The Method

 

The Meerkat method has three basic concepts.

Mentor: a person capable of leading others. This doesn't mean they are superhuman: you can be a so-so programmer and still lead a person who knows less than you. Both of you will come out the better for it. One can be a mentor on a particular topic, and a learner on (many!) others. The person being a learner with you today could be mentoring you on a skill they are better at than you.

Learner: a person who wants to follow a Mentor. You can be incredibly skillful in many technologies, and still play the Learner role for a new one you are learning. That is: no stigma in being a learner!

Scorpion: that is, a task at the limit of the Learner's capability. The Mentor will observe carefully how the learner goes about things; at the beginning he has little to use to prepare a first task. This doesn’t matter: the first task is something that the mentor finds demanding and interesting.

Learner: If you are learning a new technology, finding a Mentor is the fastest way to improve. Anybody can be a Mentor and a Learner at different times. On some technologies you can lead, and on others you can follow.

Learner: You need to find a project you like and a Mentor that you trust. Once you both agree you want to work together, the Mentor will give you a scorpion (see below for an example)

Mentor: You need to find a scorpion. A scorpion is a task you will give to the Learner, that is valuable/demanding for you; and more so to the Learner. You will gauge the difficulty of the task, and the skill of the Learner. The goal is to first give a task that is at the very end of his capabilities.

Learner: You try to do the task to the best of your capability. No need to pair, you can go on your own for a while. If the task feels impossibly hard, get back to the Mentor.

Mentor: Reduce scope, give a hint, or solve a bit of the task in front of the student. This is called 'maiming the scorpion'. The result is a simpler task. Be careful not to simplify too much, you want the student to still be at the border of his capability. Make a mental note on what he found to be an unsurmountable obstacle, because this will help you prepare the next task.

Both: Iterate till the task is solved.