Winter Of Code

moxie0 on 20 Oct 2014

This January, Open Whisper Systems will be hosting a Winter Break Of Code. We’ve managed to get access to a large beachfront house in Kauai for three weeks, and we’re inviting people to join us. If you’re interested in spending one to three weeks in Hawaii working collaboratively on an Open Source project to make private communication simple, we’ll take care of your airfare and housing so that you can be there.

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.

Everything that Open Whisper Systems produces is free and Open Source. We’ve been working on apps like Signal, TextSecure, RedPhone, and Flock for years now, because we believe that it’s possible to develop well-designed apps that are both privacy-preserving and a joy to use.

Past Breaks Of Code

Group shot from Winter Break Of Code 2014.

Last year’s Winter Break Of Code vastly exceeded our expectations, 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’re hoping to repeat the experience. To get a feeling for what to expect, you can read more about it here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

We also hosted the Open Whisper Systems Spring Break Of Code in Maui, March 2013. You can read more about it here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The Details for This Winter

This Winter Break Of Code will be January 10th to January 31st, 2015 (you can come from one to three weeks of that time). We’ll be in Hanalei, on the north coast of Kauai, HI (within walking distance to a world-class surf spot). We will be taking up to fifteen people, and will cover your costs for:

  • Lodging in a large beachfront house.
  • Your round-trip airfare.
  • A surfboard for the duration of your stay.


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 and private communication?

  • Your availability. Which weeks are you available for, from January 10th to January 31st?

  • Examples of your work. Are there public contributions you’ve made that you’re proud of? Don’t worry if you are a student or don’t have tons of “industry” experience, personal projects are great.

  • 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 the duration of the trip, or that a useful and discrete part of can be finished in the duration of the trip.

    Some example ideas could be:

    1. An ELIZA-style TextSecure “chat bot” that people can use to test out TextSecure.

    2. Bring Flock to another platform.

    3. Modular “sticker packs” for TextSecure.

    4. A standalone Java SMS gateway server that adaptively selects the most successful SMS gateways for given regions.

    5. A privacy-preserving A/B testing framework.

    6. A testing infrastructure for the iOS projects.

    7. Helping with UI/UX design for the TextSecure browser extension.

    8. Helping with the iOS development effort.

    9. Any of the open issues on our GitHub trackers (here, here, here, or here).

    10. Doing some much needed design work on any Open Whisper Systems apps, icons, branding, etc.

    11. “Push to talk” functionality for RedPhone or TextSecure.

    12. Improving RedPhone call quality (experimenting with Opus, adaptively adjusting bitrates in response to congestion, etc).

    13. Making UX iterations to the way the apps function (on Android or iOS).

    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 or weeks 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 have 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 November 30th, 2014. 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!