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Lingots to Gems: a massive, unethical failure

Who gave DuoLingot permission to convert my hard-earned Lingots to a new for-purchase Gems system? Lingots were motivators to education. Gems are a new and unwelcome, forced upon the learner, de-motivators. Please re-consider this unwanted, pedagogically poor and morally corrupt paradigm. If DuoLingo requires tuition - fine - but please make it available on a donation basis. I now have to spend real money to use my earned Gems - and am still subjected to advertisements?! This is highway robbery. We earned Lingots. They are now changed into Gems without asking our permission, and then we have to spend money through the App Store to use them? This is a poor faith, manipulative rip off.

May 31, 2017



i personally hate everything in this new update, i have been really enjoying my german learnings and i will say, the old system was a bit tough to maintain while still trying to move forward, but it kept ne motivated, made me want to work harder. but now its imposible to move forward without buying my way through? i hate to say it, but i think my learnings end here. i have spent anywhere between 15-60 mins a day earning my lingots & now they look worthless with the inflation of streak freeze & other shop items. it sucks to be a person who loves to learn & then the system that was working suddenly becomes something that is just stupidity. i actually thought the developers cared. wow.


A very unfortunate change to what previously was truly a wonderful program. Sorry they ruined it. Sad to see its demise.


At least for German there is a good alternative in the different free courses of DW, their newsletters are also good.


How are you forced to use real money to buy gems? It is just giving you the option to purchase gems but I understand that you can earn them similar to lingots.


I keep seeing this but it's just not true. I don't think they're seeing you can practice or review to earn free health. Each day you do your goal you get gems. Each ten days you still get rewarded. So much misinformation in these witch hunt posts.


I agree, it is not that well publicised but this morning my iOS iPad converted my Lingots to Gems and when I checked the website I still had all my Lingots so I had been given a similare amount of Gems while keeping my lingots.

This morning I also reached 1230 day streak and received 123 lingots on the website as usual but when I opened up the app it said I was being rewarded for reaching the streak and was presented with three treasure chests and had to choose one. When I opened a box I received 10 Gems, although I had no idea how many were in the other two boxes, but it looks like Duo is adding extra gaming elements to the Streak rewards.

Tomorrow I will reach 7 days so my wager should pay up 10 Lingots so it will be interresting to see what happens to this on the Gems giving app.


Who gave [Duolingo] permission to convert my hard-earned Lingots to a new for-purchase Gems system?

You did, of course! (Reread the last sentence in §2 of Duolingo’s Terms and Conditions of Service.)


I feel your pain bro, our lives will never be the same! How could this happen to us innocent folks! Is there no justice in this cruel unforgiving world?!


Hi JMaxGlobal! Sorry this upsetting you :( -- I want to clarify a couple of things though: you can earn gems without spending any money by simply reaching your daily goal. You lingots are currently still here on the web, and will stay here for the foreseeable future. If you want to learn more about the why and how for these changes (currently only on iOS and not affecting web users), we have been trying to clarify many questions (and clear up some misunderstandings in a mega-post, to keep it manageable: Gems and Health FAQ -- if your questions are not answered there, please add to that thread.


Thank you, vivisaurus. This is exactly what is needed - an explanation of the rationale and practicalities of the changes being made. Misconceptions can of course easily occur when people have no information to rely on. I saw nothing when I wrote my initial post in exasperation, except that my Lingots had all been unceremoniously wiped-out. Yikes! The Team's "mega-post" that you refer to is excellent. Had I had this background information prior to my post, undoubtably my note would have had a calmer tone to it.

While the currency is still in circulation - here's a Lingot :)

Cheers, Max


Thanks, Max! =]


I started using the IOS app and I have zero gems although I have 157 lingots. It does not appear that doing anything on the web app reflects on the IOS app. At least not practice or lingots although XP appear to carry over. Can anyone confirm that a streak freeze purchased with lingots still works? Am I correct that only finishing a lesson on the IOS app gets gems? What about a streak do only XP earned on the IOS app count for getting gems for a streak? This business of having two currencies is very confusing.


