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

You’re absolutely correct. We have release notes, and we do have a guide, but we can certainly do a better job of making changes and updates known in the app. Feel free to email team@skritter.com with any questions you might have, and we’ll be happy to help. It’ll also help u figure out better ways to introduce changes and updates into the app!

On this note I wonder if you could bring back the due count to display during review. When I choose an individual list to review, I do not know how many items are due from that list, it kinda feels endless without a “progress bar” of sorts.

And regarding learn mode as discussed, have you considered adding other ways of making the word stick apart from just showing pinyin, tone, stroke order? Any plans to integrate simple sample sentences or such to make the word stick in context?

Thanks in advance.

Due count should be displayed when you’re reviewing. Even if you select a single deck to study from it will show the total cards due for the deck.

Do you happen to mean when “Continuous,” mode is selected? There is not a due count on that mode because at that point you’re just studying through items in the deck, not just cards due the app will always try and prioritize items that are due over items that are not due, but there is no stopping point to base a “due” number on.

Jake, I appreciate the thoughtfulness the Skritter team is putting into the app design. I understand that there is an opportunity to make onboarding of users into these languages more seamless by separating learning from reviewing.

Nevertheless, I love the auto-add feature of the old app and the web app. Is there any hope at all that you guys would make this at least an option for the new app? Maybe not the default, because I understand you want to simplify things for new users. But an option for people who are already a bit deeper?

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Another long-time user here. I packed my old iPad in the hospital bag when my first was born, thinking (ridiculously, as I look back) I might have some downtime to study. Now he’s in first grade and learning characters himself, and his brother isn’t far behind. Let me put in another STRONG request to include the auto-add functionality in the new app. Or, at the very least, not to disable access to the legacy app, which, while not exactly pretty anymore, has worked well for me for many years.

The particular aspect of Skritter that I’ve found most effective is the spaced repetition at the very early intervals, right when a new item is making the transition from short term to long term memory. I see a new item, give a bit of thought to it (not much), then mark it wrong. The next card then comes up, which is a true “review”; i.e., I have about a 90% chance of getting it right, but it still requires some effort to recall. The effort of recalling a few “review” items has the effect of pushing the new item just to the fringe of my short term memory. After about 30 seconds or so of this, the new word shows up again, and there’s an almost physical sensation where my brain was about to forget it, but something screams “WAIT, no, don’t hit delete, we need that!” The old algorithm hits this sweet spot beautifully; and it happens 4 or 5 times at progressively longer intervals until by the end of my commute, the new word is usually sufficiently fixed in my memory that the next day, it can serve in the “review” role in between the early, super short intervals of the next new words.

I think I basically understand the proposed work-around (marking as “learned” even though it is not actually “learned”), though I must say that isn’t intuitive to me. But that’s beside the point, because even with the work-around, the very short early intervals don’t seem to happen because “review” doesn’t update itself dynamically (i.e., you have to clear every review that was due at the beginning of the session before the app considers the dueness of things that you got wrong in that session.) A work-around I used for a bit while trying to give the new app a chance involved exiting the review session and starting a new one every 30 seconds or so to force it to recalculate. That’s extremely tedious, made more so by the fact that the time-spent counter/clock seems to have been removed from the interface. (Separately, I disagree with this decision, since my goals are based on time spent, having dispaired of regularly clearing everything that as due.)

I didn’t play with “review continuously,” as I didn’t see the setting before I read this thread. It does sound like that behaves in a similar way to restarting the session every 30 seconds (though is it able to recalculate without a network connection, like the old app did?), and coupled with a way to add and “mark as learned” in bulk, it might work reasonably tolerably.

Trying it now, I second the view that “review continuously” feels endless without a progress bar or due count. It would seem sensible to bring back the clock for “review continuously,” since there’s already an empty space at the top of the screen where the due count would appear in the default mode.

I think I now understand why these design decisions were made: “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.” If I’m understanding correctly, you mean there was a deliberate and conscious decision to remove spaced repetition from “learning,” and do SRS only for things only for things that have been learned by other means (“In-app videos, high-quality example sentences (with audio), grammar points, guided stroke order support.”) I think this decision is fundamentally wrongheaded. For me, removing spaced repetition from the process of learning completely eviscerates the utility of Skritter. Please reconsider.

