Incubator shepherds are volunteers who review podling reports. They typically take on 1-3 projects per month; each review takes about 15 minutes, or more if some follow up is required.
The IPMC chair will assign shepherds to podling reports each month based on the available volunteers and stated qualifiers. In order to give an "outsider" look, a shepherd will not be assigned to review a project that he or she is already mentoring.
If you are interested in shepherding, drop a line to general@incubator.
The first task of a shepherd is to scan the podling's mailing list archives for the period since their last report looking for Mentor participation. What the IPMC needs most is a dead man's switch warning us when activity is dangerously low. A satisfactory basic report can be as simple as "Podling is active, N mentors participating".
A secondary function of shepherding is to provide an outsider's perspective for the benefit of the podling being reviewed. Typically only experienced IPMC members take on this task, because it can be politically sensitive.
Novices are strongly encouraged to participate, because there is great value to the Incubator and the ASF at large in increasing cross-pollination. The benefit for novice shepherds is that that you get to see what kinds of problems podlings are working through and what guidance their Mentors are giving -- possibly providing a new perspective on challenges faced by projects you participate in.