So ask for your money back. Oh, wait, you aren't paying anything to use Duolingo.

That doesn't mean I like the gems concept, but 'unethical' is a bit over the top here. But what with the other changes Duolingo has made, at some point I'm likely to join the long line of people queuing up at the exit.

Duolingo's loss will be some other French teaching methodology's gain.


How is it unethical?

To be unethical assumes there is a system of moral principles in place but there are no rules on the world wide web, moral or otherwise.


I definitely agree ... what are gems used for anyway?


I see now that Lingots are still available when I access DuoLingo on the web, but Gems have replaced them on iOS. How to use them, aside from buying more of them - is not entirely clear. Perhpas they are rolling this out gradually. So far - quite unimpressive.


Gems will buy you "Health", which is needed to pass new lessons (you run out of Health after making five mistakes). So the lingots converted to gems don't stretch very far.


You can review to rebuild health. Absolutely free as always.


My problem with that is that it sets up a divide between those who can afford to pay their way forward and bypass the restrictions and those who can't afford it and have to put up with the restrictions.

If you have the money to buy gems, great. If you don't, tough luck. That's not an appealing tactic for Duolingo to take.


You should ask Duolingo for your money back.


Highway robbery! Yes, that's an entirely fair and reasonable comparison to a website that offers completely free language courses and subsequently introduces a few, limited features that are designed to keep the whole thing sustainable.
And how morally corrupt, too! When I go to a shop I always expect to be given whatever goods and services I desire for free—the unspeakable moral and ethical turpitude of those businesses that have the effrontery to ask for payment makes my blood simultaneously boil and run cold.
Have these rapacious mercenaries no knowledge of the vast forests of money-bearing trees that proliferate worldwide from shore to shining shore? Why, it isn't as if anyone on earth has to pay for energy, talent or infrastructure—that was all done away with in that recent great global event I somehow missed.

Alas, I must leave your restrained and proportionate post now as Duo the owl appears to be firing a flintlock pistol through my letterbox whilst hooting 'stand and deliver'.


Sorry you missed my point. The problem is not so much with assisting financially if additional revenue is required. Obviously time and talent is valued and to be reinforced. The issue is the arbritrary manner in which the changes were introduced. The disappearance of virtual rewards earned without explanation was tactless.


I don't much like these changes any more than you. However, I do appreciate that Duolingo has to make money somehow, and it's not going to do this through a 'donate' button alone, as you suggest. But attacking everything about this with such hyperbole only invites ridicule, which I felt it was my duty to provide.

Consider, however: lingots were worthless, but gems have a real price; by converting lingots to gems Duolingo has really made your virtual rewards worth more. I think the timing system is awful, but people have been complaining about how little there is to spend lingots on for years—and now, like in the Monkey's Paw, their wish has been fulfilled.
Besides, from what I understand, the website is unaffected (at least for now into the medium-term future), so just use it in favour of the app if you want to avoid the gems and associated costs.

Personally, I'd prefer more ads and no gems, but Duolingo is a business and not a democracy, and any decision made by the staff will necessarily be arbitrary. They do read some posts on the forums and pay heed to some complaints, but if you so maniacally accuse them of 'moral corruption' and 'highway robbery' I think they are less likely to take your views on board.


Hyperbole begets hyperbole. :) Enjoying the spirited dialogue and clarifications. Thanks.

Underlying my frustration was that unexpectedly and without explanation - unlike it seems with others - a new system was rolled out onto my iPad that resulted in all my Lingots being erased in one course, while being left on others. The lost Lingots were replaced with purchaseable Gems and a mysterious "health" option materialized with zero explication. I was baffled and I came here to vent a bit and learn about the changes, as I somehow missed out on the "manual". I appreciate the feedback.

Naturally efforts to support Duolingo are reasonable. Some of us assist with translations, some buy back lost streaks, others will purchase Gems. And as you suggest, newerer means of monetization will occur. Cool.

The concepts and people behind Duolingo are brilliant. Wrinkles occurring with the transition will undoubtably soon be smoothed out and we'll be singing the praises before long - in various languages.

