The new app: meeting the needs of long-time users?

I am trying out the new September IOS release for the first time, although I have dipped into checking out the Beta app from time to time in its development.

My perspective is that of someone who has many years of Chinese, and who has found the straightforwardness of the original app, and especially its exceptional learning algorithm, to be extremely efficient.

I am especially dismayed by the new app’s apparent lack of intelligent algorithm. There seems to be no way to “study” without using the “test” mode and that involves practicing a large number of words I already know.

Currently with the old app I follow this daily efficient study routine:

  1. I locate a text for new study, either online or on paper.
  2. I go to lists and enter the new vocabulary into an existing or new list.
  3. I click on “advanced study” and select the list I want to review (which has both older and brand new vocabulary)
  4. The algorithm feeds me older (yesterday’s) words first, allowing me to review them.
  5. After a certain period of review, the algorithm starts feeding me the new (today’s) vocabulary.
  6. I work through the review and new words together, in the sequence provided by the algorithm, until I’ve done 1/2 an hour’s work daily (that is usually enough to both keep up and add new words)
  7. Voila, I am done and happy with my progress, which I can check in the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly progress indicator.

The new app seems to permit almost none of these efficient habits.

I don’t see the point of the “test” mode at all. What is the point of the expense of Skritter if I can just test myself off of an existing list, with pen and paper.

The main reason for subscribing is to be able to avoid the waste of time it is to practice words you probably already know. That is what the algorithm in the old Skritter so brilliantly provides, which is well worth the money.

If the new app is not going to keep existing subscribers happy, I see a lot of subscription cancellations in the future - both mine and yours.

If there is a way for me to continue using Skritter as efficiently as I have been doing for the last five years, someone, please, enlighten me.

3 Likes

So I haven’t been using skritter as long as you have(1 year+) but I was using anki for 5-6 years before that so I also have developed some study habits and am quite familiar with SRS and I think in general the new app is actually more conducive to efficient study. With the exception that is seems to low count time studied even more than the old app so those of us tracking by time spent do get tripped up a little by that

The old app had a bad habit of letting you continue to review cards even after you have finished those due for the day. This makes you feel busy but reviewing cards before they are due defeats the whole purpose of efficient study in SRS systems. The new app properly handles this by actually finishing reviews for the day.

Once I have finished reviews for the days if I have more time I go to add new cards. This is where I greatly prefer the new app. Instead of just having new cards mixed into the reviews you get some focused study to intro a new word/char. This makes my study more efficient. If I know the word or am comfortable with the characters that compose it I will mark it as already learned so I don’t have to spend the extra time, but if it is truly a new word I take the time to focus and understand the new word as I add it. Words I already know essentially work like before as if I had just clicked the plus 1, but new words get a little more focus so that I have a better chance of remembering the first review. Otherwise words often take 4-5 reviews to make it out of the first day of study.

Now it doesn’t do the srs for words that would be due within the day but I think this is way more efficient for me. It lets me truly finish for the day and if I need to review a word multiple times a day I think I need to focus on it a bit more and maybe come up with deeper understanding/context for the word. The next day I find out which words I truly need a bit more to make stick while most words actually stuck around.

I love the design of the new app and I have seen a jump in learning rate. I do have a few bugs that cause some heartburn with occasional synching issues, lowball time counting, but overall I think it is more efficient.

2 Likes

An update to my original comments: I have heard from Jeremy since, and am much reassured about the usefulness of future versions of the new app to more advanced users. While the current app does not have the ability to apply the algorithm contained in the review mode to individual lists, they are working on this ability not only for lists but for subsections of those lists. This will be a great enhancement. That will solve my problems!

Meanwhile, the original app will remain available at least until these new features are implemented.

1 Like

I know I replied via email, however I thought I should post a snippet of what I wrote to you here so other people can see as well.

The app is available in the App Store and isn’t in beta, however that doesn’t mean it’s “complete” and there are still many features we’re working on. We don’t want to give the wrong impression that if something isn’t in the app yet, that it’s not planned or won’t be. We’re working on adding the ability to review just one list or a subsections of a list! I do see how it’s not working for you since you have so many items due, and even if you didn’t-- it’s quite efficient the be able to just review a particular list without being bogged down by other due items from other lists.

I also thought I should mention that besides being able to review just a single list at a time, there will also be a focused test mode as well which will just show words that had been marked as incorrect.

We want to make sure that the new app is more powerful and not at all a hindrance or step back from the previous version, so if there’s anything else at all please let us know.

the Review mode is the study mode based on scheduling, I wanted to make sure if others read this they know!

1 Like

Hello everyone,
to those of you who have checked out the new app already, how is the overall look & feel when comparing to the old app? How is the performance? Is the app slower, do you notice any delay?
Are there any other functions from the previous iOS app which have gotten lost, forgotten or postponed for future releases?

