https://www.duolingo.com/Paulo.Guedes

Please fix your communication with Duolingo users

Hello,

in short:

0) Thanks for a great work. You rock! (and work quite hard so Duo can run). 1) Let's try to build a win-win relationship? 2) Please fix your communication channels with Duolingo users. They are seriously broken. 3) We want to help you! Please start to leveraging users help to improve Duolingo. 4) Please try a public ticket system. All of us need that... including you!).

Now the long version, with details.

First of all, thank you for such a great site. Duolingo is very important for me and for a lot of other users. That is the main reason we want to wee it improving and growing.

What I am proposing here is a win-win strategy, based on a cooperative style of problem solving. We help each other, so everyone wins something important. For details, please check: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_resolution

-> Please search for "Cooperation conflict style". Just one paragraph, but it is really worth reading.

I know all of you work a lot, under the hood, to make things happen. I really do. I understand that there is an enormous amount of effort to keep the Duolingo engine up and running, with new features, fixes, user requests and a zillion other small things to take care of.

I also think that Duo employees are a limited resource and I understand that your efforts need to be carefully used on the right actions.

However, there is a very strong need to improve communication with end users. This need is real and is being growing every single week.

I know you have the forum, the "Support" button and the "Suggestions" to improve each question. Those are all great things... as long as they work!

The issue is: in many cases, they are just NOT WORKING. I am tired of suggesting things that are being ignored, and other users are feeling like that also.

Look, I am not saying that ALL requests are being ignored. Some are answered and some are taken care of. And I am not saying that you are NOT working hard. In fact, I believe you are doing your best to try to keep the head outside of the water.

But there are just too many requests. From a lot of users. Many of them are duplicates, with the same issue being reported several times.

Most probably you are being overwhelmed by many more messages than you can handle.

For instance, I made a few (very long) comments about "Duolingo for schools". I only got answers from other users, with similar needs. https://www.duolingo.com/comment/6318291$comment_id=6428554

A very simple way to reduce the stress and burden on your own employees is to create ways for your end users to help.

For instance, try to adopt some form of public ticket system. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bug_tracking_system

This way we can help easily. We can search for issues before requesting something that was already reported. We can concentrate the discussion of each subject inside the ticket forum. We can test fixes. We can add details and communicate in a much better way.

In short: we can work for you, for free. Just to see things getting better here. But we need the tools to do that.

In case you're interested, there are more details here, in another comment I made on the subject. https://www.duolingo.com/comment/6318291$comment_id=6361119

Just to mention, I am not willing to use Duolingo to teach, the way it is today. And many other teachers think this way too. We won't use it in our schools, unless we believe our comments are being taken seriously. We don't want our students learning with lessons which have basic mistakes embedded inside them.

By the way, English is NOT my mother tongue (so... sorry for my mistakes).

Now it is your turn. What do you think?

Best regards, Paulo

January 17, 2015

29 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/jairapetyan

Have you seen the new Educators Forum that Luis inaugurated yesterday? It answers some of your questions. The staff does watch what users are saying, and they care about us. Your suggestion is important. Hopefully they will find an effective bug tracking system soon.

January 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/remoonline

Adding the link for the Educators Forum.
https://www.duolingo.com/topic/909

January 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Paulo.Guedes

Hello, not yet. But I will! Thank you very much!

Well, I really don't want to sound harsh. I understand that the staff tries to do their best. And I believe they are watching. I also understand that it is absolutely impossible to answer each and every question for every user. It is not even useful to do that.

I would like to clear two things, mainly to the Duo staff. First, I want to help. Not bother.

Second: my point is way beyond bug tracking. This is only one example. The main thing is that they have limited resources with an enormous demand. And I wonder how they plan to address that.

To handle such a big community, the only reasonable way I can think of it to leverage the power (and good will) of the community itself. After more than two decades working with open source initiatives, this was the better approach I've seen, so far.

There are many styles and ways to do that, but the common action is to move more and more of the work to those which use the system, as long as people start to show... merit. (Of course, suggestions are always welcome!)

Thanks for answering! Paulo

January 19, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/myra

Great Points here, Paulo!

