Thursday, December 6, 2007

When Is A Mentor Not A Mentor?

Prok brings up a few interesting points concerning mentors and mentoring.

First, that we should treat newbies as children, which he puts down with the simple observation that if one is hooked to SL through Comcast cable, or Verizon DSL, with a $4,000 HP with 4 gigs of RAM at 3 GHz and an up-to-date video card, surf the Internet, download SL (or one of the open source viewers that are beginning to pop up), create an account, and log in, then you really shouldn't condescend to newbies. They're grown adults (they should be for the main grid, with the requirement that one be eighteen years and older). They'll handle SL like grown adults.

In other words, if one is a mentor, you shouldn't run around, pushing things on them unnecessarily. If the orientation island/ help island/ infohub is doing its job and the person cares enough, they should be able to figure out how to walk and dress themselves on their own. I've seen mentors doggedly lecture newbies on how to walk, take snapshots, dress themselves, or how to fly. There's a goddamn button at the bottom of the screen, I think a regular person with an IQ of 90+ can figure out that if you push it you take flight. In my opinion, the best method is to only provide assistance to what is asked of you. If the new person asks me where to go, I can say "Click Search at the bottom of the screen, there are tabs for every category. Input anything that interests you into it, and you'll pull up a list of related things" and I can know that the newbie will understand it. I don't have to spiel on and on concerning the details and workings of search, seven different ways to access and bring up search, or tell them the history of search and how it has evolved.

Second, he points out that most are only doing it for personal gratification. I can easily understand this, I myself have encountered some (I won't say many, I have no idea how many mentors of all flavours are out there mentoring) who really grate on me with their attitudes towards this business. It manifests itself in a variety of ways. It could be a simple boast: "I am important in teaching newbies". It could be someone keeping a record: "I helped 98 newbies today!". In any case, it shouldn't be the reason why you go about helping them. You're helping them because. That's it. Because. You shouldn't need or have any other reason. If it gives you a good feeling, then more power to you. But please please please don't let that become the reason why you help.

Also, I'd like to point out that it is important to spread this spirit of helpfulness to newbies. I suppose you could be blunt, or subtle. The idea is you should try to encourage them to do your job. You as a mentor are only one person. You can't be everywhere all the time. You could congratulate someone who helps another (being careful, however, you don't foster the idea of doing it for reward and praise). You shouldn't force people who act mentorish to become mentors. Let them do their work. I know of at least seven people who will on occasion sit around some of the more neglected infohub and behave like mentors. They get no recognition, they do it because they didn't have anyone around to help them and they'd like to avoid having the next generation encounter the same problem. It's good, I think. Prok mentions that most businesses also help newbies, either by offering freebies or cheapies, camping spots (prime source of income for those unverifieds starting out in SL), reduced rental prices. That's another way of helping the newbies. It's also good. It should be encouraged.

Finally, he recommends that sometimes, you have to lay down the law. Watching someone run around in the nude should be met with "Yo Jimbo58, put some clothing on. Nudity is not allowed in most of here." This I believe fits with the first point. Too often, I watch mentors drive themselves up walls by treating obvious griefers with too much kindness. I witnessed one SL mentor who, upon hearing that two newbies just shared passwords, laid down the law, and stress that it breached security and was against the Terms of Service. You have to do things like that.

Here is what I have come to use as a tactic. Usually, I try to play nice, I give a warning shot. "Hello gegege345, it's great that you're enthusiastic about scripting, but firing weapons around here is not allowed. Please put the weapon away". Then, I proceed to get mean. Why? I figure everyone deserves a chance from recovering from looking like a moron. I like to give people a small benefit of the doubt. Hey, haven't we all been in a position where egg was on our face, and we did something rather stupid? And surprise, most people generally listen to the first warning. The rest tend to settle down after the second where I order them to put it away or threaten ARs. It works.

I think it's probably a tad hopeless to believe anyone would ever actually follow any of this, since human nature dictates that people will pretend play 'helpful' for gain or entertainment no matter how rigorous 'training' would be. I know because I'm one of them. I have an incredible urge to brag when I help someone out, in fact there I go doing it right there! I'm a glory hog. I admit it.

I'm evil.

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