Feedback from current mentees

C de-Avillez hggdh2 at
Wed Oct 5 19:05:03 UTC 2011

I sent an email to the mentorship-alpha team on Sep 8th:

"We would like to have the feedback of the current mentees:

1. What are you doing now in regard to the mentorship programme?

2. Since you started, how many bugs have you worked on? Give an
estimate -- 1, 10, 100, 1000, etc.

3. What did you expect from the mentorship programme? Please be as
detailed as possible.

4. What did you *get* from the mentorship programme? Again, please
be as detailed as poosible.

I intend to query LP for the activities of each of your, as another
datum we will use for analysis."

This team, currently, has 17 active members: 10 mentors, and 7 mentees.

I received 5 responses from mentees to the email; a summary follows:

* of the five, 1 has worked on 100-200 bugs, one did not specify, and 3 have worked on 10 or less bugs;
* All comment (or agree with somebody else's comment) that the mentorship process is confused;
* there is an expectation of a more active involvement from the mentors;
* documentation should be pointed out (my words);
* the sheer amount of bugs and packages involved makes startup more challenging;
* there is need for a communications venue (mailing list, etc).
* mentors should be more proactive (as opposed to basically reactive, as of now).


I agree and disagree (as, I guess, could be expected) with these positions; right now, though, I do agree that the programme needs to be reviewed, and either adjusted or terminated. Here it is why, in no specific order:

1. there is a confusing message we pass over everywhere: "triaging is easy", "this is how you start, then you go to more difficult things, like development", etc.

These are very wrong messages to pass.

To begin with, triaging is NOT easy: one must understand the program being used, sieve the actual issue out of an usually confusing babble, decide if it is indeed a bug, verify documentation attached, etc, etc, etc. Secondly, there are thousands of packages; even if one restricts work to a few of them, it will still be a daunting task. Add to the above all the packaging details, interaction with multiple -- and some rather different -- upstreams, and we have the perfect recipe for the confusion the mentees allude to.As the cream on the top, add the common difficulties of dealing with people that are aggressive, or lack communication skills, or that what they state is lost in translation.

2. There is another miscommunication going on: although we did state on the welcoming email, that the mentorship-alpha ML was one media to be used, we do not see much from mentees, neither on the ML, nor on IRC.

3. we have very few requirements on accepting a mentee; most importantly, I think we miss a critical requirement: the mentee *must* work on bugs; not doing so will be delaying access to other to-be mentees.

4. I still think the ML is a good idea; I think most of the folks beginning here are afraid (or, perhaps better, worried of being considered incapable) if they ask "dumb" questions. So, a ML that is restricted to those in the same boat should help. But it still seems not to work... perhaps we need to make it crystal clear that there are no such thing as a dumb question, and that we all were born ignorant.

5. We also need to make it crystal clear that when we give an opinion, this opinion is (more often than not) correct. As an example, some old mentees I had wanted to start by working on complex packages -- Evolution, the kernel, etc --, of which they had no experience. Although I tried to be very clear that these were potentially complex issues, and more experience would be needed, they usually would not listen... and I had, then, to correct mistakes, and smooth feathers; perhaps this should be more clear, this message "start with something you use and understand (as long as it is not Firefox or Evolution, or X)".

6. We should look again at the documentation pages we have for triaging; there certainly are thing we can Make Better(TM), since it is difficult for starting people, in general, to find and follow them.

7. Somehow, we need a more active mentorship. I am unsure on what we can do, though...

This is it, for now. I am pretty sure I will keep on thinking about it, and I may send additional emails later.



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