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I am suggesting a Mentor privilege at 7.5k. It would be on a per-user per-site opt in basis.

At some reputation level (perhaps 7.5k) there could be an opt in "mentor" privilege.

If someone opts in then when a new user signs up, they become their Mentor. The new user is the Mentee.

They will get notified of any posts or suggested edits they make, and can help and support them.

While this would by no means help everyone (I'm sure there are more new people signing up than there are 7.5k people willing to help them), it could help mitigate the "new user's bad posts" and such like.

By no means would being someone's mentor mean you are the only person who can edit and help them, and you aren't obliged to do so - but if you have opted in then you should help.

How would this work?

  • Any Mentor would have no more than 5 active Mentees at once.

  • Once the Mentee gets to 125 rep, the downvote privilege (or any other level deemed sensible) they are no longer a Mentee.

  • If they aren't active for a month, they are no longer a Mentee. If the Mentor has 5 Mentees (i.e. cannot mentor anyone else) then any Mentee not active for 2 weeks is no longer a Mentee.

  • The Mentee can opt out at any time, the Mentor can opt out, but if they opt out a lot (say 5 people in 2 months) they are blocked from the privilege for 2 weeks.

  • The Mentor gets no extra rep. They can still get rep from answering their Mentee's questions and similar.

  • Once the new user gets 20 rep on the site, a chat room is created for them to talk.

  • No user with the association bonus will become a Mentee.

  • This would (maybe) be opt in for sites. For example, this might not be at all useful for this site, or for Academia.SE, but on Super User or Ask Ubuntu I imagine this could be quite good.

Mentoring system to guide new users on the ways Stack Exchange works appears to be asking the same thing, based on the title, but that is asking about people who know each other offline mentoring each other.


Every single one of these suggestions (especially the numbers) is open to discussion. Maybe 125 is to low to stop being mentored, or maybe it's too high. What do you think?

  • Similar to my FR for non-native english speakers. But I'm not sure users who desperately need help would be the ones to take advantage of it :/ – Won't Apr 24 '15 at 16:19
  • @Won't It would be a random draw who got selected when they signed up. They could always opt out, but hopefully they wouldn't... – Tim Apr 24 '15 at 16:27
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    Are you proposing that new users automatically be given a mentor, or that they be asked if they want one? You say either party can opt out, but automatic assignment can look like "here we gave you a stalker, but you can reject him if you want" to some. – Monica Cellio May 19 '15 at 18:56
  • @MonicaCellio I suppose the details can be discussed, but I was thinking about auto assignment. – Tim May 19 '15 at 20:39
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    What's the privilege here? What feature(s) are you gaining as a Mentor? – Josh Caswell Aug 7 '15 at 18:45
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    @JoshCaswell You're not. You are simply helping others. – Tim Aug 7 '15 at 19:13
  • How do you define "active"? – Adam Lear Aug 8 '15 at 4:40
  • @AnnaLear I don't know - does SE already have an active "standard"? – Tim Aug 8 '15 at 10:13
  • @Tim Not really. We use the term in a number of places, but it means different things - from just accessing the site to posting X thing in Y time. – Adam Lear Aug 8 '15 at 15:46
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    @Tim I think you missed this comment by Jon - it's receiving internal attention, and next week he should write something up for the team. What else do you want from the team, or from the users? (If this is what you were looking for, the bounty can be refunded, think Jon will understand and do it) – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Oct 23 '15 at 17:57
  • @ShadowWizard Yes I did :) The bounty is no worry, just pleased it is happening! – Tim Oct 23 '15 at 18:25
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    Hmmm... nice idea! It's a crying shame that it's got to the point that we feel the need to add mentorship, though. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 3 '15 at 23:55
  • On Stack Overflow, mentorship was researched in a month-long experiment last summer (2017). See the post for details. – Palec Oct 23 '17 at 14:57
  • Maybe there should be a bronze, silver and gold badge for successfully mentoring a certain number of users. – Pikachu the Parenthesis Wizard Nov 15 '18 at 2:44
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+100

I'd like to float a modified version of this idea as a 30k (10k beta) privilege.

Problem statement

Stack Exchange sites (and especially Stack Overflow) intimidate new users who might become exceptional contributors if only they got over the hump of asking and answering questions. Meanwhile, top users have plenty of sticks to correct bad behavior from new users, but lack sufficient carrots for rewards.