A totally unrelated minor nitpick: in the old system, it used to be possible when doing writing practice to mark a word as wrong without marking any of its component characters wrong. There doesn’t seem to be a way to do that anymore, and I would miss that feature. But I can see how that one might be considered overly complicated.

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I second this point as well. I’m giving the new app a chance, but I’m finding that for all the reasons discussed I like the legacy app more for my learning goals.

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Thank you @dbkluck for articulating so clearly and in detail the many commendable features of the legacy app that have not been brought forward into the new app.

For long-term users, the legacy app is so efficient: just launch into your daily study routine, adding new words whenever you get bored or let the algorithm add them for you, trust the algorithm to meet your learning needs just in time, then when the timer hits your set study interval, quit until tomorrow.

Simple, elegant, brilliant, and exactly what we need to keep using Skritter.

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I gave the Skritter Beta another go, and I reverted again to the legacy application. I guess the main points are:

  • The new canvas size / font / look and feel still feel a big step backward for me. The Skritter legacy app feels much better for the eye.
  • Having to explicitly learn & test is really painful to me in the new Skritter Beta. As it was mentioned a number of time, what made me addicted to Skritter is the endless learning flow, that feel very easy and intuitive.

I ll keep an eye on the updates and give the Skritter Beta app another go in the future if these things improve.

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I second that the fonts in the beta app are somewhat too small and the look and feel is not optimal (yet?).

The new learn mode is enjoyable in a way that when studying from a list from a book, when going through vocabulary which comes from chapters in the book, it allows a structured learn approach of new vocab. When I finish another chapter in the book, I head to the Learn mode and go through parts of that chapter’s vocab. However, I never use the test mode as it seems redundant when still having to keep up with the review stockpile.

The result is that I use Learn mode but due to lack of time And not finding Test mode worthwhile I barely get to see the newly Learnt vocab in review mode as my stockpile is too big.

For general advance through unstructured lists I also clearly prefer the legacy review mode with auto add. If this could be an option for the beta app it would be great.

What would be nice is to study a couple of new vocab focusedly in Learn mode and then head to Review with the recently Learnt vocab popping up prominently with SRS during that Review session.

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Ok so I gave Skritter Beta yet another shot, this time with the mindset that I will have no choice but using it in the future. I guess I found how to make it work for me, and didn’t revert to the Skritter legacy app, so I thought I would share.

First of all, I spent some time tuning the settings of Skritter so it works for me:

  • I enabled “Basic writing”, which make the font more like the legacy app, or at least less disruptive to my eyes.
  • I disabled “Sound effects”, which I find disruptive.
  • I disabled “Advanced SRS Grading” so for each character, if I don’f feel I get it right, it will popup right away in the next “Review”. While I see the value of “Advanced SRS Grading”, it’s too much cognitive load for me to chose how well I remember a character, I prefer a Yes/No approach.
  • I set the “Retention rate” to 95%

Then, I use the following workflow:

  • Go to HSK2 for example and chose 10 characters to study. Then I do a “Learn”, of each of them, followed by a “Test”, right away. I may actually do 2-3 tests, until I feel I sort of remember the characters / strokes order / tones / meaning / pronunciation.
  • Then I start “Review cards” due, but “Due only” (not “Continuous” mode)
  • During that review, I religiously select “forgot” or “got it” with the mind set that “forgot” will make the card part of the “Review cards” right away
  • I keep “Review cards”, with “Due only”, setting cards as “forgot” when I am not comfortable with them
  • When “Review cards” is at 0, I “Review cards” but with “Continuous” mode, which emulates the legacy Skritter. And then I just endless review cards until my brain explodes.
  • When I am ready learn some more, I go back to step 1 “chose 10 characters to study” and repeat.
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This sounds like a good flow!

@lguelorget

Thank you so so much for providing your workflow method. I’ve struggled with adapting to the new app and this will really help.

