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Frequently Asked Questions about being a Guide in the IETF Guides Program

Here are some questions commonly asked about being a Guide, and answers for each of them.


What is the IETF Guides Program?
The goal of the IETF Guides Program is to match experienced IETF participants with newcomers (people who have participated in five or fewer face-to-face meetings or anyone registering as a student) in order to aid their integration into the IETF community through advice, help, and collected wisdom. The assistance provided by the guides should speed up the time it takes for newcomers to become active, contributing members of the IETF.

What is an IETF guide?
A guide plays the role of advisor, coach, and teacher. The combination of roles allows a guide to assist a new IETF participant in developing the skills needed to participate effectively within the IETF standards process and the IETF culture.

What skills are needed to be a guide?
The biggest skill needed is a willingness to share your knowledge of the IETF with a program participant. This can include explaining: 1) the IETF standards development process, 2) the IETF management structure, 3) other IETF participants' skill sets, 4) the working group creation process, 5) technical knowledge, 6) the IETF culture, and 7) how the IETF communicates both during and between meetings.

How much time will being a guide take?
The amount of time is variable based on an agreement between the guide and the program participant. It is hoped that the relationship will extend beyond the interactions during the face-to-face meetings, but the meetings are used to kick-start the relationship. We value any time you can contribute to helping newcomers become effective IETF participants.

How does one become an IETF guide?
If you’re willing to act as a guide during an upcoming IETF meeting, please register at The IETF Guides webpage and fill out the short questionnaire about what topic areas you participate in, when you’re arriving, etc. This information is used to make matches with participants with common interests.

How are matches made between guides and participants?
The IETF Guides program has a few leads that administer the IETF Guides website and match newcomers with guides just before the start of an IETF week. The leads work hard to match guides and participants with similar interests, languages, timezones, etc. (although it is impossible to pair everyone perfectly).

Is the IETF Guide program restricted to certain kinds of people?
Initially, the program is focused on participants who are newcomers to the IETF. If the program progresses in a positive direction, we will explore opening up the program to all participants. Anyone currently involved in the IETF (and NomCom eligible) is eligible to be a guide.

How are matches made between guides and participants?
A small group of IETF participants have volunteered to act as coordinators. The coordinators have areas of expertise and will work with the characteristics identified by the participants to match them with guides who have similar interests and areas of work.

What makes a good guide?
A successful guide will be flexible, responsive, and willing to take the initiative to provide assistance. A guide should have the confidence that they have useful knowledge that will aid a program participant. Experience in the IETF culture will allow the guide to recognize areas where newcomers will struggle within the IETF and allow the guide to pass along constructive information. This is especially key in the areas of cultural norms and the IETF environment.

What happens after a guide and program participant are matched?
Once a match has been made, the guides system will send mail to both the guide and the participant.  After that, the interactions are up to them. Useful interactions will vary based on the needs of the participant and the skills of the guide. In the event that a guide or participant is unresponsive or the pair decide that the match is not constructive (extremely rare!), the leads can be contacted to request a new pairing by sending mail to lead@guides.ietf.org. Note that some new participants may be very open to asking for help, while others may be a bit more wary and timid.  We suggest that after an initial meeting you reach out to them a few times during the week to check in and see how things are going with them.