Mentor is a web app designed for people new to, or lost in, the web industry. A place to spend 2 minutes browsing through some random droplets of advice from those of us who’ve been at this for a while.

It was an idea that had sat in the back of my head for a while and something I promised myself I would make as an experiment while I learned Backbone.js.

The goals

The original goals of Mentor were part selfish, part somewhat virtuous; it was a simple enough idea to make as an experiment that actually serves a purpose and it was something I could release after it that might genuinely be useful to a few more people than Another Fucking To–do App™.

Design–wise, I wanted Mentor to be simple and inviting, for obvious reasons. Brandon Grotesque is a lovely rounded font and the whimsical icon set (SS Pika) brings friendly tones to the visual language.

There were no illusions of grandeur behind Mentor, nothing spectacular I wanted to achieve, just a place to go for a little morale boost or confirmation you’re not going crazy (or are at worse just as crazy as the rest of us).

What I Learned

Full–stack JS is hard

I am not a back–end developer. I thought I could be. I was wrong. Helped in part by option paralysis in picking a ‘stack’ (eventually opting for Node + Sails + Backbone) and my own technical shortcomings, I found it very difficult to get started.

If it wasn’t for Ben Howdle and Adam Yeats being infinitely patient and helpful, I never would have made this app. I was going to use this project as a springboard to further full–stack learning, but I’ll be leaving that kind of work to the experts.

Anonymous Posting was a Bullshit Idea

The general tone of some of the early advice submitted to Mentor was pretty candid and honest. Which was awesome. I wanted to take advantage of that and allow anonymous posting, in case anyone out there was worried of compromising themselves professionally for giving such advice. I removed anonymous posting 40 minutes after launching.

While I'm glad I gave it a try, it took about 5 minutes before I started getting some exceptionally witty personal abuse and wonderful ‘feedback’ on my work. I don’t pay heed to personal abuse and I often deserve and welcome criticism but I guess I gave a few jizzrags the perfect platform to ‘reach out’ with bullshit.

People are awesome

The aforementioned jizzrags were a tiny minority in comparison to some of the awesome submissions and discussions that arose from releasing Mentor. I thought it would just sit there gathering dust but there was a rather nice response to its release and there's currently some great advice up there from lots of wonderful people.

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