User:Don Misfit/Mentor Musings

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Don Misfit's Mentor Musings

Thoughts and comments on the Second Life Volunteer program.

Getting this out of the way, right up front:

No, I don't think I'm the "Super Mentor"
No, I don't think that I know *everything*
No, I'm not perfect... I sometimes make miskates

I'll be occasionally updating this page, on a now and then, semi-irregular basis. If some of the information here sounds familiar, you may have seen me make the same comments in chat or on the Volunteer mail list.

Please do not edit this page, if you are not me. Contact me directly, or use the Discussion page if you wish to comment. Thanks!

Mentoring is Fun!!!

or, at least it *should* be...

Since we all volunteered to be Mentors because we enjoy helping people, having fun while we're doing it should be pretty obvious. So, why do I even mention it? Because, there are times when Mentoring becomes less-than-fun:

Griefers are being disruptive
There are 15 people around you, all throwing different questions out
You've been asked "wanna have sex?" 10 times in the last two minutes
The kids are fighting in the other room

When these (and many other reasons) pop up, Take a Break! Our efforts are appreciated, but everyone gets frustrated and burned-out from time to time. Go explore and have some fun, or take a little time to visit Real Life. There will be plenty of newbies waiting for you on your return.

Second Life Mentor Group Chat

To IM, or not to IM, that is the question...

I am sure everyone has already read the guidelines page at Volunteer_Group_IM_Guidelines but there is still a lot of random chat in that channel. It seems to me that a big part of the problem is not so much that questions are being asked, but rather the *way* questions are asked, and the inane, nonsensical and non-productive responses that tend to follow.

As an example:

Q: Any italian speakers on?

A *much* better way to pose the question is:

Q: "Bob Newbie" on OI45 could use some help from an Italian speaking mentor, if anyone is available - thanks!

A proper in-group response would be:

A: On my way!

or, via IM:

IM: I can be there in 5 - 10 minutes... let me know if nobody else responds.

The trouble is, we often get a bunch of the following responses:

A: Sorry, I'm too busy.
A: me no speako italiano! LMAO!!!
A: me neither LOL!
A: I only speak english and french :(

None of the above is helpful in, or appropriate for, the Mentor group chat window.

Asking a question that is easily answered with a quick look at the KB can also be irritating to many. For example:

Q: How does somebody get video on their land?

That question will be answered in much more detail by reading about it in the KB - as opposed to getting a bunch of replies in the group chat window. Additionally, you yourself will learn a lot more about the topic, and will have that much more information to pass on the next time you are asked.

One thing to keep in mind is that, as Mentors, we should be doing more than just giving people answers...

Don't just teach "how to do" --- teach "how to learn."

Use the KB... use the wiki... show them all the ways to find information via the Search window. It amazes me when I talk to people who have been in SL for many *months* yet they've never seen the Free Classes offered via Search Window -> Events tab -> Education Category. Or, they've never considered using Search -> Groups... to find other people with related interests (for example, to find help with using the Linux client).

If you *have* looked for the answer to a question, but had no success, then we *should* be able to ask it in the Mentor group chat (assuming it is relevant to Mentors / Volunteering). Responses to those questions, though, should be kept short and to the point. If it turns into a conversation, or starts to veer off course, it's probably best to take the chat to direct private IM. For example:

A: I don't know.
A: me neither
A: I've heard of that, but I don't know why it happens to some people.
A: Sounds fishy
A: shoot em!

Again, none of the above is helpful in, or appropriate for, the Mentor group chat window.

Please keep in mind: it's pretty easy to accidentally post a message in the wrong chat window. Plus, as we all know, group chat can be quite laggy. If a fellow Mentor posts something that seems out-of-place, let's assume it was unintentional. Having 10 people respond with "wtf?" "oh, not again" "huh?" "LOL" "SPAM!!!!" etc, just results in 10 more useless, annoying messages being sent out to the group.

Above all - let's stay civil and polite... If you think someone is asking an inappropriate question, or responding in a non-helpful manner, let them know --- but do it via Private IM - DO NOT chastise them in the group chat window.

The Ethics of Recommendations

Should I refer people to specific places, shops or products?

There is nothing *inherently* wrong with handing out a list of starter locations, suggesting a destination or recommending a product. It *can* become an issue, though, in a couple of cases.

