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Skritter: Online Character Practice, want feedback!


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Same situation here. I know roughly 2000 characters, but could only write about 10. But using this tool, I can really catch up quickly. And even though I've only learned to write a few hundred up so far, knowing how to write is already helping me differentiate similar characters I often get mixed up. It's really addictive, and I look forward to my daily practice (sh)!

As a self-learner, writing practice has been a big challenge. I can look at a character and copy it 100 times, but still have little chance of remembering it a week later. The spaced repetition in Skritter solves that. In addition, the instant feedback on correct drawing is great for self-study, when there's no teacher to assist.

What is the spaced repetition algorithm you are using? In general, the test order seems reasonable -- a decent balance between reviewing hard words and introducing new ones. But as I introduce larger numbers items, will I start to build a large backlog of words that are overdue for review?

As for features I'd like to suggest, first would be the ability to export introduced entries, so I can practice on paper when I'm not by a computer. Second would be some more metrics. Anki has some nice graphs and statistics, like success rates on new cards compared with "young" and "mature" cards, and a daily graph of card scheduling.

It has a great interface that's highly intuitive. This is even accessible to people who don't know anything about Chinese, and they could be learning a few cool characters within minutes. Just in time for that tattoo :mrgreen:! All that's missing is maybe a quick intro to the basic rules of stroke orders, and then let them play with the demo.

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The main Skritter website seems to be blocked by the great firewall. Since Witopia is not working for me at work anymore for some unknown reason, I will try it out on my home computer. Is anyone having problems testing Skritter in China or is it just me?

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I'm seeing the same - can't access Skritter directly, but have no problem through a VPN. I can see reference on the web to the webhosting company they use having been blocked in 2005/2006, possibly due to also hosting gambling or adult pages (nothing to do with Skritter, I'm sure they're very nice people :) ). So I'd guess they've fallen foul of that.

(cheeky affiliate link to Witopia)

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Skritter is actually hosted on Google App Engine. I'm not sure if it's our domain name registrar or App Engine that's being blocked in China, but it's on and off and quite frustrating. When we get a spare moment, we'll try setting up a reverse proxy server.

Until then, you should be able to use http://skrit.appspot.com/ from China: just use a password instead of Clickpass, and if it 404's you on login, then go back to http://skrit.appspot.com/ and you should be logged in.

Thanks for all the feedback, guys! We're really busy over here, but will be implementing your suggestions over the next month or two.

c_redman: We're using our own spaced repetition algorithms, which take advantage of the structure of Chinese to schedule characters and tones (and soon pinyin and definitions) separately but relatedly. As well, each character will have aggregate difficulty information based on other users' performance on it. So, once we get enough data and really start tuning it, it's going to be really good even though we don't get the information from users grading themselves (like in Mnemosyne, Anki, or SuperMemo).

It's not very tuned yet, but I don't think you'll see a huge review backlog, even while maintaining a pretty high retention rate. It may take a few days to even out, but practicing even moderately irregularly has been no problem for me.

Data export is on our list to do; it's just not top priority. Same with beginner tutorial materials.

We'll hopefully avoid the need for certain statistics, like success rate on older vs. younger cards, by having the scheduling tune those rates to be nearly identical across any conceivable card set. It's a bit hard to do those kind of calculations scalably with a web app. We're looking at including a "how many items are scheduled in the next 12 hours" type of thing. What other stats would be good to see?

dalizee: How many characters do you want? Not all of our 3064 characters are accessible through various vocab lists yet, but most of them are. When we get the rest of the HSK lists up next month, and thus have all those 3064, will that satisfy?

ABCinChina: Try using the Recover Account link to get a temporary password? Clickpass doesn't work on the http://skrit.appspot.com/ domain, unfortunately, so you can only log in with a password. Or, perhaps you could set a password in Firefox, where you're logged in, and then try to log in with it in another browser. That is, if it's not just a Flash player version problem.

Hoffman: Thanks for the info on the traditional support. I'll fix up those characters you mentioned soon, as we'll be better able to support traditional variants and the like.

LaoZhang: I responded to those ideas in an email already, I see. Hope you're enjoying Skritter!

