News, interviews and articles from the Exercism community.

What happens if my mentor disappears?

Sometimes you're working away improving an exercise and your mentor disappears. Up until now, that's been a big problem, but this week we've implemented a string of small improvements to fix this problem.

It's rare that a mentor disappears but when they do it's generally just a slip of the mind. They got the notification that you'd posted something, checked your new iteration, then life got in the way, and they forgot all about replying. Our first improvement is a simple prompt to the mentor after a few days of them not replying. We send them a friendly message reminding them that you're waiting on them and asking them to respond.

If they still don't respond after this prompt, we move onto step two, removing the mentor from that post. We now automate this after 7 days of inactivity and put the solution back in the queue for another mentor to pick up. And importantly, it jumps straight to the top of the queue so you should hopefully get a quick response. In this situation, you'll see a nice little notification that tells you that the mentor has "timed out", so you know what's going on.

New message example

We ran some scripts to fix all the existing solutions that were in this state from the last nine months and discovered that there were only 350 that had been abandoned. That might sound like a lot, but when you consider we have over 1,000 submissions per day, it's a tiny amount! All of those are now fixed, so if your mentor did disappear, then you should find a new mentor appearing soon!

Avatar of author
Jeremy Walker
Co-founder of Exercism. I'm an entrepreneur and software developer, and have been running a variety of businesses and non-for-profits for the last decade in the fields of medicine, education and artificial intelligence.
View Profile

Community Comments

Does this system automatically reassign a mentor if they never respond to the initial submission, or only when they stop responding after an initial response?

All submissions are in one language-specific queue until someone replies, at which point they "claim" the solution (ie you are not proactively assigned a mentor). So this reassigns once they stop replying after an initial response.

7 days is along time to wait. Students may lose momentum. Should be more like 3 days

Thank you Jeremy for that explanation! I hope you don't mind a follow up question: if I submit another iteration before a mentor has a chance to give feedback, do I go to the back of the queue again? Just curious!

@j - True, but that relies on mentors being able to constantly be online every 3 days. If you reply on Thursday and the mentor doesn't get chance to reply on Friday then is offline on weekends, they've timed out. This has been discussed and the strong majority of mentors were against shortening it to 3 days. We considered maybe 5 days.

@AntHass - No you don't :)

ok :) my mentor is delaying my progress at the moment so even 5 days would be great.

@j: Are you looking this gift horse in the mouth? :-\ To get high quality free mentoring is amazing. Love your work, Exercism mentors!!

@Jeremy Walker: that's good to know... So if I spot things that I could improve, I can upload better iterations without fear of it delaying my progress :-)

@AntHass...not really. The mentors are great. But there are thousands of mentors on the site so it just feels weird that I have to wait for one specific mentor up to 7 days.

@j I've waited 2+ weeks for a first response to some solutions... but I figure that's just because the mentors are busy people with heaps going on in their lives, and there are hundreds / thousands of submissions that they have to work through. Basic statistical theory tells us there will be times when responses are slow. In general, however, response times are remarkably good, considering that it's a free service offered by volunteers. Sure, it can be frustrating when you're on a roll, but that's life!

For perspective, last week there were about 8,000 submissions about 150 active mentors.

@AntHass and @Jeremy alright alright :). Fair enough! I was just having fun and got slowed down. Life!

@Jeremy I am waiting for getting the response from last 9 days and sent 2-3 reminders to my mentor but still no response. Could you please let me know if I can expedite the response from mentor going forward.