follow the Acoustic Model creation tutorial on the VoxForge web site and post questions or comments on the user forums.

    • Encourage the student to extend the Acoustic Models in the tutorial, so they will better understand the process of Acoustic Model creation, and its interaction with Speech Recognition Engines.

  • During the Program:

    • Encourage them to set up a blog on the VoxForge site and to provide regular updates on their progress.

    • Provide them with opportunities to respond to user questions.

    • Ask them to post 'requests for comment' on questions or issues they might have VoxForge Forums in order to get feedback from the community.

  • After the program:

    • Only select project ideas that are valuable to the Speech Recognition community at large, and to the VoxForge project in particular, such that users will continue to have on-going questions and comments about the student's work. The student would therefore be more apt to continue with the project if they see that their contributions are continuing to generate user interest.


18. What will you do to ensure that your accepted students stick with the project after GSoC concludes?

  • We cannot force a student to stay on with the project once Summer of Code is completed. However, we can do the following:

    • create a positive and supportive environment where the student will always feel welcome;

    • highlight the student's accomplishments such that they can see how their contributions are important to helping further Open Source Speech Recognition generally, and to the VoxForge project specifically.

  • We hope that by exposing the student to our small part of the open source community, they will realize that satisfaction of a job well done (and the praise that usually comes with it) is just as important as the money they receive from completing any project. This will hopefully encourage them to continue to contribute to Open Source in the future, even though it might not necessarily be the VoxForge project.

--- (Edited on 3/ 6/2007 1:03 am [GMT-0500] by kmaclean) ---

--- (Edited on 3/ 6/2007 4:57 pm [GMT-0500] by kmaclean) ---