We are aware of a growing need for organizing and amplifying the various voices in the Duolingo community. Looking into the best way to more efficiently organize everyone's bug reports, feature requests and ideas...We are always very interested in all kinds of feedback from learners and have made many important product decisions based on suggestions like yours. Thank you for your feedback and we hope to improve the current system as soon as we can.

January 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Paulo.Guedes

Hello Myra,

thanks for your time and answer. I am glad that you liked my suggestions.

Here are a few more things I can suggest for you, in a more specific way.

This series of books explain several details about open source software development. They approach the questions, difficulties, choices anc caveats related to the development of many of the most important (and largest!) pieces of software I've ever seen. But they go well beyond software development. They dive deep into community building and support, including some phenomena that happens only when things start to become large.

Really recommended. http://aosabook.org/en/index.html

Don't need to read all of them, but skim through and read at least few chapters. You will find that many of the problems you are facing now are common and have already tested solutions.

The basic one is: put your users to work together with you, for free.

We receive a lot for free from Duo, hence many of us are eager to help and contribute. Let time pass and, naturally, the most commited users will start to receive more and more credit. And soon they will start to take care of specific areas, because you (and the comunity) will start to believe and rely more and more on them. Those few leader users can alleviate a large amount of your effort, because they can coordinate entire groups of collaborators, among your Duo users.

About tools, there are many good bug trackers out there. Make a few searches and test, you will find a good one. From commercial ones like this: http://www.fogcreek.com/fogbugz/

to free and open-source ones like these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_issue-tracking_systems

to project management softwares, like these. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_project_management_software

Please note that we don't need to see your source code. I actually don't care about your code, although I love open software. This is NOT about opening the code base of Duolingo. This is about allowing better user interaction and improved user collaboration.

Another (completely different) suggestion: if you don't do this yet, please try using some form of GTD tool. Internally, I mean. I find it very useful, but I think it is important to read the book to properly understand the method.

From wikipedia: "Getting Things Done is a time-management method, described in a book of the same title by productivity consultant David Allen. It is often referred to as GTD." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done http://gettingthingsdone.com/

Personally, I like tracks to help me track my own tasks. It has being a life saver for me. But feel free to choose, there are hundreds of tools. Many are actually very good as well. Even plain old paper can work wonderfully, if you have the discipline. That can really boost the productivity of your team, in case you manage to add this to the culture of the organization. http://www.getontracks.org/

Regards, Paulo

January 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Paulo.Guedes

Hi Myra,

thank you once more for taking the time to read my comments.

It has been about a year or so since I wrote that. I would like to know how things are going with your current strategies. Specifically, what are the plans your team has to allow users to (massively) participate in your efforts.

Please notice that I'm not talking specifically about opening the source: that is not the point. I am concerned about you improving your model, in order to use and benefit from Duo users. In particular, to provide tools and ways for users to give comments and tiny pieces of work. Work that could be checked and validated by other, older users (with enough merit to do so).

Maybe something like what Wikipedia does. For instance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Community_portal https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Contributing_to_Wikipedia

Any advances in this area? Any plans for the future? Looking forward to hear from you, on how we (users) can actively help in better ways.

Wishing you all the best, Paulo

August 17, 2016.

August 18, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator

Well, they do have a public bug tracking system for incubator contributors, which is critical to their goals. My guess is that we won't see any public tracking system at all, simply because Duolingo seems to prefer to handle things internally.

Anyway, I agree with you.

January 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Paulo.Guedes

Thanks for answering!

Yes, they do have an internal bug tracking. I really would prefer a public one, but that is "beyond my wishes":/. I agree with you, they seem to prefer to handle issues in private. I know it is not easy to go public about bugs.

I just wonder how they will handle such a growing demand with a fixed/limited staff. There is a serious limit to that. And I really don't think this is sustainable for too long, unless they start to move more and more work to the community (somehow).

I really don't want to see Duo suffering or even (perhaps?) shutting down due to a somewhat naive handling of community demands.

To the Duo folks: I'm sorry if you don't like my opinion. I don't want to sound mean. Again: I am just trying to help. And of course I may be wrong. This is just my impression (based on a daily basis of usage and lots of users messages).

