- You may also be looking for the "Teahouse", where new members can be welcomed, the Adoptee's area, where you can find a mentor, the Co-op, an inactive plan for a mentorship space, or the Ambassador Program, which supports the Education Program.
Mentorship is an arrangement in which one user assists another user, the protégé. Depending on the nature of the mentorship agreement, the mentor may give the protégé advice on more effective editing habits and help the protégé resolve disputes. The purpose of mentorship is to help the protégé adjust to Wikipedian site processes and standards.
Mentors are not advocates. Mentors may terminate the relationship if it proves ineffective and (in extreme cases) endorse dispute resolution or other proceedings regarding a former mentoree, although mentors may also speak up for a protégé who is making good progress or smooth over difficult situations that might otherwise end in administrative intervention.
When mentorship is related to disputes an effective mentor often plans conflict management strategies with the protégé; this conflict management is most effective when other Wikipedians interface with the mentor about developing issues and potential solutions. When mentorship arises as an outcome of the dispute resolution process, the mentor occasionally accepts formal supervisory powers over the protégé. When mentorship is effective, however, it functions in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Mentorship is rendered ineffective by a context of indifference. Elie Wiesel argues against that consequence of "indifference which reduces the Other to an abstraction."
A mentor's responsibility
Mentors should keep in mind that they have a great responsibility. They should not only get to know and advise their protégé, they must be careful to avoid doing their protégé and Wikipedia a disservice by losing sight of their responsibility to Wikipedia. Their primary responsibility is to represent Wikipedia, not to represent their protégé.
They are the supervisor and the protégé is the subordinate. Many protégés need a mentor because they have been involved in problematic behavior caused by their failure to understand our policies and guidelines. The mentor may even be in danger of being manipulated by a protégé who has a stronger psyche than the mentor.
The mentor should not become an advocate to plead their cause, but one who advises them and places respect for our policies and the good of Wikipedia above the desires of the protégé. It is the job of the protégé to adapt to Wikipedia, not to demand that Wikipedia accommodate them as they are. The mentor's job is to teach and advise the protégé, not to coddle them.
Sometimes one or more experienced editors will take a newer user under their wing. In some cases, this might arise due to difficulties the new user is having with other users or with Wikipedia policies and guidelines. In other cases, the protégé simply feels he or she would benefit from the help of a more seasoned Wikipedia editor. Voluntary mentorship often arises spontaneously, as two or more editors naturally develop a mentorship-like relationship. A good place for new editors to receive voluntary mentorship is Wikipedia:Adopt-a-user. In Adopt-a-user, adoption, a specific form of voluntary mentorship for new or inexperienced users, is practiced. Sometimes, mentorship is requested for special purposes, like learning New page patrol or becoming prepared to be an Administrator.
Among experienced users in difficult situations, mentorship often requires a substantial investment of time and effort. No formal mechanism exists for recruiting mentors in such scenarios, so it is best to seek a willing mentor and the agreement of the potential mentoree before putting forth mentorship as a serious alternative. Bear in mind that it is uncivil to attempt to volunteer other people's time and effort for work they have not agreed to perform. In other words, editors in good standing who think a mentorship might solve a problem should first consider undertaking the responsibilities themselves.
- See: Wikipedia:Keep it down to earth, on the futility of wishing mentors into existence
They may also have discretionary powers to modify or annul sanctions against the editor made by administrators under the terms of the decision. The precise terms of the mentorship, as well as the identity of the mentors, are usually spelled out explicitly in the decision that creates the mentorship, but may include delegation of the arbitration committee's banning powers to the mentors.
Such mentorships may be agreed to as an alternative to more serious remedies, such as bans or paroles. Or they may be an end result of the dispute resolution process itself. Users may be placed under mentorship by a ruling of the community, Arbitration Committee, or Jimbo Wales.
People proposing such mentorships usually believe that social skills, personal maturity, and other necessary personal character qualities can be obtained by the sanctioned person through occasional discussions with a sympathetic person, and that undesirable behaviors, like being a jerk or tendentiously pushing a POV, can likewise be removed. The supporters are usually affected by optimism bias (a belief that everything will work out) and a desire to avoid conflict or appear forgiving and friendly. Alternatively, they may be grasping at straws in a desperate effort to stave off immediate application of more serious remedies.
Involuntary mentorship has a very poor track record and is not recommended.
The mentor's usefulness may be demonstrated in an ability to recognize "hidden cards" and "a psychological element" in themes which have been seen before. A caveat from a New York Times chess column acknowledges unanticipated consequences as a prospective element in any strategic plan. The headline of a 1989 column warned, "Beware the shortsighted quick fix that can lead to worse problems."
Why are there child prodigies in chess but not in bridge? Why do the elderly compete so much better against their younger rivals in bridge than they do in chess?
We could debate these questions for some time, but there are two clear answers. In chess, all the information is always available. (This is why computer programs are so good at chess; it is purely a computational exercise.) Youngsters have very quick brains that can compute great numbers of moves much more quickly than the elderly can.
In bridge, though, there are the hidden cards that often make perfect computation impossible. (This is why computer programs do not compete successfully against experts.) Also, you have to work with, not against, your partner. And there is a psychological element to the game: an expert will make a particular call against one opponent but not against another. A teenager does not comprehend this side of the game.
Our powers diminish as we leave our 30's. We run slower, we hit a golf ball shorter, we pedal a bicycle less energetically. Our brains slow down, too, but the elderly have the advantage of experience. They have seen the themes before and can draw on this database to find the best bids and plays.
- See When a white horse is not a horse.
- Byrne, Robert. "Chess," New York Times. December 24, 1989.
- Philip Adler. "Bridge; Older Players Have an Edge: They've Seen All the Tricks," New York Times. April 23, 2005.