Here goes the mentor thing again...

Anyone reading this is probably familiar with the thread I recently started about mentorship, and my obvious over-exuberance, naiveté, idealism and all those other typical traits that come along with being a relative newcomer to a community. So be it! Recently, @JacksJill suggested that the short-lived mentorship idea might find new life in the blog part of this forum. Likewise, @absolutbill expressed interest in the idea, even if my original proposal was not well thought-out.

The problem, as @Decadancin pointed out, was that pairing up newcomers with mentors to enage in private chats for one-on-one tutorials would be at odds with this forum's ethos of making good information available to all. In short, all that private tutelage, advice and learning would be lost to the greater community, and keeping it in private chats might even deprive other un-mentored newcomers of valuable information. I must admit, I found this argument compelling, and so decided to step back and think a bit.

Well, this blog isn't meant as the product of this thinking, but rather the process thereof. The idea behind mentorship was, of course, not to hide information or sage advice from anyone; it was to avoid the following all too common situation:

1) Newcomer posts an innocent thread about a sick chameleon, a lighting query, or simply a proud pictorial of his/her new pair of baby veiled chameleons and their very professional Chameleon kit, decked out with carpet, spiral compact fluorescent, nightlight and fountain.
2) Either one or two good intentioned keepers ask that the form be filled out, or make suggestions about husbandry improvements.
3) While the op is reading these first two replies, 15 or more posters add their quick thoughts, of which many are related but incomplete, some are tangential, and some are incomprehensible. And let's face it, there'll probably also be one or two angry posts shaming the newcomer and cursing their setups.
4) Just as the newcomer notices that their phone is blowing up with replies and wondering what the heck is going on, ten more replies to the replies mention in 3) emerge, four of which are just more quick suggestions, another three are criticisms of one or more of the suggestions in 3), and two are full blown invitations to a battle royal about husbandry, the chameleon kit, or co-habitation.
5) The newcomer gets some good advice (which often gets lost in the 30 or so replies), perhaps gets intimidated or defensive about the exchanges in 4), and/or might get scared off altogether.

My thought was that a newcomer could elect to be paired up with a tentative mentor to avoid this negative experience, get some good tips on husbandry, and end up posting more useful and interesting questions in the public forum that stimulate and challenge the more seasoned keepers. Alas, the problem of depriving the wider community of the information in private mentor chat still remains. So, we're stuck: We want to help the newcomer in a way that avoids the above mentioned scenario, without taking away anything from other potential newcomers who would doubtless profit from the exchange. Solutions, solutions...Well here goes:

a) The admins could come down harder on those who perpetuate the above scenario. This could be done via more stiff sanctions, warnings, etc.
b) In the same vein, the admins could institute a "newbie protocol" that outlines the guidelines for these kinds of interactions.
c) We might, as a community, all agree to do our best to not have this happen (the honour system, communal consensus, a oath...?)
d) I'll leave this one open for suggestions, as I'm sure there are many more.


Personally, I think a) and b) are non-starters. First, I highly doubt any of the admins want to be any more militant than is completely necessary; and moreover, I am certain that they take their fare share of criticism about the judgements they are already forced to make. I think it's unreasonable to expect so much more from so few--so few, that already have a thankless job where the pay undoubtedly sucks! Likewise, b) would certainly mean a ton of paperwork, red tape and implementation problems. Again, I think this is too much to ask of the admins.

c) is, of course, already the implicit rule that we all tacitly accept more-or-less. The problem is that this implicit rule doesn't seem to forestal the above scenario in many cases. I guess we could all swear an oath on whatever religious text, or flag, or first-born, or favourite comic-book, or whatever. "...On the future availability of green banana roaches, I hereby swear to play nice with newbies..." Idealist though I seem to be, I am skeptical here. Maybe @jamest0o0 's cynicism is wearing off on me (just jokes bud, Kaizen's got nothin but love for you!)

