Grants talk:IdeaLab/Reimagining WP Mentorship

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Great to see this idea![edit]

Thanks for sharing this idea, Sylvia! Mentorship seems like a great area for further experimentation on Wikipedia :-) I've added an open question to your page. Feel free to add more sections as you see fit when you start to accumulate more background on this idea, and if you'd like to add a button to encourage other participants to join in, there is a "more participants=" field in the infobox you can add YES to. Cheers! Siko (WMF) (talk) 05:31, 17 July 2013 (UTC)

Ensuring that mentors are suitably experienced[edit]

I've started a discussion on a related issue on the Snuggle talk page. I didn't think it was appropriate to have the discussion here at the current moment, since this seems to be a very new grant proposal (and I'm curious as to where the actual grant bit is necessary). GorillaWarfare talk 17:20, 17 July 2013 (UTC)

Awesome discussion, linking it here makes great sense! To clarify, as I see it: this particular project is still in the idea stage - if/when it ever becomes a grant proposal, we'd all definitely expect to see lots more info around what a grant would be for. The hope of this lab is a place to develop ideas together, though, some of which will turn into grant proposals, some of which may not. Some ideas also may span across different languages or wikis, which is where meta could be useful, to take conversations beyond EN:WP when that makes sense. So, let's keep linking between spots where various conversations are taking place, and see where this goes - maybe at some point a mentorship hub page would be useful to collect disparate elements and discussions on the topic? Siko (WMF) (talk) 20:10, 17 July 2013 (UTC)
Gorilla: one of the key components of this program will be a Mentee TO Mentor Path that will hopefully help with some of the concerns you raise regarding Mentors experience. Cheers!Slventura (talk) 21:21, 17 July 2013 (UTC)

Offline questions and feedback received[edit]

There has been a few offline/off-meta conversations raising some valid points. Below are excerpts of some email exchanges with adopters, mentors, wp veterans. There is lots of good thinking here and it is shared with permission with the intent to keep anyone interested in this conversation in the loop and moving along together. slv (talk) 19:53, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

