Thursday, July 10, 2008


If you teach someone something, and they fail to understand, you have failed miserably.

Consequently, in the course of attempting to mentor those new to Second Life, I fail often.

Sometimes it's due to a mismatch of language. Regrettably, I slept through high school Spanish, the result being I can only say a few rudimentary phrases such as my name and that "Bud es gordo" and "El AVE es azul y gris". I draw a lot of amused looks when I try. I have never even attempted other languages. So I'm limited to English. Most of the rest of the world does not understand English. Thus I am at a disadvantage. The best I can do is use translators as a crutch or pass them along to someone who can help them. Sometimes, they don't need help so much as someone else to connect and talk with them. Best I can do is point them towards groups and places set up by similar people.

Sometimes it is due to my failure to acknowledge that something I have been doing for the past year and a half is not intuitive to the person I'm talking to. It's easy enough for me to know how to use Search, and which results to ignore and divining 'good' hits. How do you communicate something like that? It is difficult for me to imagine this precisely because there's so much one can do and ask in Second Life, and there's so much to learn and get a handle on, it never ceases to amaze me. And I often don't recognize. Frustration mounts. "Why isn't this person just getting this??"

So you keep trying. You try to understand not what they aren't understanding, but what you're overlooking. I try to change and conform as best I can. Because all people are not equal, at least with regards to getting an idea through their heads. I think 'mentoring' newbies has given me a sound respect for my previous teachers and professors. In a way, I have it easier, much easier, because I only have to 'work' on a one-on-one basis. They have to create a course for a multitude of individuals.

Nevertheless, I have to get through to that person.

Going off on a tangent, I think this is the problem with many many mentors (though not all of them). They consistently repeat and repeat themselves, seemingly never realizing that their audience isn't getting it through that line of attack. A different strategy is required. Yet, they don't seem to realize it. And so we get a comical back-and-forth. "I don't understand" "It's simple, it's this-and-this" "I don't understand" "It's simple, it's this-and-this". In a way, I have to give Torley some slack, as just like my professors had to (though I still hold to my previous posts, that's my privilege). Second Life is becoming a big big world.

I like to look at it this way: People like Torley or the infohub owners, they are the generals, they have to think of the big picture and attack it using a general method, one to reach the most amount of people. People like me and the rest of the mentors, we're the ground troops at street level. We have to take care on a constantly changing situation. It's up to us to understand who we are talking to and fit our explanation, or sometimes just our general conversation and chit-chat, to them. Mentors are there when someone just doesn't understand, say, just how to set a texture to an object. Sure, they've watched a tutorial or attended a class, but they need their own realization of it. Or maybe that original tutorial creator just isn't approachable (capped IMs). That's what Mentors should do. They're there to provide not just general information but a personal contact. Someone to understand or can easily understand their problems and issues. Someone who they can come to and feel that they care.

However, getting back on track, sometimes it's due to my failure of knowledge in the area of the inquiry. Sometimes I honestly don't know how to answer, I don't know the answer. Then I just punt it to someone who knows, just like when someone strains my poor multilingual skills. Only in this case, I try to make a point of hearing the answer and more importantly, understanding it. Then I'm ready the next time (if ever) it's asked again. So sometimes I learn something I might never have known otherwise.

So what do I do when I fail? I don't get upset, because the last thing you need is to have a meltdown in front of everyone. And I don't get angry (no matter how large a migraine I develop), because what definitely isn't needed is a giant argument. No, instead I try to take a deep breath, and relax and analyze what went wrong and what I can do to fix it next time.

Also, have you seen the previews for the new 'Mummy' movie? Abominable snowmen? Egyptian style mummification in some Chinese/Nepalese/Tibetan temple in the Himalayas? I want to see it just to see how coherent the script is.

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