  • If your list of "starter locations" gives an (unfair) advantage to certain individuals - that is, if you are directing brand-newbies to a few commercial locations.
  • If you are frequently recommending a product which you sell, or otherwise benefit from. You run the risk of acting as a sales/advertising agent, which is pretty much a "no-no" for Mentors on the newbie Orientation and Help Islands.
  • Mature content - well, I don't think "mature" is a great term for it... let's say "XXX" content. Personally, I would *never* direct someone to such content. Help them learn the Search window, and let them find their way in that case.

When asked, for example, "where can I get hair like you have," I see nothing wrong with telling a newbie where, or from whom, I purchased my prim hair. However, I try to follow that up with a suggestion to search the classifieds and take a look around, as there are many, many different styles and brands of hair.

The other thing about a "starter locations list" is: how can one come up with a reasonable list?

A sorta RL comparison:

Suppose I hang out at an airport in New York, and greet international travelers. They ask me "where should I go, and what is there to do here in the USA"?
Pretty tough question to answer with a prepared "list" ...
Better to ask what their interests are, and then try to help them find related places --- give 'em a stack of "Where to Go and What to Do in the US" guidebooks. Sure, it'll take them a bit of time to go through all of the books... looking up items in indexes, reading details, looking at pictures, etc... but it provides them the tools to do so.

And, that is roughly equivalent to teaching a newbie how to use the Search window. SL is a *huge* place. Part of the learning experience is exploring... and part of the reward is stumbling across cool places while you're looking around.

I also often recommend searching for Groups... find a group that sounds interesting to *you*, and you're likely to find people with similar interests - people who will likely have good suggestions of where to go and what to do.

As another RL comparison:

I enjoy reading, and often find friendly, chatty people in bookstores. Were I to travel to a new city (or country), I might search out a bookstore first. Chances are, I'll be able to strike up conversations with other customers (or employees) in that bookstore who will be glad to give me their personal recommendations.

Common Sense should prevail here. If a specific recommendation will benefit that newbie's overall SL enjoyment, we're in pretty good shape. On the other hand, teaching the newbie how to find places or products on their own may be considerably more beneficial, and you're not simply providing one answer to one question.

We are Educators, not Enforcers

Mentors are NOT a Police Force

A number of folks have joined the Mentor program in recent months, apparently under the impression that part of our mission is to combat the griefers and to enforce the Terms of Service (ToS), the Community Standards (CS) and other LL policies.

This is not the case, for a long list of reasons... a few of which I'll discuss here.

  • Our primary task is to provide information to newbies - help them "get a handle" on how to use the software, how to get around, what there is to see and do, etc. That's why we have access to the numbered / newbie Orientation and Help Islands. If you have extensive knowledge on a particular subject or aspect of SL, and can provide assistance to "non-newbies" as well --- Great! By all means, answer any and all questions you can!
  • We are not authorized, nor given any special "powers," by LL to take any actions against what we deem to be griefing. Nor are we given any sort of exceptions... if you cage or orbit a griefer - you are also guilty of griefing. Doing such things and thinking "I'm a Mentor, I won't get in trouble for it" will have consequences.
  • We have not been given any special training in interpreting the ToS / CS or any other LL policies. While certain actions will appear to be clearly a violation, it is not up to us to make that determination. Nothing wrong with sending a private IM to someone, politely asking them to stop what they're doing. However, it is the sole responsibility of the Governance Team and LL employees to tell someone that their actions, language or objects are in violation of policy.
  • Running around acting like we have authority makes us targets of griefers. Many volunteers already have experienced this. When people see us wearing our Mentor "tag" we want them to think "Hey, here comes someone who can answer my question." If we are swarmed and attacked by griefers the minute they see a Mentor, it will get very tough to talk to people seeking information.

Mentors do not file Abuse Reports


Second Life Residents can report Abuse - and when a Mentor files an Abuse Report, we are doing so just as any other non-volunteer resident would do. Nothing goes along with the report indicating "it's from a Mentor, so it's more important." As a Mentor, you should feel neither more nor less inclined to report abuse than you felt prior to becoming a Mentor.

When an incident does seem to warrant reporting, do so (of course), and encourage other affected residents to do the same. It doesn't even matter if you are sure it's a violation of policies... as mentioned above, it is not up to us as volunteers to decide. File the report, let the Governance Team handle it, and let the system work and improve.

One thing I strongly advise against, is threatening to report someone. That will lead to retribution far more often than compliance.

Important Disclaimer!!!

The above comments and opinions are mine and mine alone. I do not work for LL, nor do I speak on LL's behalf. You are free to disagree with me - in fact, I *encourage* you to think for yourself, and to speak out if you have a differing opinion.

Don Misfit 23:23, 28 November 2007 (PST)