Non-MOTU as MOTU Mentors and bad advice

Emmet Hikory persia at
Tue Nov 11 15:26:01 GMT 2008

Charliej wrote:
> On Mon, 2008-11-10 at 22:39 -0500, Scott Kitterman wrote:
>> I will confess that I don't pay as much attention to the Mentors program as I 
>> probably should.  I had no idea we were allowing people who weren't MOTU to 
>> act formally as mentors.
> It is my understanding that UUC's are only allowed to mentor in the
> junior program.  The senior program is strictly for MOTU as these are
> MOTU hopefuls

>> This is a stunningly bad idea and should stop.  I just finished trying to help 
>> a novice mentee who was trying to upgrade his system to Jaunty because his 
>> mentor told him too.  
> IMHO (this is only my opinion and may not be the opinion of the MOTU
> Mentoring Reception Team) I disagree!

    As much as I agree with Scott that in this case the provided advice
was flat-out wrong, and that the value of having those who have not
received technical review being recommended as mentors for development
is at best highly questionable, I wonder if establishing some set of
criteria by which mentors are judged (whether it be they being MOTU or
something else) is perhaps solving the wrong issue.

    The Mentoring Program page (1) states that a mentor in the Junior
Mentoring Program will "guide the new contributor (mentee) to find
his/her way into the community, present the different teams and guide
him/her through: [stunningly large list of technical tasks elided]".  If
we are granting those without technical review the opportunity to act as
a Mentor, would it not be better to focus on the social aspects
(introduction to community, IRC best practices, team organisations,
common useful resources, etc.), and then concentrate the technical
training collaboratively in the #ubuntu-motu channel?

    By having each mentor individually lead each mentee through this
vast list of activities, we're surely creating a lot of duplicated
training activity, which would probably be better concentrated in one
place.  This has the advantages that many people can learn from each
explanation, those more junior can feel comfortable giving advice
knowing those more senior will provide additional detail if required,
and each new person gains greater familiarity with each of the
participating developers, increasing the strength of the team.

    Further, with such regular discussions of technical tips & tricks,
those MOTU who may have forgotten some detail will have it refreshed,
and those providing training can build practice to better participate in
MOTU School sessions.

    To me, the important part of the mentoring process is that any
mentee has someone to turn to as a last resort when other resources are
insufficient, and someone who can provide advice as to possible avenues
for them to investigate.  By structuring the program to encourage more
communication using existing channels, and encouraging mentors to
provide good links to useful shared documentation, we accomplish these
goals, while also improving our shared knowledge, building stronger
relationships, and sorting out much of the documentation that is
suffering from bitrot.

    Ideally, except with dealing with social issues, or helping find
something to do, or other relatively personal matters, most mentors
should be directing their mentees to high-quality shared documentation
explaining the concepts in question, and encouraging them to use typical
communications fora to explore any questions or concerns that may be
raised.  In such an environment, I don't see any issue with trusting any
Ubuntu Member to provide useful guidance, as there is some reasonable
assurance that the provided advice matches current best practices and
that further discussion forms part of the shared culture that makes us
so effective.


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