The only problem is how much longer this is going to take each day and how much more complicated than the legacy app this is. It is dismaying, but given the new system, sounds like it is not possible to make it any smoother for long-term users.

I just wish Skritter had thought in their redesign to incorporate a “long-term” or “advanced user” mode that emulates the ease of the legacy app use.

For now, at least until individual character mnemonics make it into the new app, I have to go on using the legacy app.

All I have to do every day right now is: add new words to my list from my reading, select the list(s) I want to study in “advanced study” mode, and launch in.

The legacy algorithm does the rest for me, and I just stop when I reach half an hour each day (in Skritter time.)

Like you, I mark all new words/characters as “wrong” initially to guarantee that they will make frequent repeated appearances on the same day I just learned them.

And I stop at all new words to take a time out in Pleco to study the many different word meanings and to copy them into the Skritter definition space.

It sounds like the biggest change Skritter has made to the new system is to abandon the tried-and-true algorithm. @SkritterJake, Is that the case?

So, is the SRS system actually serving your needs? I’m a little confused because your workflow is not the typical behavior, and you’re gaming the system to get what you want by marking all new words as wrong, rather than giving them an honest grade and trusting the system to sort things out.

Also, by relying on Advanced Study rather than just “Study” you’re neglecting every other word that is due for study in the flow you’ve described.

Sorry if I’m a little lost. What is the tried-and-true algorithm? Because what you’ve described above is not the way that Skritter was built to work. What you’ve described is a study flow that you’ve made for yourself to serve your needs. Makes sense, I did the same thing when I was using Skritter in grad school. I had a million little hacks to get items I wanted to see into my queue when I wanted them. But, it was my own unique way of studying, and it often took a 45-minute lecture to teach the nuances of the how and why of the flow.

Here is the workflow you’re describing:
Note, there are more taps than this but I’m keeping it basic

  1. Launch app and open deck
  2. Add words to the list(s)
  3. Open Advanced Study
  4. Study until my new words that I want for the day appear (maybe?)
  5. Mark as wrong (for more reps)
  6. Open Pleco edit things when a word appears
  7. Keep studying until you hit 30-minutes (your daily goal, I’m guessing)

Here is a similar study flow to what you’ve described if I were doing what you did in the new app:
Note, there are more taps than this, but I’m keeping it basic

  1. Launch app and open deck
  2. Add words to the deck(s)
  3. Use learn button study words you want to learn
  4. Edit definitions on the Preview card by doing research on Pleco, book, or wherever (eventually, you’ll be able to add custom example sentences here, too!)
  5. Go to Daily Review and find the deck–review old and new cards-drill everything you got wrong right after
  6. Follow-up-- Continuous Review with the deck selected focused on both old and new words until you’re comfortable or hit some daily time goal.

Honestly, the first flow sounds totally fine, but the total due items and the total due things you’d like to learn in a day is a giant X factor. Your goal is time-based as you’ve said, so taking a day off (or more), or over-studying for a single day is likely to have a tremendous impact on what happens during that 30 minutes.

The difference between the first flow and the second flow is that the second flow can be done every day with close to the same results every time, and with perfect information along the way. Not only does this mean that you know precisely what is getting added to your queue, but you also control the pace. New things are not added randomly. I know this might be a selling point for individuals, but it makes testing, and customer support A LOT harder for the business.

Added bonus, since the flow is the same for everyone it is easy to test. So, if anything goes wrong, we can fix it for everyone. And, if someone asks us how Skritter works. We can tell them with 100% certainty how things will happen, and why. That is much less possible with some of the study flows that have been described in this thread in particular.

Don’t rule it out. We’re making updates and improvements to the app, and I make a point of reading about, or inquiring into, nearly all of our feedback. I know I say this often, but we’re a small team. There is only so much we can do in a given day, week, month. We’ve got two developers, and there are a lot of moving pieces.

This new app is a 100% rewrite. With the new API, and a full understanding of how the system works because we built it as a team, it is a lot easier to add new features and build upon this app than the alternative of trying to make an old app and old API we didn’t write work in new ways it was never intended for.

Sadly, it is a process, and it is taking much longer than initially anticipated.

