Google's Summer of Code 2012

Django is once again a mentoring organisation for the 2012 Google Summer of Code. (Read Google's page for more information on how the program works.)

Django's GSoC program is being run by Andrew Godwin (andrew at


If you're interested in mentoring -- supervising a student in work on Django-related activities -- add your name, email, and the sort of projects you're interested in mentoring here:

  • Andrew Godwin (andrew@…) -- Schema Alteration
  • Paul McMillan (paul@…) -- Security Improvements
  • Travis Swicegood (travis@…) -- App Refactor
  • Aymeric Augustin (aymeric.augustin@…) -- Enhanced auth.user
  • Russell Keith-Magee (russell@…) -- Validation, serialization


Student application period opens March 26 and ends on April 6.

If you'd like to get started on your proposal early, we'll be looking for a few things.

  • You'll need to have a concrete task in mind (some ideas are below) along with a solid idea of what will constitute "success" (you tell us).
  • If your proposal is a single large feature, you'll need to present a detailed design specification. This proposal should be posted to django-developers, where it can be refined until it is accepted by the developer community.
  • We'll want to know a bit about you -- links to previous work are great, if any. If you're proposing something ambitious, you'll need to convince us that you're up to the task.
  • You'll also need to provide us with a schedule, including a detailed work breakdown and major milestones so your mentor can know if and when to nag you :)

Note that none of the ideas below are good enough to be submissions in their own right (so don't copy and paste)! We'll want to know not just what you want to do but how you plan to pull it off.

Don't feel limited to the ideas below -- if you've got a cool project you want to work on, we'll probably be able to find you a mentor. We plan on approving as many projects as we possibly can.

Note: we're looking for projects that add value to Django itself - not application/CMS projects that use Django.

You should also note that as far as proposals go, we don't make a distinction between a GSoC project and any other proposal for a new feature. When you contribute code, you will be expected to adhere to the same contribution guidelines as any other code contributor. This means you will be expected to provide extensive tests and documentation for any feature you add, you will be expected to participate in discussion on django-developers when your topic of interest is raised. If you're not already familiar with Django's contribution guidelines, now would be a good time to read them.


This year we're doing all GSOC-related communication via the django-developers mailing list. Any proposals for GSOC should be submitted there, as well as discussion on the proposed projects and any updates that students post.

Please be careful to keep content to the list clear and purposeful; if you have an idea, update, or criticism, please make sure you describe it in detail; it can be tedious asking people to clarify any vague statements, or having vital information drip-fed.


Here are some suggestions for projects students may want to propose (please feel free add to this list!). This isn't by any means the be-all and end-all of ideas; please feel free to submit proposals for things not on this list. Remember, we'd much prefer that you posted a draft proposal and your rough timeline / success conditions to the django-developers list, even if it's already on the list below; it will help you get feedback on choosing the right part of a problem, as well as helping to see if there is any interest before you start drafting a full proposal.

When developing your proposal, try to scope ideas/proposals to the 4-month timeline -- simply proposing to fix a ticket or two will probably result in your proposal being rejected in favor of a more ambitious one. The GSoC does not cover activities other than coding, so certain ideas ("Write a more detailed tutorial" or "Create demonstration screencasts" or "Add a pony") are not suitable for inclusion here.

On the other side, though, be sure to be concrete in your proposal. We'll want to know what your goals are, and how you plan to accomplish them.

In no particular order:

Enhanced auth.user

  • Complexity: High

Note: that in early April, the project was withdrawn from the list of candidate projects for the 2012 session:

One of the most common class of questions on django-users surrounds issues of customizing Django's User model. For example:

  • How can I use an email address as a username?
  • I want to use Twitter/OAuth/Facebook to login - why can't I leave the username field empty?
  • How can I make the username field N characters longer/shorter?
  • How can I allow [insert random character] in usernames?
  • How can I have a single "name" field instead of "first_name"/"last_name"?

At present, there is no easy answer to these questions. Use of Django User model is not mandatory, but it is a dependency for a lot of Django applications. It is possible to do some of these customizations using some tricks or by manually modifying the contrib.auth source code, but these are not good solutions for novice users.

#3011 is the canonical ticket for this issue. A new discussion started on django-developers in March 2012, which may result in a BDFL decision.

Note: This isn't a problem with an existing worked solution. A successful proposal on this project will require extensive discussion on django-developers.

Issues to consider:

  • How can we represent the generic idea of a User without reducing the user table to little more than an identifying primary key?
  • How can we differentiate the ideas of identity, permission and authentication?
  • How can we manage the dependencies that exist in contrib.admin (and other parts of Django core and Django.contrib) that rely on the internals of auth.User as currently implemented?
  • How can we roll out a new/modified User model without requiring almost every Django application on the planet to undergo a complex database modification?