Regards, Paulo

January 19, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Paulo.Guedes

Today I just mentioned this thread on the discussion about "Share your feedback with Duolingo! Complete this Survey".

It is here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/7017177

Cross linked them to make things easier:) Of course I just answered the survey of that thread. Eager to help.

To psionpete (and all others, of course): I think maybe you would like to participate on that survey too. Please take a look. Hope you like it.

Regards, Paulo

February 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/psionpete

The support tab does create a support ticket although it is not directly trackable by the users.

And you have to understand that Duo has less than 30 technical staff and 50 Million registered users so it is very likely they get a huge amount of support issues. Your reports may have duplicated previously reported issues so please do not expect every ticket will receive a response.

January 18, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Paulo.Guedes

Hello, thanks for your words.

I agree, you are right. I have opened several tickets before and some of them were actually solved. I don't expect they to answer all. Not even the majority. That is currently impossible.

But this is the whole point: how to keep things sustainable. With a fixed technical staff and a steadily growing demand, how to handle that? Something will suffer, sooner or later. Unless... they adopt another strategy.

If you wish, you can check what I think in another answer I just wrote to "jairapetyan", a few minutes ago.

January 19, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/ampdot

They could have everybody search the bug reports before they submit it.

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/SiblingCreature

Just because everyone is supposed to do something, doesn't mean that everyone does it.

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/ampdot

Yeah, but it would help.

January 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/psionpete

Well Paulo, I have over 40 years experience of IT and I cannot offhand think of one application which allows the public to search all their tickets. Some will allow the public to check their own tickets, but searching the entire database is an option I have never seen.

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on what specifically Duolingo is doing so wrong? And why you think that 'something will suffer eventually ...'

All I can see is that you think that the Communications channels are seriously broken. But the only evidence is some vague suggestion that you expect Duo to respond quickly to your suggestions. Of course, Duo is not perfect, what is, but some of your comments seem to suggest that it should be and if it cannot change it will sink into obscurity. That maybe your opinion and if so you are perfectly free to seek another solution to your problem. There are many language learning apps/sites out there such as Rosetta Stone and the likes, which may be more to your liking.

By the way, I am a student of Duo and have no ties with the site other than that.

January 19, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator

Well, public bug trackers only tend to exist for opensource software. Or semi-open software. I think Paulo is more worried about replicating the bug reports rather than immediately solving them or receiving a reply.

I'm at least less likely to open a bug report for a bug duolingo is already aware of, rather than one that it isn't. Also keeping things closed, may result in embarrassing notices.

Like I said in my reply, Duolingo does offer a public bug tracker, only for incubator contributors.

P.S. Microsoft Internet explorer has a open bug tracking software, connect, and that's one company that absolutely adores closed source stuff.

January 19, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/jairapetyan

Awesome, Dessamator! It would be great if Duo could implement something like that.

January 19, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/psionpete

That is very true, but in my opinion it is a good idea precisely because it is not open source software.

My main reason of saying that, is because opening it up to the public would give access to what could be a very large amount of data, which could be misinterpreted by competitors. Most of us know or can guess that many of the support tickets are not genuine bugs but statistics would probably not know how to differentiate.

January 19, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator

Actually, they do plan to have a public todo list , which is the closest we may get to a bug tracker or more communication with users . Although I expect that it is very low priority item.

January 19, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Paulo.Guedes

Hello, thank you. Great answer!

Yes, you are completely right. I am more concerned about a better user experience and faster answers from the Duo staff. Avoiding duplicated bug reports is a basic form to alleviate the amount of work that the Duo staff currently has. And a nice way to improve the quality of the effort that Duo users are willing to spend.

Further, users can help to test fixes and can also add precious information to already opened bug tickets. For instance, user X opens a ticket and user Y writes down a procedure to reproduce the same issue under another scenario, while user Z add details about when this issue does NOT happen. Duo fixes it and, again, users X, Y and Z can test and check that it worked. Just to mention the common case.

Of course that keeping things closed makes everything harder to fix and improve. But I guess that would be asking too much for Duoilngo. At least until someone decide to start an open-source version of something similar. In this case, I think Duo could be in real trouble.

