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Re: mentoring programs in Debian

Ana Guerrero <ana@debian.org> writes:

> 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.

Ah, yes, that's certainly a problem.

> 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 :)


Of course, some of that problem is that mentoring can be a lot of work!
This is always one of the challenges for free-time activities; people like
doing things that are fun and simple and directly personally rewarding.
While mentoring can be that, it isn't always.

I've been spending the day poking around on video game forums since one of
the tracking sites I'm particularly fond of just redid part of how they do
one of their statistical score calculations, and there's a lot of
resulting discussion.  That prompts me to wonder if mentoring is an area
of Debian that would benefit from some sort of gamification
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamification).  I do all sorts of things in
video games that I might not otherwise do, and even things that aren't
particularly fun, because I get rewarded with an achievement or score of
some kind.

I think there was some prior discussion of badges and awards inside
Debian.  I'm not sure if that project ever reached fruition.  But I do
think that one very effective way to provide an incentive is to reward
action with some sort of collectable or score, thereby engaging people's
joy of accumulating.

The hard part of a good sceme is figuring out what to measure to award
badges or score or what have you, since mentoring is somewhat fuzzy and
difficult to measure with a computer.

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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