Learning languages to decrease international strife while promoting global harmony can only be applauded. Having a winsome little green owl as our professor is especially appreciated.

Oops, my hyperbole meter just swung to 10.

Cheers, - Max


How are Lingots motivators to education? They are just meaningless numbers. Learning a language should be your motivator, not a fake online currency with no real value or use. Everybody was always complaining that there was nothing to spend lingots on, and now suddenly everybody is complaining about not having them any more as if they were so great in the first place. They've been changed because they were pointless. Some people just love complaining I guess.


> How are Lingots motivators to education?

How are X motivation to Y? Gamification is a myth! People don't form emotional connection with numbers that increase when they do stuff! People don't feel frustrated if someone messes with their hard-earned virtual numbers!

Seriously though, abusing our brain's quirk of enjoying a grind if it immediately increases some number on the screen in an easy-to-understand way is what added fun to the daily grind of learning a language. Without that, you can just use Anki with any deck you want - which also enables you to mix in some words you wanted to know into your learning process, for example.

However, unless you deny gamification altogether, you'd have to acknowledge both good and bad sides in making people care about numbers that don't actually stand for anything in real life.

If you want to understand why many people in the community don't like the update, imagine the following scenario:

There's some generic MMO, people put hours of their time to grind resources there. Some hoard pretty impressive amounts of in-game gold, some just have a handful of coins, but it's their stuff nonetheless and they wouldn't let others mess with it.

There are some problems with inflation which pisses people off - becaue it messes with their hard-earned hoards of gold. People say that they need more stuff to spend their stuff on - some aesthetics, maybe - to curb the inflation.

Gamedevs step in and say "we got this". They paint all gold pink (stupid in itself but may be necessary to break from old way of how things were) and introduce parking tickets.

Technically, if you introduce new fines and fees, shre of players that complain about empty shelves in shops will dwindle. However, I wouldn't be surprised if this made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

You can take stance that people are stupid for caring about those numbers in the first place - both when that caring makes people establish a daily routine of learning a language and when they whine if someone messes with their numbers - but stating that those numbers were pointless altogether just blatantly denies fundamental difference between Duo and some generic spaced-repetition software.

Personally, I think if some virtual "asset" is persented to the player with description that the player earned it, you should expect players react to any attempts to mess with the stuff as if you were messing with their private property. Especially if you are running a gamification gig, where people-who-care-about-numbers-on-the-screen are your target audience.


OK, I can see that for some people the additional reward of getting lingots might encourage them to keep learning. And obviously that's part of what makes Duo different from other software. But it's far from the only thing that sets it apart, and it's definitely not the most important. Most other SRSs don't have pre-made funny sentences that keep people entertained, or tips and notes, or the mixture of listening, reading and writing that Duo has, or course developers/people who know the language who can respond to questions when you don't understand something. That's what makes Duo special, not the lingots, which are entirely superficial. I struggle to believe that some people are literally so unmotivated to learn a language as a goal in itself that they are only here for the lingots. And if so, then frankly it's no loss to anyone if they leave. Duo is good because it brings together people who genuinely care about and are interested in learning languages. Ultimately there are much more fun, real games out there if all you want is to kill time or enjoy yourself and don't care about learning anything.

In that sense, your analogy with an MMO isn't really relevant. The whole point of the MMO is to be a game. The in-game currency is essential to the game mechanics, allowing you to progress your character. Grinding in an MMO has no reward other than more currency. But as I said above, the whole point of Duo is not to be a game. The game is just a way to help people learn, it's not the end goal. Grinding in Duo has its own reward: you're gaining real-life, useful, actual knowledge and the lingots are just a way of symbolising that. Removing them doesn't take away what you've learned. Plus, on Duo you don't actually need lingots to progress; all you need to do is keep learning. So reducing their value is nothing like reducing the value of an essential in-game currency.