The plan, for now, is to keep working on things we have in the pipeline (see here). If enough users STILL are not convinced that we’ve done well after the app is fully built I will be sure that the OG Skritter study flow is in the app as an option for all.

-Jake

@SkritterJake @Therebackagain

Analysis of sequences as steps might be useful, but it can also confuse since we really just want to spend less time making decisions in menus. (At least this is how I interpret the comments made by Therebackagain, but it is possible that I am projecting my own feellings on someone else.) I have the new Japanese app and I like where it is going, but I have been reluctant to become a Chinese beta tester for reasons that make it easy for me to sympathize with Therebackagain. This morning, however, I came up with a solution that might make the new app acceptable to me (so now I am a beta tester!).

I use Skritter several times every day, sometimes for two minutes, sometimes for ten, or even fifteen. If I were to use … let’s call it a many steps and different modes approach, I would first need to ask myself where I left of last time. What mode should I choose? Suppose that I am about to start a two minute session, but waste thirty seconds of it on trying to remember what mode I am due to use. I hope anyone reading this can understand that it would be a bit annoying. (It’s probably less annoying if you only use Skritter for one long session every day.)

The solution, as I see it, is the continuous mode that has now been turned into a mode in its own right with a nice button to click and with a timer. (Just like Therebackagain I count minutes rather than items.) So far my idea looks like this:

Every time I am about to start a session I look at the number of due items. IF it is unlikely that it will reach zero during this session, THEN use continuous mode. IF it is likely to reach zero THEN go to learn mode first.

This is not going to work for you, @Therebackagain since you have a lot of due items you don’t care about, but perhaps you can find some kind of principle that works for you. I guess that what I am trying to say is that for our needs, the continuous mode is probably the solution, since it works more like the old app. I also imagine that it will be easier to find solutions if we ask ourselves how the continuous mode can be improved, and give feedback from that angle. Is it acceptable to switch between two modes or do we need to argue for the addition of a bulk-add version of learn mode embedded within the continuous mode? Can we use continuous mode and still know when we want to add new content? Or do we need to see the number of due items like in the old days? And so on.

Thanks for the detailed reply and for talking through your process!

Review. Always review. Whether daily due cards or continuous. If you’ve gotten to the point where due cards are zero, and you’ve got another two minutes, then you jump into a recent deck on the Home screen to add some new stuff to learn.

That’s the teacher in me talking, btw. If you only have a few minutes to spend, you’re going to be much better off maintaining existing vocabulary and keeping things fresh. Cards are due for a reason, and those should be prioritized.

Now that we’ve separated Continuous Review, it is a lot easier to conceptualize a bulk-adding system inside this particular mode as well. Honestly, much of the work we’re doing at the moment is trying to increase the variety of ways you can study Chinese and Japanese using Skritter. Daily Review, Continuous Review, and Time Attack are just the beginning of what is possible.

Keep the feedback coming, everyone. I appreciate all of the posts on this thread. And I trust that we’ll be able to come up with some great solutions together as a community!

I don’t understand why this was done. Regardless of your preferred learning style, it seems like a classic example of adding unnecessary complexity to a UI.

Previously (2.1.2 is my reference point), there was just one review mode, and a counter at the top of the screen. When it reached 0, you were done with your needed reviews and were reviewing continuously. If you wanted to review more, you could. If you wanted to stop, you could.

Now, you can choose between Continuous and Due Cards:

  • If you pick “Due Cards” and get to the end of your reviews, you are given a dialog with session statistics. That’s a nice addition. But then you’re done. If you want to review more, you have to exit and choose “Continuous” from the main screen.

  • If you pick “Continuous” from the start, I’m not sure what happens. It appears you get the same cards as if you picked “Due Cards” but it continues on when you’re done with the day’s batch.

So, the difference is… Due Cards stops you when you’re done. That’s it. Well, unless you’re out of cards for the day, in which case it does… nothing. DC/Cont was previously a toggle option, now it’s been promoted to two separate top-level buttons, one of which might be deactivated. Just to control whether you are forcibly kicked out of review when you’re done.