I'm happy to discuss any other possible suggestions here, so please reply.

Well, I have one final possible solution here--one that, I must admit, was inspired by everyone who offered suggestions, and so not entirely original. What if the mentor-mentee exchange wasn't private, but the only people who could comment on it were the mentor and mentee. At some point the mentee could elect to allow other comments, but not until s/he was confident in his/her ability to deal with the wider community. I don't know exactly how this could be implemented, but here's a possibility: Just have a mentor section in the main page, like any other. Close comments off to all but the mentor and mentee, but keep the conversation public, and have it pop up in the latest threads like any other. This way, everyone benefits from the advice given, but the mentee needn't be snowed by a million comments during his/her "education". As said, perhaps the mentee can, at some point, choose to open comments to everyone. Anyways, I really think this could work: helpful one-on-one advice that is completely transparent to the community. Even if implementing the part where only the mentor and mentee can post is wildly difficult, I have a solution there. Yes, I know it will sound opposite to my comments about option c), but I think it would be way easier to simply communally agree to never post in the conversations under the mentorship tab unless we are the mentor or mentee. And violations could quickly be reported. Something about this kind of honour system, as opposed to the one mentioned in c), seems somehow better, easier to implement, more (potentially) efficacious. Anyways, the big point is that we could pair mentors up with mentees while simultaneously safeguarding both the ethos of The Chameleon Forums, and the newcomer from the above scenario.

My final thought: the first exchange a new mentee has with his/her mentor is an exchange where the mentor guides the mentee through filling out THE FORM.

Well chameleon community...thoughts?
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You are a prolific writer! There was a time that if an unproven keeper commented on the chameleon ID forum they were shushed. It states at the top of the threads a read me now that no one reads
1. Only offer an identification if you’re confident in your answer.
2. Anyone that offers an identification must also provide solid reasoning to support their conclusion.
3. This forum is dedicated to the identification of chameleons. Any post not related to a specific identification process will be removed. Off topic and informal chat will be removed."
I got scorched early on for taking an educated guess. I'm over it now.
Something similar could also be ignored for your proposed forum. Pardon my cynicism.
While your possible solution of mentee and mentor only conversations sounds good, it is too limiting. For example: if I am chosen as a mentor, well my knowledge and experience is quite limited...not only may I not have the information, I may not have the correct information. How would I be able to summon an experienced member into the convo? Mentor then is given wrong or lacking information and won’t know it. I have seen new members that had just been educated on all that they were doing wrong go on within hours to try and evaluate another new members husbandry and advise them...and wasn’t doing a very good job of it. Even some long time members I’ve seen give horrible advice (thankfully only happened once).
A possible way for mentorship to happen would be to have certain qualified and willing members granted a mentor title to help newbies have a bit more confidence in who is helping them and to also let the rest of us know that we can back off a bit. While we all kinda know who is best with what, the mentor title could be even more specific. Ex: Panther care mentor, breeding mentor, montane mentor, lighting mentor, etc.
Couldn’t agree more. I proposed a criteria checklist for becoming a mentor in my original thread. This will for sure need to be in place. Maybe that will be tomorrow’s blog. Do you have any criteria suggestions? I’d love to have intelligent people contributing here.
I think your fighting a battle that you will not win. Although I admire the thought behind it greatly.

There will always be those that are mean and say what they want because they feel entitled to it. Then there will be those that give incorrect feedback and do not want to listen to anyone else. Then there are those that do not give complete feedback so the OP is left with a partial view of what to fix. And Help threads that get totally derailed.

For a while there were a few of us doing complete feedback on the help forms. Going through every aspect of the info that was provided. The forum culture has change to more of a combative experience while trying to help. This is why I have stepped out of threads. Having another member tell me that I am not important here. Being referred to as a B*itch. Being told to basically shut up because I was trying to get a help thread back on point. Your dealing with people's ego's... The issue where some do not feel they need to follow any rules of the site. So they are cruel because after all "it is just online." They are not face to face to someone destroying them with their harsh words. Doing to others as one would have done to them does not seem to apply here.