  • I'm just curious why the proposal is at IdeaLabs and not somewhere on-EnWiki. Is there something in the project that I'm missing out on, like possible Grants release for the proposal, or maybe implementation across several language wikis?
Great questions, yes to both. This is at the stage idea but it's a project that would hopefully well suited for an Individual Engagement Grant at least for the pilot phase, till we prove this is viable. Yes to your second question, my goal is to have it piloted in at least 2 wikis, hopefully one in North America and one is the south hemisphere. I am thinking of enwp and ptwp (Brazil), the goal is to create mechanisms that are structured enough they can be used as templates but flexible enough they can be used in different settings with different cultural/tech environments. The IEG will allow us to design the program, test it and calibrate if proven viable. The question here is not IF we should do it, the question is HOW we should do it, because the need to train futures generations will be there no matter what :)
What differentiates this from A-A-U[edit]
  • There doesn't seem to be much to differentiate this mentorship project from the existing Adopt-A-User program. The similarities are so great that this might work better as a proposal to overhaul A-A-U, rather than to create a whole new project. XXX had a crack at doing just such an overhaul last year; your ideas go further than ours (especially in the use of Snuggle to gather user data) but still - to my eyes - suggest an update of an existing project rather than a new one. New projects which substantially overlap established ones rarely get the support they need (people don't like change!) - witness the rapid collapse into inactivity of the well-intentioned-yet-similar-to-WP:DR WikiProject Conflict Resolution for a recent example.
These are very valid points and we've been trying to figure out the best path for this. We're still in the research stages so it's too early to say what option would be best and have it supported by hard data. What I can share are some of the thinking thus far. This is not meant to compete with A-A-U but to provide an alternative option. It's not unreasonable to believe that folks might respond negatively to it, specially those who've invested a great deal of time in building A-A-U, but I think the trade off is to attract and reach a whole new segment of folks that might not respond to the current options.
  • The adoption programmes on enwiki currently are pretty close to the proposal, and that must be kept into consideration on whether it's intended to run parallel to, or replace the current Adoption formats.
That's a good point, this program is not designed to compete but rather create an alternative so we can capture the folks we are missing right now. It will probably get 'some' push back from folks that see this as a competition, my hopes is this will be seen as a 2.0 Mentorship program, and that we will be able to harvest some/most of the talent and knowledge already there but hidden in individual pages and one-on-one programs and bring it out the best of the crop to share and use as mentoring best practices.
High drop-out rates are a challenge[edit]
  • The thrust of your proposal seems to be an improved method of matching mentors and mentees. This is a useful goal, but it doesn't deal with the current main problem we have in A-A-U, namely: dropouts.
I will respectfully disagree, from experience and having designed a few adoption, retention/compliance programs in the past, there are some mechanisms along the process that will hopefully reduce the drop out rate - starting out with higher threshold for entry (future mentees need to share some information before enrolling; the fact that the program is hosted in an open-space (of sorts) there is a 'peer-pressure' component that hopefully will deter bad behavior or non-serious players form enrolling and recognize and reward good ones.
  • It's actually remarkably easy to pick up adoptees, and there's no shortage of adopters willing to step up - the reason the project isn't more successful is that probably only about one in twenty adopted users ever "graduates" from their adoption.
This is a very interesting statistic, I haven’t seen any hard data on this but it would be super useful to have some reference as benchmark we can test against!! My first observation (to my knowledge and I might be very wrong here) that might be in part because there is no formal and uniform "graduation" criteria across the program. I've explored the pages of some awesome Mentors, and there is a wealth of information out there, but it's hidden, underused, some of it could/should be shared and become a standard for Mentor training.
  • The vast majority just quietly vanish, having found that Wikipedia isn't what they were looking for. One of the major stumbling blocks (IMHO) is that many of these adoptees are young people who are used to Facebook or MMORPGs - once they realise that Wikipedia isn't for socialising and making friends, they quickly find something else on the internet to occupy their time </curmudgeon>. However, this is not specific to adoption/mentorship programs; editor retention is, as you know, a major issue for the community at large.
You are absolutely right and the competition for our share of cognitive surplus will only get worse with more exciting and well designed contentsourced projects popping out every month! We also need to face the fact that "young people" are the ones that will insure the long-term existence of wp and we need to figure out a way to get them onboard somehow without giving up what being a wikipedian means.
  • Again, this is similar to A-A-U - adopters are largely left to their own devices as regards the guidance of their adoptees. Some have developed adoption schools with quizzes and activities, some intensively monitor their adoptees' editing, some just check in on their charges from time to time and otherwise let them get on with it.
This is so true, that's why it is critical to have some functionality to get the best matching possible between mentors and mentees. picture a mentee coming into the program hoping for a one-on-one report, with daily interaction on a project and a mentor who is available only once a week - and expects very little interaction, the likelihood for that 'mentor-mentee relationship' to work is low. the expectations are misaligned, and that's not anyone’s fault in particular, those conversations are not necessarily a priority at the beginning of a mentor/mentee relationship, so if we can curate these, we'll be setting up participants for success.
Insuring mentor preparedness[edit]
  • I do like the mentee to mentor idea. A problem we've had with A-A-U, the Helpdesk and the Teahouse is that everyone loves giving advice - but not everyone knows the right advice to give. On several occasions I've had to step in and gently let a new user know that the advice they've just been given is simply flat-out wrong (or, more often, that there's a much easier and more policy-compliant way of doing what they want to do). A training program that teaches people how to train others is a very good idea (although again, it could very easily be incorporated into the pre-existing adoption project). Maturity is again an issue here; we definitely have a tranche of younger editors who are incredibly keen to adopt and advise others despite being insufficiently experienced to do so correctly.
This has been brought up in a few threads, I think having Mentor-in-Training system that guides folks and insures a minimum level of wp knowledge will address that.
  • There's a large and glaring gap between Step 4 and Step 5 of your proposed program. You cover a number of ways to connect mentors and mentees, and describe what happens when the project is completed - but there's no mention of how the actual mentorship process would work.
This will be part of the actual design of the program if indeed this goes further but the idea is to have a centralize space that is curated and where best practices are developed and shared. (adding: Mentor-is-Training is an option under the big tent of the Wikipedia Mentorship Program).
  • I've taken all three approaches at one time or another. A formal mentoring system - perhaps a specific project for the mentee to undertake, with set milestones; perhaps a syllabus of tests similar to existing adoption schools; perhaps a set level of edit-monitoring by the mentor - would go a long way towards filling what I see as a major gap in our adoption system.
Interesting, that's great to hear, do you have a sense of what approach seemed to work best, or is it really function of the project and the person being mentored?