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When using Firefox 3.0.5 under Windows NT, I get the same screen that ABCinChina got. I tried upgrading flash to the latest version, but no change. It works fine on the same system under IE 7.0.5730.11.

Using IE, I really like what I see. This program is strangely addicting. Very nice interface, and it's strangely pleasing to see my ugly stroke "morph" to the correct location and shape.

My only big request is that I would like a "show next stroke" button. I know how to show the entire character, but sometimes I just want a small hint.

Later Edit:

It seems to work fine using Firefix under Linux, so this seems to be a Firefox 3.0 issue.

Also, regarding my request, I realize that if you make a mistake 3 times it will briefly show you the next stroke. What I was thinking is what you get when you press the "show" button, except only one stroke, the next one, is shown rather than the entire character.

Edited by jbradfor
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Finally!. . .ever since i started studing chinese i've been waiting for something like this.

I've been wondering why SRS'ing hasn't gone more interactive like this yet!

can't wait until you get all the characters in there including both simp and trad versions. plus if this could become an app on iphone or blackberry it would be great. . .

really nice job guys:D

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Wow, this is an amazingly useful system with a great interface. The only thing that would stop me becoming a paying customer is the speed.... it's taking a frustrating 10-20 seconds to get a response after I finish drawing a character. On top of that there's a few features I'd like to see:

1) a grid to help me proportion the character, like the 米字格 used in calligraphy.

2) a "learning mode" where the character is displayed and I can copy it as many times as I like until I feel I've learned it.

3) a "character bank" that I can cut and paste characters/words I want to learn into, rather than using a predefined list.

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So there are a few guys developing a very promising program (www.skritter.com) that teaches people to write Chinese using a mouse on a computer. Right now it is free (open Beta) and it has limited vocabulary options, but it's great for practicing and getting immediate feedback on writing characters.

I wonder how expensive it will be once it goes gold. Hopefully it will be affordable because I think it's a great idea. I had given up on learning how to write before I saw this program. It just wasn't worth the time needed to learn to write when I could learn to type on phones and computers using pinyin input systems. But with a program like this one, the time to needed to practice should be a lot less. I hope someone else finds it useful.

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it's taking a frustrating 10-20 seconds to get a response after I finish drawing a character.

I'm not seeing that, so I'm wondering if there's something wrong/weird with your system? Or internet connection? Or Singapore is just too far away? :wink:

But am I the only one who can't get it to recognize the tone marks I draw? I have particular trouble getting it to see third tone marks.

Don't forget you can use the keyboard for the tone marks.

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More notes:

雞 is more common than 鷄.

In Traditional Chinese, the measure word for animals and "only" are different characters, and so for the character 祇, the definition "a measure word, for birds and some animals, etc." is incorrect. The measure word is 隻.

Also, 祇 is written wrong. It should be 示/礻 on the left instead of 衣/衤.

錯 is wrong. (Get it? lol) The 金 should be 丿丶一一丨丶丿一.

Some may write 者 with the dot, right below right side of the 3rd stroke.

In 過, 咼 should be 丨 ┐ 一丨丨 ┐ 丨 ┐ 一, although the version on Skritter is commonly accepted, just not by freaks like me.

Anything with 艸 is different in Traditional, but I sort of said that already.

The third stroke of 食 can be 一 or 丶. More properly it's 一.

Come to think of it, there's no reason for 國 to end in 丶一 other than regularity. One still has to close the rectangle. Better is ending in 丶丿一. But you'll take care of it once (if?) you get Traditional data.

In Traditional Chinese, "inside" and "li" are separate characters. Therefore, the definition "half kilometer" for 裏 is wrong.

The first stroke of 匕 can be 一 or 丿.

The third stroke of 今 can be 一 or 丶.


I bet Skritter works wonderfully for Simplified Chinese.

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it's taking a frustrating 10-20 seconds to get a response after I finish drawing a character.

I'm not seeing that, so I'm wondering if there's something wrong/weird with your system? Or internet connection? Or Singapore is just too far away?

My internet connection is fast enough, but I know my ISP throttles anything that's not a standard protocol like http (to stop people filesharing :( ) -- maybe that's it. What I see is, once I finish writing a character, the response arrives in groups of 2 to 4 strokes, with a delay of about 5 seconds between each group.

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