Back when I thought italki took users' views seriously, I used to prod them with feedback from time to time. One of my biggest issues has always been how awful and inconsistent the writing tool has been. To name a couple issues:
- The pointless and inconvenient character count limit means you have to post rich-formatted, bilingual or even just detailed responses in two parts
- Different features are available in different areas of the community:
Delete and post pictures = notebook only
Rich text formatting = discussions, notebook corrections only
Character counter = unavailable in notebook corrections (where it's most needed)
My solution was simple, and would literally take minutes to implement: 1. Remove the silly character count limit altogether, and 2. use a single text editing tool in all the sections that includes all the features.
I got a lot of "Thanks for your feedback" replies, but nothing was done until the Beta upgrade. And then, somehow, they managed to make the bad system worse!!!
- Background and foreground colour are now in one button, making notebook corrections much harder
- MS Word formatting now carries over to the italki platform when copying + pasting, but we have no means to format the text within the tool
Running a website like italki can't be easy, but this is basic stuff. Lots of good free open source text editing tools are available online. All italki needs to do is plug them into their website, and the experience of actually writing here instantly becomes 100% easier and more pleasant.
Just to emphasise: this would take 15 minutes to fix, but italki has been putting it off for years.
But suddenly, I've noticed something very weird. The "Language Hacking" "missions" involve an incredibly comprehensive set of formatting tools.
That means that italki has finally decided to upgrade its writing tool...
...BUT only include the new tool in the least-frequented section of their site (so far, I don't think the entire stupid Language Hacking section has even 10 measly responses in total)
My question is this: What do you think is going on? Why do you think italki "upgrades" its site in such an incoherent and inefficient manner? What do you think their two offices of full-time paid staff do all day when all they can come up with is minor, unimportant tweaks like these, while enormous, glaring bugs to the site remain in plain view:
What italki thinks it is:
-A language teacher supermarket
What italki actually is:
-A language teacher sweatshop, where undercutting leads to a race to the bottom price
- An incredibly broad network of highly connected and active learners, who italki completely neglects
- An associate of Benny Lewis, a vapid huckster who kicks down open doors and proffers terrible advice
What italki could be :
- The language learning Facebook
- The language learning Wikipedia (you mentioned the idea of starting a wiki section here)
- An advertising cash cow, given its huge membership base
- A valuable database of learner errors, marketable to textbook writers, etc.
- The best language learning website out there, that does everything other sites do but better
...the potential is endless...
Thanks for the kind words André! While I know where you're coming from, I choose not to engage in any "How would you improve italki?" discussions here. I used to, but it always felt like we were talking to ourselves because italki is so aloof with its own customer base. In the end I felt that even implying that they might listen was giving them too much credit.
This is just my opinion, if you or anyone else like the concept you have my full consent to start a new discussion and copy/paste/change it however you like :)
You're absolutely right, Suade. It's a nightmare. Also, one Arabic letter counts as two characters towards the limit, so if you want to leave room for a correction notebooks can't be longer than 150 words or so.
In Chinese, most characters (Chinese characters, eg.我) just count as 1. Since most Chinese words are one or two characters, you can write huge essays. It's so unfair.
Italki knows all this, they just don't care
I'd just like to clarify why exactly I started this thread. It wasn't just to criticise italki . Honestly I think criticising italki is about as useful as giving them constructive feedback - that is: not at all...Nonetheless I'll admit it feels good to blow off steam after over of year of seeing 75% of changes here being for the worse, so I'm with everyone else on this thread.
But this most recent change - this is a new level of insanity for italki.
Imagine you're a chef in a restaurant, and you cook me a disgusting meal. Well there are several reasons to explain that: maybe the ingredients or kitchen equipment have problems, or maybe you're just a bad chef. There's no mystery there. Similarly, maybe italki's writing tool was bad because of technical reasons, or maybe they were just incompetent, we couldn't know for sure.
But now imagine I ask you to cook me a meal, and you cook me a delicious meal. However, when you've finished cooking it you don't serve it to me; instead you throw it out the window into the street. I would think you're completely insane!
This is exactly what italki's done with its new writing tool. They've created a really slick new interface (though far from perfect, it doesn't fix many of the issues mentioned above), and they've put this upgrade in an area where nobody will use it.
That absolutely blows my mind. It's exactly like a chef throwing a delicious meal out with window while hungry guests are in the dining room.
I brought up the "freeloader theory" in another thread, as a logical explanation for why italki doesn't seem to care about its community section, but that was at least logical. This particular move is absolutely....nuttyfoofoo!