I tested the beta some time last year and the touch&feel was so miserable I immediately uninstalled it.
Would be great to hear some more users before checking it out myself.

1 Like

It’s good enough that I use it every day. The algorithm is not very clever though. For example, let’s say I get to the bottom of my study queue and then study 5 new words. The following day, my review will start by the 15 cards corresponding to my 5 new words instead of mixing them with my 100+ other reviews. I made a complaint about that while I was testing the beta version a few months ago but it’s still not fixed. Also, it seems that the review queue is updated once per day only instead of continuously.

The last release version has a good feel, it’s snappy and I’ve never had syncing issues.

Because it’s good enough, because it’s essentially the only app that let’s you study this way (by literally drawing the characters) and because I’ve already paid my 1 year subscription, I’m sticking to it, but I’m uncomfortable with a few things :

  • It seemed to me that it took way too long to reach the current state, which gives me the feeling that, should the app be updated to accommodate new technologies, it would take a long time to be updated.
  • There still lacks a lot of features that I would consider bare minimum for that kind of premium price:
    • add word via sharing a piece of text in iOS (i.e. select some text anywhere, on a webpage for example -> tap “share” -> tap “add to Skritter” -> a prompt asks in which section of which deck to add the word)
    • integration with Midori and other common dictionnaries
    • more example sentences
    • a less clunky experience to browse user-made decks :
      • being able to look inside a deck without adding it to my library
      • being able to remove it easily from my library (because I just wanted to look inside in the first place, not add it)
      • being able to add my friends’ decks with links without having to browse
    • an iPad app that is not a joke :
      • meaningfully sized canvas
      • use app in landscape too
      • split view, slide-over, etc.
      • why not have a drawing prompt for multiple-character-words that shows one canvas per character but all at once ?
      • Apple Pencil support (should be easy with pencil kit in iOS 13)
    • Siri shortcuts integration (to manage decks, words and start study sessions)

This is the bare minimum to justify 15$/month (or 100$/y) for an iOS app in my opinion. I will probably not renew my subscription in November when my current one expires and will maybe come back to Skritter once I judge it’s worth the price.

1 Like

Dedebenui, thank you very much for your honest feedback.
It it still astonishing to me how after almost one decade of development, we get a new app which is still lacking some features of the old one!
I agree with you that the spaced repetition system and the queuing should not work this way, and I wonder why they are not able to at least reproduce the good things which worked fine in the previous app - after all, how much time / $ / number of developers have been invested in that over the past couple of years?
For myself, I will stick to the old app until every single feature of the old app is in there, and the usability is exactly the same fast and responsive one like in the previous app. Talking of which, any reason why you do not use the old app?

1 Like

I am dismayed to hear that new words are not interspaced with older words in review. That makes no sense at all.

I haven’t used review in the new app because as a long-term user I have about 10,000 reviews piled up making it not useful to me currently.

I currently use the OG Skritter as it provides a seamless daily ritual and works just fine for my needs. Aspects of the new app will be beneficial, but there are critical features of the old app that still don’t exist there so until they do, it’s not for me.

I need to be able to review individual lists, which apparently is coming. But if new words are not intelligently interspersed by the algorithm, that is going to be a chore.

In my experience, however, the team at Skritter has always, over at least five years, been very responsive and committed. Most of my concerns with the new app they have told me will be addressed in future updates, so that is reassuring. I am trusting they will get this right, eventually.

2 Likes

Yes I agree and that’s what motivated me to use Skritter at all for the past year. I use the new app in place of the old one because it doesn’t look silly on my iPhone Xr (the old app is not adapted to new screen resolutions) and because I like the clear separation between learning new words and the reviews, but it still feels a lot like a work in progress.

2 Likes

I also feel the new Skritter Beta is a big step backwards in my opinion. I went up to ~500 characters and was very excited. I upgraded to Skritter beta thinking it would improve things, but it didn’t. In fact it made me stop learning entirely:( It has been so disruptive that it made me fall off the learning bandwagon, so that’s kind of sad. I just reverted to the old version yesterday, but I feel that I am going to face another disruption when I am forced to upgrade at some point.

Constructive comments, two main things

  • Learn & Test are confusing and not productive IMHO. My workflow is: I want to nail HSK1 for example, when I feel ready, I add 5-10 new words, go through them, with a mix of old one, and then, at random times during the day, I just go through a continuous flow of everything I learnt to date, to kind of keep refreshing my brain. When I feel good about my skills, I add 5-10 new words, based on the time I have ahead of me. Test and then Learn seems confusing and inefficient to me. I tried hard to get used to it, but I can’t.
  • I really liked the big canvas with simple black on white, and grid line. The new Skritter app has too many fancy colors / effects, that I find overall disruptive. What’s wrong with the old black / white and font that was super clear and nice.

