Skritter's new study modes explained!


#1

Hi everyone!

Now that we’re rolling out the new beta I wanted to take a moment to share some additional details about the three study modes that you’ll see inside the Skritter: Write Chinese and Skritter: Write Japanese applications. Michael has done a great job of explaining them in our short introduction video and I wanted to share a more comprehensive overview of the modes and all the screens you might be encountering along the way.

One of the larger goals of the S:WC and S:WJ projects is to provide a more comprehensive system and solution for short-term and long-term learning retention and also to have a bit more flexibility with regards to daily study habits and needs of language students (ourselves included!). I hope the additional details are useful as a visual guide, and also help to explain some of our goals and objectives with the new study modes.

There is always room for improvement, but I would love to hear from you about how the new modes are working over the coming days and weeks. It’s a large departure from Skritter’s previous behavior, and we look forward to continuing to improve things with each new update!

Best,
Jake and The Skritter Team


Skritter: Write Chinese Beta Released!
#2

Hyped about the new modes! If they work as intended I can finally kiss goodbye to my current study method, which, after 2 years of using Skritter is past beyond stale. I’m currently on HSK6 (studying it more as a “guideline” if on a given day I haven’t updated my personal word list) and when I start getting synonyms of concepts I’ve already studied or relatively useless words (I’m looking at you 水利!) is difficult to keep myself focused, let alone reach my intended 1h of Skritter time per day.


I also have a very long suggestion for a separate "game mode" and even a "gamified" overlay, so bear with me:

[***A quick note: games aid your learning process in plenty of different ways, you can read more about it at https://www.fluentu.com/blog/best-way-to-learn-a-new-foreign-language-online/ or http://eurolinguiste.com/games-important-language-learning-tool/. I’m not affiliated to any of these sites.]

Considering Skritter has already evolved into an app with differentiated modes (which already requires more programming than the traditional white canvas we are used to), but is not really designed for an all-out fancy animations kind of game, I’d say that an standard “flash round/horde” format is adaptable to the current way Skritter works:

  • A set countdown forces you to write, mark the tone, guess the meaning etc. of a deck of cards in a limited time. This set time can be set for the whole "round" or per card, and the amount of cards can also be tweaked as well to create different games modes.

  • Correct answers give away in-game "boosts" such as: chain strikes, x2, lives, etc, that either multiply what the game will ultimately reward you with or affect the in-game mechanics; wrong answers give away the obvious punishments.

  • After the round ends, the player earns "Skritter coins". (more on that later)

Sounds neat, but considering there are already Chinese Learning games, this presents the question of "WHY DO THIS AT ALL?".

Perhaps to the veteran Chinese/Japanese student, where language is definitely not a game anymore… well, no point at all really. Yet, I have a hunch that most people that end up using a tool like Skritter have previously used, and enjoyed, gamified apps like Hello Chinese or Duolinguo, which provide you with a comfortable and laid-back first introduction to the language, as well as enough information to decide if you are really willing to tackle the commitment of studying Chinese/Japanese.

Now, going all-in is not only about facing what such commitment means, from long study hours to nonsense grammar, grinding characters until 己 & 已 & 巳 don’t look the same and an overall slow progress that makes you question your sanity and past decisions… but also the fact that they will have to shell out a lot of money every now and then in language courses, reference books, and yes, those 15$ a month that Skritter costs.

[***A side-note; there’s no denying Skritter is obviously expensive when compared to top free apps that offer you similar functionalities like Anki or one-time purchases like Pleco Flaschards, and I personally believe it’s 4-5$ more expensive than I’d like to pay… but, learning a language is usually expensive, although if you are not willing to spend a single $ studying Chinese, you definitely have ample free resources to do so. If you choose the Skritter path, you are not only choosing to pay for the more functional app and SRS system when compared to the above-mentioned apps, but also for a small team of programmers and content providers (I’m guessing Fiona and her team also deserve to get paid for their video-content) that not only maintain the apps and servers for Skritter to be able to run on 3 different platforms, but also for a steady, albeit sometimes frustrating, constant app development and, let’s not forget it, for a niche market as the one that learning Chinese/Japanese is, with what all that entails from a business point of view.]

All things considered, though, those 15$ (and for lots of us: in top of Pleco add-ons, TCB, DuChinese to complement our learning experience) are definitely a burden for long-time users and a big DETERRENT for new users. An initiative like the one I’m proposing could give an extra motivation boost to let new users inside and keep them in in the long-term, that is, using and paying for Skritter… which, thanks to Business 101, tells us that the more users, the more cash flow for the developer, the more discounts for the customer because of lower production costs/bigger reach and expansion and, ultimately, the better cost/benefit ratio for everybody.

Now the tricky part: aside from the afore-linked benefits of learning while playing, what could possible motivate people to play the game and how is that related to savings and a healthy user-base?

Simply put, a FREE SKRITTER TIME reward by gathering coins.

A direct discount is always a double edge sword because it incentivates people buying your product, but it renders you less benefits and, considering the Skritter pie is definitely not that big (as proven by things like this year’s Black Friday coupon, which only worked for a month while 2017’s worked for a whole year, as well as the obvious lack of resources that have made the beta development drag for too long), it could be even dangerous to your business to advertise the app like that.

However, FREE SKRITTER TIME doesn’t directly take away any slice of the pie. The user still pays those 15$ a month and by using the service it gains the possibility of extending their 31 days membership to a, let’s say ≈35 days membership (an extra day for each week played) or a ≈38 days membership (an extra week per month). At the end of the year we are talking about ≈2 months worth of membership given away for “free”, but considering the extra 5$ we are already paying when compared to other paid Chinese services on average plus the fact you get to keep a customer, happy and willing to pay for a membership in the long term I’d say is a not bad deal for anybody. Just picture this: an user that has been paying for a month of skritter and it’s happy with the product but knows there are alternatives and is about to stop using the app, but it’s rewarded with an extra week of full functionalities. A simple reward of FREE SKRITTER TIME may keep him around for longer than expected!

And yet, this new gamifying focus should not simply be about studying in a different way, raw money and first-time users (you can technically find a coupon for skritter that will give you a discounted membership for the first few months), it should also serve the puporse of homogenizing the user-base, not only because everybody hates temporary, sign-up offers that don’t carry on, and because we all feel more connected to the product when we are rewarded for being loyal to it and that translates to motivation, savings and more.

I know, it’s overall an scary decision to implement, but the system can be tweaked to avoid being exploited by people playing endless “rounds”, even if nobody would be really willing to sit out 4h a day of Skritter just to avoid paying for the service. You could even go as far as only giving access to this “game mode” if the player first completes 30min of normal Skritter study time (where it’s impossible to really cheat the clock, since it stops after a few seconds if you don’t make an input) or once X hours/days/etc.

It can even transcend the game mode and become an overlay for the whole app. Even the simplicity of getting 1 coin just for logging in or 10 if you log in at "a set study time" may make people more faithful to their study sessions, reaffirming their habits and making them choose Skritter over the alternative.

My half a million 角. Hope you guys, and girls, can have a look into this!

@SkritterMichael @SkritterJake @Jeremy @josh


#3

Very well articulated. I really appreciate you taking the time to type this all out and share it with us! Certainly some fun food for thought down the road. In the meantime, I really look forward to hearing how the new study modes work for you. I’m in a similar boat of doing vocabulary maintenance with my review queue, and only after actively using this new app daily have I felt comfortable venturing into some of my older (never studied) textbooks and some of our official content and videos to actually start adding new stuff into the mix. It’s certainly fun to be picking up some new things again!


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