Friday, August 17, 2012

Benetech, Bookshare and Google Summer of Code

Many thanks to Thushan Ganegedara for this guest post about his summer open source project.

I’m Thushan Ganegedara, a 3rd year undergraduate from the Department of Computer Science & Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. My interests are Mobile Development and Computational Intelligence. My first-ever experience with Google Summer of Code has been with Benetech. I have realized that Benetech is indeed “technology serving humanity.” I feel fortunate to work with a set of employees who are technically competent yet very friendly and helpful.

My project is associated with the ‘Go Read’ Android application. Go Read is a free e-book reader that people with print disabilities can use to read Bookshare titles. Go Read searches for books based on title, author, etc., or gets the latest/popular books using the Bookshare API. Additionally Go Read downloads books from Bookshare’s collection using the Bookshare API. Bookshare has a rich collection of books, newspapers and magazines. The project I’m working on consists of several major objectives:
  1. Implement Periodical Downloading Go Read currently has download capability only for books. It has not yet been extended to newspapers and magazines. Therefore, the application will be extended to allow users to download newspapers and magazines as well as books. 
  2. Integrate Social Network sharing Social Networks have become one of the very popular trends in the modern society. So why not give Go Read some space in social networks? Users can share interesting books on social networks. As for this project, with the limited time frame, I have limited the social network integration to Facebook and Twitter. 
  3. Implement a service which allows users to subscribe to a particular magazine or newspaper In the current version of Go Read, users have to explicitly go to the app, select the book and download it. This could become tiresome for the user who wants to download a daily/weekly newspaper/magazine from Bookshare. This subscription mechanism will notify the user whenever a new issue of the subscribed newspaper/magazine is available on Bookshare. 

When I’m looking down the road I have traveled, it has been a wonderful and fruitful experience. I’ve collected experience on various aspects such as: communication, delivering code on time, managing a project on GitHub, setting up milestones and issues, and completing them on time. Moreover, I should mention my mentor Meghan Larson who has been a great support in my journey. She has been very supportive and responsive on the matters I have had so far. She has been a wonderful mentor. Additionally I should mention Rom Srinivasan, who has been a great support starting from the proposal submission period.  

Benetech is very pleased to have talented, dedicated engineers like Thusan working for us this summer, and very grateful that Google included us in their Summer of Code program!

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