[Desktop] End of review skritter behaviour

Hi Skritter team!

This might be a long-winded one: First, I’d like to point out a weird feature of the desktop version of skritter - weird end of deck review behaviour. Then, I’d like to give some thoughts on how to improve it!

When you come close the the end of your review deck on the desktop/browser, weird things happen:

  1. Skritter starts adding new cards (not so weird, actually quite good!)
  2. When it adds a new card, it prompts you to learn to write it with the stroke by stroke shadow feature, but not through the usual ‘learn’ feature from the mobile app that goes through all aspects of the word (see point 4)
  3. When you run out of reviews, it repeats the last ~5 reviews left in the deck that you just did between each new card added in.
  4. In this end of deck phase, it only shows writing cards for some reason, including for new cards added.

There are some things I love about this. I like that it auto-adds new words as you go towards the end of your reviews. I think this is a nice behavioral trick which keeps me learning - I find if I use the mobile app I tend to clear my deck and go on with my day without bothering to click into learn mode.

I also like that adds words in between reviews of cards you have already studied. This keeps things fresh and interesting when reviewing a deck of ~100+ cards.

On the other hand, I don’t love points 2, 3 and 4. These are a big drawback. Studying the same 5 cards more than twice or three times (writing ones at that) is inefficient and boring.

I think these things lead to some interesting ideas for improvements to reviewing on skritter, both on desktop and in the app:

  • For consistencies’ sake, make the review function identical between the app and the desktop
  • Auto-adding new words during review should be an option in both versions!
  • If auto-adding new words is an option, let us do the full learning routine - teach me the tones and pinyin too
  • If you run out of reviews but haven’t hit your goal of new words, add reviews in between that are more diverse or useful (could be randomly sorted, could target your cards with poor retention)
  • Fix the bug where only writing cards are shown at end of desktop review

I think these options would make reviewing (on both the desktop and app) more flexible, fun and useful for users! What do you think?

Caveat: I understand that not as many people would use the desktop version - I’m lucky to have a touchscreen laptop so I understand it may not be a priority. I do feel it gives a more thorough review experience as it gets you to type out the pinyin + tones.

Hi,

Thanks for taking the time to write up this detailed report.

The main reason the website does funky stuff at the end of reviews is because the v1 API is really poor at fetching data. Things get loaded in chunks, and it tends to cycle through things you’ve already studied before the next batch of items get loaded up.

We probably won’t be addressing this issue in the short-term since our current usage data indicates that mobile client vs. web client is about 9/1 these days.

With that said, the 12-18 month goal is to merge the mobile apps and Skritter website into a single unified experience. We need to do a bit of work on landscape mode, but we’ll probably be looking for early beta testers for app.skritter.com before the end of the year if things go according to plan.

At some point during this development cycle you can expect us to also redeploy the “classic” Skritter study mode of sprinkling new items into your review queue on the Skritter mobile apps for those looking for that experience. It’s probably ideal for more seasoned learners of Chinese, and it’ll certainly help keep things interesting if you’ve only got a few minutes per day to dedicate to studying.

While this hasn’t been part of our focus in the short-term, we do recognize that the feature and behavior is beloved by many Skritter users that are accustomed to the website, and the legacy iOS applications.

In the meantime, one of the things you can do to combat the recycling of words in a batch on the website is by using the manual item adding button. It’ll give you a bit more control, and help the batch system populate the queue with some newer items.

Skritter website does prioritize the writing cards a bit more than the others when you’re learning something new for the first time, so that is probably why you tend to see lots of writing cards at the end of batches, especially if you’re marking the other stuff as learned early on. The scheduling queue is pretty aggressive, and in general people struggle with writing cards a lot more than the others.

Thanks again for the write-up and we hope to have things working a lot better for ya in the future.

-Jake