I feel these were the two killer features that drew a lot of people to Skritter.

At that point, I would re-evaluate the whole Skritter 2.0 beta, pause, and probably go back to what was working so well for most people and keep these in place. I re-subscribed for 2 years because I want you to succeed, but I can’t learn at the moment, as I am in between the old and the new worlds. I wish you provide the continuous flow, with old black/white font, that was working so well for me / apparently others…

2 Likes

@lguelorget I agree with your comments on workflow. Perhaps when one is new to Skritter the learn/test mode is helpful. But once one is in the habit of reviewing Skritter daily, I find it just slows down the learning process.

The reason Skritter has worked for me all these years (about five years of subscription by now) is because it introduces new words seamlessly into the review stream.

With legacy Skritter, I simply select advanced study, pick the list that I want to both learn and review, and then launch into my daily session.

That way I don’t have to decide which words to learn or how many to learn a day. The algorithm simply adds the newest words on the list as I study. According to the add frequency I have already selected. Or I can add one or multiple new words to the review as I get bored.

I handle the new learning by stopping whenever I get a new word, a) going to Pleco to review all the definitions, b) adding definitions to Skritter as I see fit, and c) creating a mnemonic. But this happens within my daily review. I don’t have to change modes.

Then I get to practice the new word all I want to, again without having to change modes, because all I have to do is erase the word and rewrite it as many times as I like, pronouncing it along with the voice.

Legacy Skritter has a learning mode that was part and parcel of one’s daily review. The new Skritter slows this process down dramatically.

This learning mode is useful for beginners. But it is very similar to other apps that are out there, (ie, tediously taking you through each component of learning before you are allowed to practise the character) and is a real pain for those who are already in a daily Skritter swing.

How can I learn new words organically while I review old ones? This happened automatically in the old app. It’s extremely unnatural to have to separate sessions, one for review and one for learn. I feel i am actually not learning anything at all because I see a new word once and it’s gone, while with the old app it would appear organically after 5 minutes, then 15 minutes etc while I was studying until I would memorize it.

Any chance to bring the functionality back? I’m sure I am not the only one who liked that?

1 Like

@aPiso You are definitely not the only one perplexed that the people running Skritter seem to think it’s an improvement to have removed the seamless introduction of new words while reviewing. See the thread in this “mobile app” section of the forum titled “new app not meeting needs of long-term users”

I hope you don’t mind that I moved this comment into this thread. I’m trying to keep our release notes focused on just the release notes, so conversations can take place in other areas of the forum :slight_smile:

Automatic adding of new words will not be coming back to the mobile applications. While it made sense in previous versions of Skritter, which only had one way of studying, it was also the root cause of countless emails, and support conversations about the the state of lists (active vs. paused/reviewing from), single-section study, manual vs. automatic adding, item over-adding, due count number changes, etc.

While all of us are familiar with how and why Skritter did what it did, it made the application very hard to understand as a beginner (to both the language, and to the application), especially when you’re not starting from the beginning of a decklist, or don’t want to learn everything inside a decklist. Additionally, it made providing a free/guest experience that shows off what Skritter can do without without creating an account a lot more complicated.

For now, the best option for getting a more organic experience of learning new and old words simultaneously, is to go into a deck section that has words you’re looking to add for the day and mark them as learned from the preview card. This will skip the hand holding, and put them directly into your queue. After that, you can select the “Continuous” option (under Advanced on the Review Settings screen) and the queue will do its best try and show you the stuff you’re struggling with way more often than once a day. You can also filter the specific deck you’re learning from if you need to focus efforts further.

Hope that helps answer your question, and gives you an okay workaround. We’re planning on implementing bulk-add option into decks in the future, which should also help save lots of taps if you’re looking to quickly put a lot of cards into the queue at once.

-Jake

You can add me to the list of people that think that Legacy Skritter (Web version 1.x) was the best. The original iOS app is pretty sweet too. I mostly do the two different web versions: 1.0 for the larger font sizes and color coding of tones. 2.0 to hear Fiona reading the sentences for the HSK lists. I am still struggling to make sense of the new iOS version and betas.

Thanks for the discussion so far, everyone!

There are many reasons why we have made the changes that we have made. And primarily, it is so we can start taking a much more active approach toward building a more comprehensive study tool.

One of the reasons that we have removed the introduction of new words while reviewing is because we see a clear distinction between the process of learning something for the first time, and reviewing it to help it stick in long-term memory. Since we can’t know whether something is actually new, or just something just being added to Skritter to review, we’re taking a more active approach to distinguish between the two processes.

