Google Summer Of Code Adds New Goodies To Congress (Android App)


Over the past few months we’ve had the pleasure of working with several developers through Google’s Summer of Code program. One of them is Evelina Vrabie, who has contributed her talents to our Android app (and has done so from across an ocean — Evelina’s based in Romania). She was nice enough to write about the experience, and to tease a few of the features she’s been working on for the app.

My name is Evelina Vrabie, and for the last four months I’ve had a great experience collaborating with Eric Mill on the Congress project for Android, as part of the Google Summer of Code 2010 program.

Working for the Sunlight Foundation has been an excellent opportunity for me to learn and grow as a capable Android developer. Although at first I was a little inexperienced in the world of mobile applications and a bit overwhelmed by the challenge, I can positively say that four months later I’ve gradually overcome all the obstacles. I had a great mentor, that’s for sure! :) I’ve learned a lot from Eric and I’m really grateful he was patient enough to help me throughout the project.

At the beginning, I wasn’t actually sure of my chances of being selected this year on GSoC. I started talking to Eric at the beginning of the program, trying to understand the motivations of the project, and to get some additional insight about the community. I can honestly say I had my stomach clenched for a few days in anticipation before the final announcements about selected students, but everything turned out to be even better than expected.

What helped me the most with getting the hang of the code was talking to Eric as often as it was necessary, because he’s the live documentation of the Congress project; kidding, but we should continue our efforts to write good project documentation and best practices for future developers. It wasn’t difficult at all to familiarize myself with the application; the code is clear and easy to understand, and I tried my best to keep it that way while adding my own contribution.

I’ve implemented some nice and useful features so far, like improving the way legislators are fetched according to the user’s GPS location, a “favorites” system for bills and legislators, and a notification system that should be finished by the end of the project. I’m planning to add a nice timeline to better visualize the history and votes of a bill, and I’ll also be glad to help Eric with some more UI improvements in the near future.

GSoC may be over soon, but I’m really hoping my contribution to the Congress application will go beyond that. I’m having a great time doing what I like (Android programming) and even though I’ll probably need to get a full time job after the end of the summer, I’ll be sure to stay in touch with Eric and the Sunlight Foundation.

Thank you all for having me around!