Winter Break Of Code

moxie0 on 23 Oct 2013

At Open Whisper Systems, we’re focused on creating easy-to-use privacy-enhancing technology. Our projects are free, Open Source, and tend to be oriented around the mobile environment. We’ve been working on apps like TextSecure and RedPhone (which provide secure text messages and secure phone calls) for years now, because we believe that it’s possible to develop well-designed secure communication tools that are both privacy-preserving and a joy to use.

This winter, we’d like to invite you to join us for “Winter Break Of Code,” a week-long free trip to Kauai for anyone who’d like to spend a week working on this type of easy-to-use privacy-enhancing technology in a collaborative environment. We’ve rented a large beachfront house on the north coast of Kauai for everyone to stay in, and we’ll pay for your airfare. While there, you can split your time between island living and working on an Open Whisper Systems-related privacy project that you propose.

The Precedent

Group shot from Spring Break of Code.

Earlier this year, we hosted the Open Whisper Systems Spring Break Of Code in Maui. It vastly exceeded the expectations of the organizers, and was an amazing week that connected a group with a great skill and interest mix, launched exciting new projects, and moved old ones light-years forward. We encourage you to read more about it (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). We’re hoping to repeat the experience.

The Details

Winter Break Of Code will be January 5th to January 12th, 2014. We’ve rented a large beachfront house in Hanalei, on the north coast of Kauai, HI (within walking distance to a world-class surf spot). We will be taking up to eight people, and will cover your costs for:

  • Lodging in a large beachfront house.
  • Your round-trip airfare.
  • A surfboard for the week.

Winter Break Of Code is an opportunity for designers, developers, writers, strategists, and creative thinkers interested in privacy and security to spend some time contributing to privacy-related projects in a retreat-like setting with other co-conspirators. Think of it as an extended hackathon, but with your travel expenses paid, and with breaks for surfing, hiking, swimming, and just generally being in Kauai.


To apply to Winter Break Of Code, send an email to [email protected] with the following information:

  • Tell us about yourself. Who are you, where do you live, what have you been working on, and what interests you about Open Whisper Systems? Don’t worry if you are a student or don’t have tons of “industry” experience, personal projects are great.
  • Examples of your work. Are there other public contributions you’ve made that you’re proud of?
  • What you want to work on for Winter Break Of Code. This should be something you’re excited about that can either be finished in a week, or that a useful and discrete part of can be finished in a week.

    Some example ideas could be:

    1. Working on a desktop/browser extension version of RedPhone or TextSecure.
    2. Helping with the iOS development effort.
    3. Any of the open issues on our GitHub trackers (here or here).
    4. Doing some much-needed design work on any Open Whisper Systems apps, icons, branding, etc.
    5. A system for distributing our Android apps outside the Play Store.
    6. Helping ship projects that are still incubating, such as Zones, or projects that are on the horizon, such as Secure Sync.
    7. Putting together a good solution for Open Whisper Systems user-oriented documentation.
    8. Working on anything for the website.
    9. Adding “push to talk” functionality to RedPhone.
    10. Improving RedPhone call quality.
    11. Making UX iterations to the way the apps function (on Android or iOS).
    12. Adding multi-device support to TextSecure and RedPhone.

    Or anything else you’re excited about: fixing broken windows that have annoyed you, writing features you think would be useful, or even developing a new small app (or existing project of your own) that you think would help. Just think of the skills you’re good at or are interested in developing and how you might be able to apply those to helping better achieve the goal of dead-simple mobile security and privacy for everyone.

    Please include some information about why you’re confident you’ll be able to complete your project over Winter Break Of Code.

You should also know…

We understand that it requires commitment in order to travel a great distance and spend a week with people you might not already know. We’ll work hard to ensure that the infrastructure is set up well in order to make this week great, but we also want to set the framework for the expectations we believe we should have for each other:

  • Respect: We ask for everyone to respect each other, the space, and the local area. We want this event to be inclusive for everyone involved, and will not tolerate harassment or rude behavior.

  • Consent: Any interaction with anyone at Winter Break Of Code should be consensual.

  • Privacy: The house we’ve rented is spacious, but not large enough for everyone to have their own private room. We will organize shared rooms based on gender, and will do our best to ensure that everyone has the space they need.


We want to have selected all the proposals we have space for by December 1st. If you’re interested, please submit a proposal between now and then. We’ll be accepting proposals as we go, however, so we might run out of space before then; the earlier you get something in the better.

We’re excited, and hope you will be too!