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Re: mentoring programs in Debian

On 2013-03-12 01:03, Russ Allbery wrote:
On the general topic of mentoring, though, I think one of the hardest
parts of helping new people join the project is that people need to start
with relatively easy tasks so that they can get their feet wet.

Yes. Even where there is an existing list of tasks, these will often be too hard to be a good introduction for new people. Or otherwise, easy but boring and not introducing enough aspects of a team's work. Or too urgent to have a working solution for, so that depending on the new person completing one quickly is dangerous and unfair.

In some areas it may be better to start with artificial tasks. Already in Debian we have often used artificial tasks in the NM process, as a quick way of checking skills that weren't demonstrated by past activity: e.g. asking how to respond to a specified list of invented bug reports, or asking to find some of the problems in licences that we already know are bad.

In some other areas, it might be necessary for people to start just by "shadowing" the activity of someone experienced. Even these cases can give the new people a real insight into the relevant area of work just from seeing what is done and seeing how decisions are made, and much more so if the experienced people take the time to work through some decisions with them in depth, listening to the person's suggestions before responding with comments from their own experience.


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