I think it is safe to say that many of us who have used Skritter for a long time (I just passed eight years in August) have come up with our own unique ways of making new items stick when they show up automatically in the queue. With learning mode, you now have the chance to make all those edits before it goes into the review queue. We’ve tried to make this easy to skip by offering the “mark as learned” option on the Preview card, and we’ll be adding some bulk-add options into the app as well in the future.

By having the learning process at the deck level, it allows us to do even more cool things, which hopefully translate into the faster acquisition of knowledge overall. Most exciting for us, it will enable us to add some additional context to the bits of the language we’re all studying. In-app videos, high-quality example sentences (with audio), grammar points, guided stroke order support, , etc. are all a bit awkward in the middle of a study session.

Honestly, for the first time, we have an opportunity to address the how and the why of the language–and that is very exciting! The Chinese 101 deck, for example, has been studied by 97,499 people to date. And while that is an impressive number, it is a little painful to me personally to know that most people who have studied this deck probably don’t understand how or why it is the way it is. Automatically adding things to a study queue tends to do that. It takes the knowledge transfer, and the “ah-ha!” moment entirely out of the process.

I remember the first time I learned that most Chinese characters are semantic/phonetic components combined. It nearly blew my mind!

It might seem like some of our recent changes are catering a lot more to “beginners” of the language, and that is a fair point. Beginners need the most guidance. They’re also the most significant portion of students studying a language. When I taught Chinese at University, we would see a roughly 70% drop in enrollment from first to the second year! That is a staggering number, and part of the reason is that they find Chinese (characters) difficult. Well, we have a chance to help change that!

All of this isn’t to say that we don’t care about meeting the needs of long-time users! It’s just that we have thousands of active monthly users, and not everyone has the same needs, language level, etc. Couple that with over a decade of feedback from independent learners, students in the classroom, and educators, and it can be a lot to process and prioritize.

We’re actively working on improving Skritter, and we will continue to update and things based on everyone’s feedback. We hope that the recent inclusions of a continuous study mode and deck filtering Review Options are helping to bridge the gap between what you’ve used in the past, and what the app is providing. Let’s keep the dialogue going, and I hope we can find an appropriate balance for all!

-Jake

P.S. I know this reply is mostly focused around learning and reviewing. We’ve made notes of bugs/missing features, and most of them are already in the queue to be fixed up in upcoming versions of the app.

P.P.S. Regarding “Test” mode. While this feature might not be great for everyone, it is a fantastic tool for classroom study and for checking the overall comprehension of a set/subset of vocabulary very quickly. Can the same thing be done on pen and paper? Heck yeah, but please be considerate of your trees and your own time :slight_smile: This study mode is about the best way we could come up with for giving yourself a daily 聽寫 without needing any outside assistance. Also, we find it to be a great way to benchmark overall progress/comprehension at the deck level.

2 Likes

Will the website version of Skritter evolve to use this Test / Learn split? I realise I can use the Skritter web interface on my phone, and as far as I can tell, the website version is more in line with the old Skritter?

Personally I prefer not having the Learn mode mixed with the Study mode. The old way was always trying to give me too many new things to study so I always had it paused until I was ready to learn more. This made me feel like I was never as fast or as smart as I should be. Now with them separated I don’t have those bad feelings. Also the old way would never seemed to pause right away it would have more new stuff to show even after paused. The new way works better for me and I hope it sticks around.

1 Like

Jake, thanks for the thoughtful reply. I probably have a misunderstanding about what the word “learned” means when offered as an option for labeling a word when the new Skritter iOS presents it. I had been avoiding clicking “learned” because I thought it meant “this is too easy, don’t show it to me again. I have mastered it.” Maybe I should think of “learned” as meaning something more like “I have some familiarity with this character. I have seen it before. Maybe I can sight read it, especially in context, but I still could not write it from memory.”

By avoiding selecting “learned” and opting for "teach me’ each time I then went through a process that felt quite tedious for me compared to just writing the whole character after seeing it, or writing it quickly while the model for “tracing” fades into invisibility. Maybe I should think of the “learned” button as the “familar” button? What is the actual impact on the word’s status in the queue if I select “learned”?

2 Likes

Hi Jake,

Thanks for your detailed response. I’m not entirely clear on how the new modes and options you mentioned work, and how “study” and “advanced study” and “continuous review” are now differentiated. Would you mind explaining?

Also, I think test mode is an excellent addition for class study, or even a quick review of personal lists before a meeting, get together etc. Just so long as it is separate, meaning the app allows review mode (using the algorithm) for individual lists as well.

It can’t be easy handling all of our diverse needs. I agree the early stage fall-off in Chinese study needs to be addressed. I trust you are listening to long-term needs, too. After all, we’ve been using legacy Skritter this long for good reasons!

All the best

2 Likes