Is there a programmer mentoring community online?
April 29, 2004 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Is there an online community or web site that mentors new programmers? One in which the student is guided through the different phases of development of a small, but not insignificant program. If one doesn't exist, would it be a worthwhile endeavor to create a mentor community?
posted by grefo to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
I'm going to setup a wiki in the next few days, which will tangentially deal with this issue. Check this thread.

Here's my ambitious, if misguided, initial charter and layout scheme.
posted by Gyan at 12:02 PM on April 29, 2004

Response by poster: That's very close to the idea I had! And a wiki would be great way to do it.

Here's my idea:
Allow neophytes to post a simple program idea or problem in plain prose, then mentors would work with that person and guide them through design (I'm specifically interested in OOP), class discovery, modelling, coding, and testing.

The simple programs I am thinking of are things like a temperature conversion program, a simple text-interface game (ala my BASIC days), and other simple, but completely useful programs.

That's my initial thinking.
posted by grefo at 12:19 PM on April 29, 2004

posted by ajr at 12:56 PM on April 29, 2004

I've never seen a site specifically dedicated to this concept, but I have seen this sort of mentor/student process happening on programming websites. I'm thinking of an example on, a game development website, but I can't seem to find the specific link anymore.

There, they used a specially configured forum to host a series of articles leading people through the development of a simple Windows game. People could download sample files and also post their problems and questions as they went along. Unfortunately, this particular tutorial died before it could be finished -- the guy in charge simply ran out of time to keep it running.

I worry that a similar fate might befall any site that focuses only on 'experienced users give advice to newbies'. Put simply, what's in it for the experienced users? Most people enjoy helping out and giving advice here and there, but that is usually in the context of a site covering many different areas and skill levels. They are able to pass on advice in the areas they are expert in, but they can also learn from other people in the areas they are less experienced in.

In addition, most forums (like this one!) tend to be based around the format of someone asking a reasonably specific single question, and soliciting answers and opinions on that. Mentoring someone through a long learning/development process is a much more intensive task.

Maybe I'm just being too cynical, and I hate to rain on anyone's parade, but I just wonder if you've given thought to what incentives there are for the mentors in this system to stick around?
posted by chrismear at 1:04 PM on April 29, 2004

i think you should present it more as almost-peer-to-peer help, because that sounds more like what you're aiming for. chrismear's objections (which i agree with) don't apply when you've got people talking about stuff they've just understood and think is cool, to people who are ready to understand those things.

when i first read your post i though "jeez, explaining oo for the millionth time is not my idea of fun", but then i remembered wen it was new and cool for me, and how back then i wrote down things i thought would be useful for others - those are the people you want mentoring.

at the same time, i think this means the mentoring has to be short term, because different people will already know different things, and you've not got the huge gulf between noob and wizard that guarantees that the learner always knows less (again, this is a good thing).

maybe this sounds arrogant, but if so i think you've misunderstood me. i'd be happy to explain to someone about parser combinators, in return for some help with category theory. i'm not a wizard either - it's just a case of hooking up people the right way.

the trouble then is that you're covering a huge range. you can't just restrict it to a course on oo or web dev, because the people who know that want to learn something else.

in the end, i suspect you end up with a good usenet or email discussion group, which is how i learnt things. indeed, i often think wikis are just broken usenet... :o/
posted by andrew cooke at 4:37 PM on April 29, 2004

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