See also:

Security Enhancements

  • Complexity: Medium

Django has developed many security features over time. The existing set of security features is pretty good, but there's lots of room for improvement. Much of the work in this project will be related to cleaning up existing code to make it more obviously secure, eliminate edge cases, and and improve fallback handling.

Some potential areas of work include:

  • Enhancing CSRF protection (#16859)
  • Centralizing randomized token issuance and validation
  • Integrating carljm's django-secure project (
  • Building an interactive admin dashboard to display and check installation security parameters
  • Targeted Code audit for a specific list of security errors

While an interest in security will make these tasks more interesting, most of them don't require you to be a security expert already. Your mentor will make sure your plan is correct before you code, and carefully review your work before it is committed to trunk. Most of these tasks will be significantly easier if you already have some familiarity with Django's codebase. A successful application will have a plan which selects related areas of work, provides details, and has a good estimation of complexity for the proposed tasks. Remember that (especially for security work) a good patch often has more lines of tests than code changes. An ideal applicant will be able to demonstrate the skill with Python and attention to detail necessary to make fundamental changes to Django without breaking existing code.

Ideas that will probably not be accepted:

  • Adding database or cookie encryption support (unless you can provide a secondary mentor who is a crypto expert)
  • Proposals that strongly couple sessions with CSRF or Auth
  • Proposals to include external libraries in Django

If you are interested in working on this project, please talk to us sooner rather than later! PaulM is usually available on IRC, and wants to help you write a really good application.

Improved error reporting

  • Complexity: Medium

The error messages raised by Django can sometimes be confusing or misleading. This is sometimes due to Django wrapping and re-raising errors when it shouldn't. Sometimes it's due to Django not displaying error information effectively. Sometimes it's simply a matter of not catching the right errors.

This should be fixed. Error messages are just as important to the development process as good documentation. This project would address the error reporting issues in Django to ensure that the errors reported by a Django project are as good as they can be.

Issues to consider:

  • Import errors discovered during application loading during can be masked under certain circumstances.
  • Errors in template tags and filters rarely produce helpful error messages.
  • Errors in ModelForm and ModelAdmin can raise errors that don't indicate the real problem

See also:

Improve annotation and aggregation

  • Complexity: Medium

The 2009 Summer of Code added the annotate() and aggregate() calls to Django's query arsenal. While these tools work well for simple arithmetic aggregates, they don't work well for date and string based queries. There are also use cases where you may want to annotate data onto a model that *isn't* an aggregate (for example, annotating the sum of two other aggregates).

This project would continue where the 2009 GSoC aggregation project left off. This would be an excellent project for anyone wishing to gain an intimate understanding of Django's Query infrastructure.

Issues to consider:

  • String concatenation and manipulation (e.g., annotate a model with the uppercase version of the first 5 characters of someone's name)
  • Grouping of results by date (e.g., show me a count of articles, grouped by day)
  • Allowing non-null defaults in aggregation (e.g., when a model has no related objects, use 0 not NULL)
  • Aggregates involving generic relations

See also:

Customizable serialization

  • Complexity: Minor

Django's current serializer implementation imposes some restrictions that limit the usefulness of the serializers outside of fixture loading. The basic serialization format, for example, can't be changed.

The aim of this project would be to deliver a fully customizable serialization framework. Ideally, this would be a class-based structure that allows users to define their own serialization format (including different output structure, including non-model fields, etc). The end goal is that you should be able to output any object (or list of objects), in any format, to any depth, with any additional information that might be relevant in a serialization context.

In short, anywhere we have made an arbitrary design decision with Django's existing serializers, that decision should be customizable as an end user.

When developing your proposal, the proof of concept is that you should be able to define Django's existing serialization formats using your new serialization format.

Issues to consider:

  • Serializing nested structures (of arbitrary depth)
  • Serializing subsets of model attributes
  • Serializing non-database attributes/properties
  • Serialized output that doesn't match the current default output format (i.e., a model in JSON doesn't have to be {"pk": XX, "model": "", "fields": {...}} )
  • Serialized output format that can change on a per-model basis
  • Serialized output format that can change based on where in the output tree the object is located (e.g., output the full User object if it's included from within model X, but only output the username if its included from within model Y)
  • In an XML context, control over the tags, namespaces, attributes and nesting structures in the final XML
  • In a JSON/YAML context, control over the use of lists, dictionaries etc, as well as the choice of key names for dictionaries.

See also:

Best practices updates

  • Complexity: Moderate

Over the years, as Django has evolved, the idea of what constitutes "best practice" has also evolved. However, some parts of Django haven't kept up with those best practices. For example, contrib.comments and contrib.databrowse aren't deployable apps in the same sense as contrib.admin. As a result, these apps can't be (easily) deployed multiple times, and they can't use URL namespacing.