What everyone forgets is that the Newbie gets lost in the shuffle. What is forgotten is that they are following the original advice from the pet store, incorrect sites, etc. So they get slammed because they thought they were doing it right. It is sad and totally disgusting to me.

I have gotten many private messages from newbies over the last year that I have been a member. Some I have told that they need to post a thread and others I have helped privately because I watched their threads get ignored and watched them being crucified for husbandry they were told to provide. It is a double edged sword though. Simple questions are easy to give feedback on as long as you actually have the correct knowledge to give, while more complex questions require a community. It is the COMMUNITY that makes the difference here. We all bring our strengths to a thread. Which is why one on one feedback is doing an injustice IMO. I know basics for Panthers and Veileds and that is it but what I do may not be what another experienced keeper does. I feel it is important to have the feedback from all experienced keepers rather then just one.

The problem is not with the Newbies. The problem is with the community. We lost our desire to work as a team. We lost our compassion. We do not practice self moderation. This was a place where we all came together and helped. Now it is much less than it should be. While the social aspect has overtaken the actual purpose for the forum.

The issue is not Newbies needing a mentor. In my opinion the issue is that we do not moderate ourselves or each other...
I appreciate your point of view, and I sympathize with your position. To be perfectly honest, I’m not fighting any battle, I’m just feeling out what I think is a good idea. If it turns out that no one is interested, I’m happy to carry on with other Cham stuff. I think you make some great points about self-moderation , etc. Thanks for your comments Becca!
As a mentor on Chameleon Central I wanted to chime in. I think that it's important to remember a couple of things:

1. For many people having one-on-one help is vital. Some people are shy or lack the self-confidence to speak up and those people are the ones who will just leave the forum when their initial post about their question is derailed by tons of overbearing members.
2. While I completely agree with the precipt that the knowledge should be shared with everyone not every single new keeper will request a mentor. I don't know how many mentors we have on the FB page (though I'm happy to find out if needed), but I can assure you that there are a vast number more of new keepers who post and risk being shouted down and criticized without bothering with the mentor program.
3. As for making sure that mentors know what they are talking about, we only mentor people who have the same species that we have kept. For example, I have experience with panthers and veileds, so they are the only 2 species that I will mentor new keepers with. The mods have prospective mentors fill out a form with what species they have kept and that's how mentors and mentees are matched up.

There was another idea that was batted around about being a resource for people who are vacationing and are having a family member care for their chameleon. The thought was to provide a place for those pet-sitters to be able to ask questions if a situation arises. I propose that for those interested in helping we could have a subsection of the mentorship program (if it does gain it's legs) be a list of email addresses (so that the pet-sitter doesn't have to join the forum), and the species that the person is familiar with. From a personal standpoint I have a very experienced pet-sitter, however at the bottom of my instruction list is the phone number of a trusted chameleon friend for her to call if anything doesn't look right while I'm away.
Though I applaud the effort and hopes that something like this would be useful I have to err on the side of caution. Being that this is a forum and people come and go as they please there is no checks and balances that someone that becomes a mentor actually has first hand knowledge or experience with the species that they are mentoring. That said, there is no real checks and balances on the forum to prove that someone is qualified enough. As someone who has been on this forum for a while (though I had to remake an account since I couldn't get into one I had over a decade ago) I'm aware of some of the members who have been here a while and have been posting useful information.