That seems a little overboard to me. It is complex and confusing. And you don’t need any of it. You’re always starting with your scheduled cards anyway, so why not just have one “Review” button? It would function like “Due Cards”, show you a completion dialog when you are done with the day’s cards, and gives you the option of continuing at that point. The completion dialog already has a button for this. If you are already done with your reviews, the “Review” button would just immediately enter continuous review.

Why is it unnecessary? The goal is to provide two separate study styles to suit a variety of needs. In terms of mobile learning apps, we actually have a lot fewer study modes than most if I’m honest.

If you’re only focused on studying cards that are due for the day, select “Due Cards” and go. The app will show you only what is scheduled. The goal of the review activity is to clear your queue of everything Skritter has determined due for the day.

Personally, I don’t interpret it as getting “kicked out” when you hit zero. Its an achievement–you’re done. The queue is zero! Perfect time to either learn something new or put the app down and feel good about being done with your reviews for the day and do something else.

If you’re looking to do time-based studying, or you want to review things you’ve studied from a specific deck or decks, select “Continuous” mode. Yes, you’re still studying cards that are due, but you also could be reviewing things that aren’t due at the same time depending on what deck you’re in and how long you choose to study. And, in continuous mode, if you study for an extended period, the cards you get wrong during the session will re-appear as you’re studying.

Not everyone wants to spend extended periods of time on Skritter, and some people do. This seemed like the most logical way for us to support both study styles without conflating the two. Also, when the mode was a toggle it got very little support or notice. There are multiple instances of this here on the forum, and the same was happening in our support inbox. For now (at least), it is front and center with clear documentation on both modes via the Help button on the settings page. While the old method might make sense to many of us who’ve used Skritter for a long time, it is also terribly confusing to explain to new users coming in the app for the first time.

For the record, I’m not saying we can’t improve the UI, but they are different, and they do different things on the code level. And I do appreciate the feedback!

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I still find the distinction to be slight, but the reality is having the choice doesn’t affect my use of Skritter in a significant way. I made the observation more out of engineering empathy than to complain about something that’s getting in my way.

I’m curious what those differences are. It sounds like there is a lot more going on. As far as I can tell, they are:

  1. Due Cards stops for good when you finish the scheduled cards, Continuous lets you overstudy.
  2. (guess) Continuous doesn’t notify you when you reach the end of what Skritter has scheduled.
  3. Continuous shows time and not remaining card count.
  4. Due Cards shows remaining card count but not time.

Incidentally, I consider 3 & 4 to be regressions. If I’m in a continuous state of mind, I still would like to see where Skritter thinks I am, and if I’m studying Due Cards I still want to see how long I’ve been studying. To emphasize the latter case, I’ll note that a Due Cards user’s UI needs are basically the same as a Continuous user’s needs if they are sufficiently behind in their reviews.

It ultimately boils down to having a single very specific goal for the two modes. Due Cards is about getting things to zero by studying the most optimal number of things based on SRS so time is not the focus of this goal. Continuous also contributes to getting the due cards down, but since there is no stopping point putting in time is the goal.

It might sound easy to just make them one super continuous feature like before, but over the years we’ve gotten a fairly consistent amount of feedback which highlight why this is complex. The previous continuous style tries to accommodate too many different scenarios into one. Here are some points about why a single continuous mode to rule them all is challenging:

  1. Cards can become due while you’re in the middle of studying, so it can be frustrating to get to zero for the day (especially if you have a bunch of newly added cards).
  2. Similar to #1 if you get to zero, then check back in a few minutes or a few hours it likely won’t be zero anymore.
  3. Users with a large number of due cards (think 2000+) have different often contradicting expectations. For example, some users only want to study down to zero, some want to study down to zero but want to add in some new things that get prioritized and some want to occasionally see some not due cards appear.
  4. Reviewing something when it’s not ready breaks the fundamentals of how SRS is meant to work.

im having an issue with continuous, the wrong cards do not pop up again, i had the same issue before the last update, but i figured out the a fix, before i toggle the continuous to on, i had to make sure the due cards toggle was off and my wrong cards would pop up again after a couple of reviews. i was going to report this error, but the update happened! probably this issue got carried over to the new version.

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