Proposal

After gaining the necessary privilege level, high reputation users may initiate a mentor/mentee relationship with any user having less than 100 reputation. This produces the following effects:

  1. Mentors may award a new user a mentor bonus of 50 reputation. This gives the new user a basic package of privileges, including being able to vote up, comment everywhere, and participate on meta and chat. (It's like the association bonus' younger sibling. The mentor bonus won't count for purposes of awarding that bonus on other sites.)

  2. All mentee activity and responses are pushed to the mentor's inbox (or perhaps a new indicator on the top bar). That way the seasoned user can monitor the progress of their protege.

  3. Mentors gain special access to some moderator actions over their student's content:

    • Immediate deletion of any post or comment. (They should already be able to see deleted posts.)
    • Immediate closing of questions.
    • Editing of comments within the 5 minute window. (They should already be able to edit posts.)
  4. Mentors and mentees will be unable to vote for each others' posts. (Or, perhaps, such votes are invalidated by an automated process.)

  5. Both users get a note of the mentor agreement in their profiles that is only visible to themselves and moderators.

  6. Mentors initiate the relationship (with a canned system message) and mentees must accept the arrangement for it to begin. Either party can end it at any time. The mentor relationship also ends if either user is suspended or deleted. On a happier note, the mentor relationship ends successfully as soon as the mentee reaches 300 reputation. In this case both users would receive a badge (gold for the mentor and silver for the mentee, I think) to commemorate the accomplishment. No matter how mentoring ends, all effects, including the 50 reputation bonus, are removed.

Scenarios

Co-workers: At my previous job, someone noticed that I had respectable reputation on Stack Overflow. The conversation sorta got awkward at that point since I didn't want to give the impression that I'd upvote his stuff. If the mentoring privilege were available (and if I had sufficient reputation) I could offer to guide him through a few posts until he had established himself.

Anonymous benefactor: An established user notices a post from a new user who shows promise. At the moment, the veteran can try using votes and comments to encourage the newbie. But she can't easily monitor responses that user receives (which might contain bad advice) or notice problems with new posts. With the mentor privilege, she can give new users a helping hand and keep tabs on their experience.

Questions

Why 30k/10k and not sooner?

Partial moderator privileges give mentors the ability to quickly step in to fix problems new users might run into with unearned powers. This requires the high-reputation user be familiar with the 10k moderator tools. If the program proves successful, I can picture moving the privilege level down to 15k (which is a bit disappointing) to expand it.

Why hide the relationship from other users?

Well, it should be obvious with a bit of digging that the new user was gifted the mentor bonus. (There will even be an entry in the reputation accounting.) And if some 30k+ user suddenly close one of their questions single-handedly, it'll be clear what happened. But the identity of their sponsor should be generally secret to minimize social pressure on them:

  • "Hey, why didn't you close that crappy question? You're the OP's mentor!

  • "You gave my friend 50 rep. Why not help me out too?"

Won't this let people create spam accounts and sock puppets?

Maybe. But high reputation users have considerable investment in the site and would risk long suspensions when caught. In any case, it doesn't take much work to get 50 reputation on a dummy account if you already know the system. I don't suspect this will ever be a problem.

What about mentors griefing new users?

I can think of a few ways that might happen, but this is a problem we can solve if it ever comes up.

Why start before 100 and end after 300?

The main benefit to the new user is that they get past the initial privilege earning stage quickly. Once they earn it organically, there's far less benefit to having a mentor. Meanwhile, we don't want them to lose privileges they've enjoyed just because the mentoring process has ended. At 300 reputation, they will retain 250 privileges (view close votes) when the 50 reputation bonus is removed.

Meanwhile, the primary benefit for the community is that mentors can guide users to being productive. Once someone has earned 250 through their own posts, they should have a good handle on how things work and are ready to leave the nest.