In addition, some features of Django's core have grown and evolved, and need refactoring. For example, validation is now performed in several places, but don't operate by hooking into the core 'validate' command. In addition, many aspects of the core validate command should be farmed out to the things that are being validated (e.g., the max/min conditions on a field should be validated by the field, not by a third party validator).

In short, Django has been bad at eating it's own dogfood. The contents of contrib should be audited and updated to make sure it meets current best practices.

Issues to consider:

  • What components need to be updated, and why?
  • How to do this update while maintaining backwards compatibility?

See also:

Validation functionality revamping

  • Complexity: Moderate

This idea has some overlap with the previous one.

Django currently has a validation framework: A static, monolithic collection of checks implemented in Python code that is automatically executed before the syncdb or runserver commands and whose functionality is available through the validate management command. It is given the chance to inspect the model definitions of installed apps and can flag errors to the developer during the development phase.

But there is the possibility to expand it to increase its usefulness. These are some ideas that have been proposed so far:

  • Add the concept of warnings, as opposed to the current hard errors. This would mean a refactoring of the code into a more generic framework so we can defer validation to individual fields or to the database backend, as required. Some scenarios where it would be of help to developers by pointing some non-fatal but potential problems:
    • Some database backends have some reserved names for database columns (e.g. Oracle doesn't accept columns named date or number)
    • Some fields names chosen by the developer can clash with names of ORM query lookups.
  • Provide a mechanism so applications can hook and get their own validation code run at this point. See for example ticket #8579.
  • When a Django version is updated, some problems may be predictable by inspecting settings or models (e.g., looking for settings that have changed format, or have been deprecated)

See also:

Test framework cleanup

  • Complexity: Low

Django has an extensive test framework for Python code, a suite of tools to make server-side testing easier, and a project policy that no new code is added without tests. This has been a significant contributor to the stability of Django as a project.

For the 1.4 release, we also included the basis of a client-side testing framework into Django (

However, this now means that Django has a very large and powerful test suite without much separation or control from a user's perspective, so the goal of this project would be to add new options and suite types to allow running of specific types of tests, be they only a certain class (e.g. unit-tests only) or excluding tests (such as the ones in contrib or third-party apps) from the main test run easily.

Issues to consider:

  • How would users declare which tests they want to run?
  • Which tests should be enabled by default, and how hard should this be to change?
  • How will it be app maintainers run their tests?
  • Should there be additional hooks to, for example, allow tests to be run against different database backends in sequence?

See also:

  • #13873 (more of a symptom of this problem)
  • More tickets need to be added here

Schema Alteration

  • Complexity: Medium

Django has, for many years, lacked any kind of schema alteration (an idea fundamental to database migrations) in core. Projects like South have become very popular as they fill this gap, and so we're looking to try and bridge the gap and start merging some relevant functionality into Django.

In particular, schema alteration backends are the first step. Each database has different methods of changing tables, indexes, and constraints; South has code for the five most popular databases, but it's entirely separate from Django. The idea is to merge these backends into the core Django code (and the concept of a Django database backend), supplementing or replacing the "creation" modules with an "alteration" module.

Once these backends are merged in, the South codebase can be heavily simplified (leaving just features like autodetection and ORM versioning), and other migration frameworks suddenly become a lot easier to write (as now the hard task of working around lack of features in MySQL and SQLite, and dealing with the differing syntaxes of each database is all done already).

Issues to consider:

  • How would the current creation module in database backends be affected? Would you leave it as-is, or refactor it to use the new alteration code?
  • How will you deal with a lack of features in various backends? South has workarounds for some, but others, such as properly managing indexes, are very difficult.
  • How will you make sure the new API is flexible enough to work with not just South, but other current and future migration frameworks?

Finishing off the App Refactor

  • Complexity: Medium

In a previous GSOC (2010) a project to refactor Django's internal structure for representing and loading apps was started, and continued by Jannis into 2011:

However, this branch is still a little way away from being merged, and so the task for this GSOC project would be to finish off the work on the branch and prepare it for a merge into trunk. The change touches quite a few different areas of the codebase (see the current diff: and so you'll have to get familiar with each in order to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Finishing off Form Templates

  • Complexity: Hard

Last year, a GSOC project worked on replacing the internal Django code that renders forms with a templated system, allowing for much better flexibility and customisability of forms, fields, and related components in the forms framework. The current code can be found here:

The main issue with the branch last year was that the template renderer was not fast enough on large numbers of includes and extends, meaning that the new form templates, while modular, were slower than the current forms system. The major task with this project would be to address the speed issue. Note that this was attempted last year, and didn't work out so well - if you want to take on this project, we'll want to see a clear plan of how you attempt to address the issue and some proof that you're capable of pulling it off.

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