One key thing that would be helpful on the forum are to have users regulate their responses to species that they have experience with and for posts to be put into the correct section of the forum to make things a little easier to manage. When I got into Jackson's I remember either reading old posts or receiving responses of "You should do this, but then again I keep Panther's and not Xanth's" or something of the like. Rather than mentor it would be nice to just have users police their own responses rather than add to confusion or 'noise' of a forum. Some topics are great for everyone to discuss, but when it comes to species specific stuff I tend to notice a lot of 'noise' posts.
Also, I want to add something. If we had threads more organized so that we leveraged the Chameleon Genera sub forums I have a feeling that the more appropriate users would be active in the sections they have the most experience and new users would be more apt to finding what they are looking for. Right now I see a lot of, and I have to say even I'm guilty, of dumping posts into the Chameleon Husbandry sub forums where it makes some sense to be, but it's not ideally placed.
One last thing since I can't seem to edit my responses within the allotted time...

If we leveraged the sub-forums maybe we could have a badge based system where the forum community votes to get people in a as a 'verified information provider' for a certain species? Seeing something such as "Verified Veiled Keeper" or "Verified Veiled Breeder" or "Verified Veiled Expert" would thin the weeds when it comes to vetting the information posted. We have a good amount of information here on the forum and I'd like to make sure that someone that has decades of experience isn't having to deal with a keyboard warrior who just spent the last 10 minutes researching and happens to tell the world that they have been in the game for 5 years. I know this would require a lot of moderator/admin support, but if the community comes together to call out those we know and trust for information sources, we can give them the recognition under their account name so that when someone new posts something they know that the person giving them direction actually has the experience to back up what they are saying and are not just some keyboard warrior.
@Beman You make some very valid points. All too often there is a lack of constructive criticism, focus on the op’s problem and threads get either a bit nasty or totally derailed. With any group, whether it is a forum, social media or face to face there will be a social aspect that plays out as that is human nature. It is when that social aspect either drowns out the main focus of the group or turns ugly that it becomes a problem. I suspect somehow the forum has developed the reputation of attacking new members, as there have been too many that seem to start out on the defensive and are just waiting for the smallest perceived slight to storm off. I have to admit that after just a little bit of lurking, I myself was expecting to be skewered alive on my first post. Btw, I can only speak for myself but I have missed your presence and knowledge. You are a very important member of this community and I for one respect all that you do and have done. So very many times you prevented a new member from being chased away with your kind and understanding many chameleon lives did that save? I understand that you need a break and I’ll be looking forward to your possible return in the future.
So while instituting a mentor/mentee system is a great idea, the logistics of it are too great. It all has to come down to all of us being kind and respectful to each other and new members. The purpose of the forum as I see it is to share knowledge about chameleons and to provide education and support to others for the benefit of their chameleons. If we lose that focus or scare new or existing members away, what then does the forum become?
Also, I want to add something. If we had threads more organized so that we leveraged the Chameleon Genera sub forums I have a feeling that the more appropriate users would be active in the sections they have the most experience and new users would be more apt to finding what they are looking for. Right now I see a lot of, and I have to say even I'm guilty, of dumping posts into the Chameleon Husbandry sub forums where it makes some sense to be, but it's not ideally placed.
I appreciate your comments here, and I agree that some method whereby we verify a mentor is qualified needs to be in place. That being said, many of the other groups have successful mentor programs, and they seem to have implemented it well.
That being said, many of the other groups have successful mentor programs, and they seem to have implemented it well.

By this you mean the Facebook Groups?

That's okay in their groups, as their groups operate as a Hive Mind, They are all or trying to be, on the same page. They want to focus on canned knowledge, even when its wrong. In that type of environment, where it is nothing but an Echo Chamber, a Mentor/Mentee program works wonders. Why? Because they are basically robots, they spam the exact same care agenda, that their Care sheets provide.

When a more advanced or contested idea is presented, they fall flat on either stop the talk about it, or revert to the Hiveminds logic on the matter. The entire premise and demeanor of those groups, is there is one way to keep, their way, and nothing else can or will work. In a space of censorship, and thought control, as they have built, the program works fine, as all the mentors, will push the same ideas and logic. Free Thought is not allowed, and thus, they know the folks they set as mentor will push the same agenda.

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