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    I was skeptical about the automatic 100 rep for having a mentor, but since it gets removed at the end of the mentorship program I'm less worried about it. Now, you either learn to ride this bike on your own (lots of falls and scrapes and bumps), or you get training wheels and a coach. When the coach (the SO mentor) goes away, so do the training wheels (the 100 bonus rep). I like it. – hairboat Aug 7 '15 at 18:31
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    high reputation users may initiate a mentor/mentee relationship with any user having less than 100 reputation - would there will be a page of 'possible mentees' the user could choose from? Or a button under <100-rep users usernames on posts? – ᔕᖺᘎᕊ Aug 7 '15 at 18:34
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    @ᔕᖺᘎᕊ: Probably too soon to think of the actual mechanics, but I would imagine mentors would fill in a form that includes a user ID. There should be a small amount of friction in the process to reflect the responsibility mentors are taking on. Also, I envision users being able to send invitations to colleagues who don't yet have accounts. I'm not sure about letting low-reputation users nominate themselves as potential mentees. Seems like a recipe for disappointment since demand is likely to far exceed supply. – Jon Ericson Aug 7 '15 at 18:41
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    @ShadowWizard: That would depend on how many people a mentor thinks they could handle. Initially at least, it might be best to limit mentors to just one mentee at a time, but that seems like a restriction we might want to lift if this system works. – Jon Ericson Aug 7 '15 at 19:22
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    I'd rather not reuse the association bonus for this. That's just going to be painful to maintain from the technical standpoint. Granting a basic package of privs sounds fine, but I propose it's done as a new, separate grant. I'd also make it worth 50 reputation (basically, give the ability to comment, which is the highest costing thing on the list of "vote up, chat, post on meta, comment"), per site only, and ignored for the purposes of calculating the actual association bonus. – Adam Lear Aug 7 '15 at 19:59
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    @AnnaLear: Hmmm... That's a much cleaner suggestion and 50 does sound like a better level since creating chat rooms and setting bounties right out of the gate could result in mischief. I'll update the answer with that suggestion later today. – Jon Ericson Aug 7 '15 at 20:14
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    One more thing to keep in mind is what to do with mentors having 10k-30k when a beta site graduates. Technically, they will lose the mentor privilege, but think it's better to let them keep any active mentee they might have. – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Aug 8 '15 at 7:39
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    @JonEricson I think that giving a gold badge for a single mentee is too much. Considering how hard it is to get every other gold badge, a single badge that can be earned in one day and easily in two days is quite a lot. I'm okay with silver for the mentee but I think the mentor should have bronze (first successful mentee) / silver (10 successful mentees) / gold (100 successful mentees) or something. – durron597 Sep 30 '15 at 17:31
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    Hey @Jon two months later, where does it stand? :) – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Oct 14 '15 at 12:56
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    @ShadowWizard: I have a plan to try a minimal version as a closed beta. Next week I'm going to send the plan around internally and probably write something up the week after. It would have been a few weeks earlier if not that I had a talk to prepare for the meetup this year. – Jon Ericson Oct 14 '15 at 14:50
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    I really like this proposal, but I'm not sure why a mentor should be able to edit his mentee's comments. Isn't that a privilege that not even moderators have (they only can delete comments?)? Until now, I trust that only the comment author is responsible for his comment contents. If you intended this feature to be "show the newbie how to use formatting in comments" and so, maybe a edit suggestion to the comment that the mentee can review and accept is more useful. – Bergi Oct 24 '15 at 7:45
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    One big thing I am missing in this proposal (as well as the OPs one): There should be a way to initiate a chat between mentee and mentor (for both sides). – Bergi Oct 24 '15 at 7:47
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    @Bergi: My current plan (not quite ready to be announced) would not allow mentors to edit mentee's comments. I am going to add a your suggestion to create a chat room for the pair, however. The plan also includes a possible preview of mentee posts, but not comments. – Jon Ericson Oct 24 '15 at 23:11
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    Some thoughts: 1) To avoid abuse of downvotes, bounties and similar, boost the mentee’s reputation to 50 and then have it remain there until the mentee would have reached 50 rep on their own. However, to keep the motivating aspect of upvotes and similar, the mentee should somehow be informed of all reputation changes voided thusly. Alternatively, just grant the mentee the privileges of 50 reputation but no actual reputation. 2) Do not fully void votes between mentor and mentee but just have them not give any reputation. 3) 30 k makes for a very small number of possible mentors on some sites. – Wrzlprmft Oct 25 '15 at 17:27
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    @ᔕᖺᘎᕊ: Yes. I'm going to be posting something on Meta as soon as I have a developer lined up to implement a beta version of mentoring. Given the upcoming holidays, I expect it will be in January. It is very encouraging that people keep asking me about this feature. My current design sticks close to the core of this proposal, but nearly all the details have been adjusted. – Jon Ericson Nov 30 '15 at 18:20

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