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Re: mentoring programs in Debian

Hi Russ,

On Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 03:03:42PM -0700, Russ Allbery wrote:
> Ana Guerrero <ana@debian.org> writes:
> > - For some DDs in previous years, this seemed to be a way to have students
> >   doing stuff from their TODO lists...
> Just a quick note on this part: I don't think this is inherently a bad
> idea, although of course it should be something the student is also
> excited about.  But I remember what I was like when I was in high school:
> I really wanted to program, but I was horrible at coming up with useful
> things to do.  I needed a good problem stream that I could work on and
> then I enjoyed finding ways to solve the problems.  Not everyone is like
> that, of course, but I do think there are people out there who just want
> to put skills to use and learn how to do new things but don't know how to
> select good and useful problems to work on.
> 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.  That
> often means that one needs to step back and let new people do things that
> are easy for the mentor, which in turn means leaving easy work undone for
> long enough to give people a chance to do it.

I see your point. In these cases, the "mentor" was more treating the GSoC
program as a bounty program or a way to have "contractors" paid at the expense
of somebody else. It wasn't a real mentoring scheme.

This kind of mentoring "let's package this new software stack" (and create
a team to maintain it, when it doesn't exist) doesn't need to happen inside
the GSoC, it can happen already in Debian. In fact, some Debian teams already
do this, but fail to announce it clearly. When an interested user ask,
we tend to say: "if you want new version of X in Debian, we need help" instead
of "we welcome new contributors. If you don't have a lot of experience, don't
worry, we'll mentor you! Please take a look at this and if you can questions
mails us to X and/or join us in IRC" or something along these lines :)


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