I also have a problem with the use of the phrase 'hard-earned' that everyone in these discussions keep bandying about like politicians. 'Hard-earned' implies a wage received for doing a job that in an ideal world, if you didn't need money, you wouldn't do. A hard-earned wage is the only reward for doing that job. Doing Duo is not hard work and lingots are not a salary, they're just a fun reward. Learning a language is a positive thing in itself, you don't need to be paid to do it.


Imagine a world where people are not purely logical.

Sometimes they say they want one stuff, actually prefer another and go for yet another one.

Some of them have different abilities too.

Cheaply learning additional language or two is a good thing. However, it requires a lot of work.

For some people this work is easy. For some it is entertaining. Those who belong to both groups would have a significantly better results at learning languages - they would be good at it even with just books, some audio and some forums.

Others would generally have to put in some effort. Still, there are just too many cases when this investment pays off. Accessible courses of sufficient quality make the process more efficient. Duolingo seems to aim to be useful here too.

However, problems don't end here. People are not inherently rational, always doing stuff that would benefit them the most. One could deny this altogether, or fight fire with fire and exploit this to make people work towards something they usually won't be able to commit to. For example, gamification done right makes language learning a bit more fun and addictive.

For people who sufficiently enjoy the process it wouldn't matter - they'd be learning a langauage even without this. It would only matter for people who'd otherwise give up after a month or two because it's not as fun and immediately rewarding as watching TV or whatever. This additional fun component makes it more likely that those "swing" learners would learn too, thus it increases number of people who learn additional language.

Unless you are denying that gamification works, we would agree that gamification done right makes sessions of learning more fun and fulfilling and eventually increases number of learners and amount of work they put in.

In a similar way, broken gamification reduces both number of learners and amount of work they put in. If you replace additional fun with even the tiniest modicum of disappointment or contempt, result is wont to be damaging.

If enabling more people to learn additional languages is a goal then gamification is a step towards that goal, whereas broken gamification is a step away from that goal.

You've asked how lingots can be motivators toward eduction. Well, that's how. They are hardly motivators to learn the language in the first place, but they help to bridge the gap between "It would be cool to learn X" and "I'm going to practice X now". Evidently, they are not pointless.

I don't see how some parts of your second post are relevant though.

You list some other features of Duolingo. That looks like saying that the shop has some impressive goods, the staff is nice and polite, prices are humble - and people who can't handle a stair at the entrance won't be missed. I didn't mention those features because they are not really relevant to your question of "How are Lingots motivators to education?". Ironically, none of what you've listed looks like stuff that is both prominent here and is important for me. YMMV.

My analogy with the MMO is to illustrate how the situation might look from perspective of a person who does care about the lingots, and because the same problem of inflation is well-known in MMOs too and there are solutions for that.

As for "you don't actually need lingots to progress", lingots are being replaced with gems, which you do need to progress beyond certain point in certain styles.

As for "reducing value": I'm not sure if it's being reduced or increased: both supply and demand are being altered and I could make a somewhat convincing argument in either way.

> I also have a problem with the use of the phrase 'hard-earned'

Well, seems that you should try to look at the situation from perspective of someone who thinks in a bit different way. MMOs are being casually played for fun - not gold - too, after all.

Part of gamification shtick is that virtual trinkets feel like the reward. If they don't feel like the reward then they are not working.


This is an awful new feature. I have changed my review in the app store form 5 stars to 1 and suggest everyone else does the same until this horrible thing is removed.


Wait, so you have to pay real money to buy a streak freeze or something? That's stupid. Can you buy streak freezes in the website version instead without paying?


I really like the new health system, I look forward for it to come to the web site too. By the way, ¿Can you stil earn more gems without paying real money?

If your answer is yes: I think it is ok if they do that

If it is no: I think that it is not very fair, and they should fix that problem.


Yes you can.


How? I wish there were a help button


I absolutely agree. I always save up on lingots to boy a streak freeze or something when I know I won't have wifi for a day or two, and it's absurd that you have to pay for it now. But Duolingo has to earn money somehow. According to a thread by an admin on a similar topic, Duolingo's CEO spends more than 43k every day to keep the website running. I guess it seems fair.


Gems make me sick!!!!!

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