However, the main asset that Duo has now is not the code. The main thing is the user base, which is also the hardest to handle properly. But this is the main area that Duo should be focusing its efforts. It is NOT about bugs only and not about simply answering requests. It is about a win-win collaboration with the user base.

In the second place, there are the language trees. These are precious too, but they can be easily built and maintained by an open effort. Thousands of users writing small contributions and it is easy. This was the strategy behind Wikipedia, and you know that it quickly became a huge project.

The code base has a third place (in my opinion). And that is in the best case, because currently, code is also reasonably easy to build and maintain.

I really liked the examples about the Microsoft bug (project zero) and Microsoft Connect. They have several projects accepting bugs and suggestions. Very cool examples, thank you!

Just to mention another nice example, there is WiX.

From Wikipedia again: "The Windows Installer XML Toolset (WiX, pronounced "wicks"), is a free software toolset that builds Windows Installer packages from XML code.

<...>

WiX was the first Microsoft project to be released under an open-source license,[2] the Common Public License.[3] It was also the first Microsoft project to be hosted on an external website."

Hence, Microsoft itself is willing to create an open-source project and host it outside Redmond. That should mean something is seriously changing in the way we build software, isn't it? By the way, it started in 2004. More than ten years ago! Just to give some food for thought.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WiX http://wixtoolset.org/

Regards, Paulo

January 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator

Indeed, thanks for bringing Wix to my attention. That prompted me to search for their other projects, and it seems that they've been doing a lot to opensource or support some opensource technologies.

It went 360 and changed from calling "Linux a cancer", to claiming that "Microsoft loves linux"[1][2][3]. In truth they have no choice, Android OS has completely shattered the common misconceptions about opensource operating systems/software.

That makes me agree with all your points and hope that Duolingo eventually sees the light, and attempts to opensource or at least publish more articles based on their approaches.

January 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Paulo.Guedes

Hello, I'm back. Sorry for taking so long (and for this long post).

In short, I don't mind if they don't answer me promptly. I really don't. This was not the first time and won't be the last. But I am only one: a single dot in the large dust of thousands of users. Alone, I just don't matter at all.

However, I DO CARE if they don't answer the majority of our questions for a lot of users. That is a whole different matter and that has profound effects in the way our community works and grows.

I believe there are many interesting and effective ways we can use to communicate and collaborate. BUT... we need the tools and proper cooperation to do that. Both from Duo staff and from the user community, as well.

This is the main point here, and all my suggestions and comments are about this central point. It is not about me. It never was. It is about the way Duo talks with its users. And the way users can help (and often do!).

Being more specific, if Duo does not change how they communicate with users, then:

  • Bug tracking will suffer. It is happening already, since many users open duplicated tickets. Or just ignore the "Support" button, like I am starting to do:(.

  • User communication (with Duo) will suffer. With duplicates, Duo will waste effort on useless (duplicated) bug reports, instead of focusing on solving things and talking to Duo users.

  • Language improvements will suffer. This in a double way: because staff is probably wasting effort. And because some users that could help may become not willing to do that, in case they notice that their questions and support tickets are not being handled.

  • Innovation will suffer. With a limited staff and a large umber of demands, who will have time to try innovative things here?

  • User collaboration (with Duo and among ourselves) will suffer. Without proper tools, users that are willing to help just won't do it. At least, not as much as it would be possible.

And this is just to name a few points. I am not even talking about internal things, such as maintenance costs, servers and the Android application. And there is more, like discussing alternatives to the business model behind it.

If you wish, please check my other answers. They may help to clear things up.

Now imagine another scenario. For instance, consider a user... just like you. A nice example. You are a very active user, for sure. I counted about 15 answers in the last four or five days, just from you. That means you are eager to participate. For me, that means you are also willing to help a lot, as much as you can.

What if you could participate more, and in other ways? What if you could test Duo fixes for bugs, or help to reproduce issues, just to help? What if you could help others to have as much fun as you are having here, in our little community?

Just to give an example. In a huge, mature open-source project, that figure can be astounding. For instance, as high as 9.02 changes per hour. Every single hour, in plain old C source code, running inside the kernel. http://kroah.com/log/blog/2013/07/01/3-dot-10-kernel-development-rate/

Now imagine thousands of Duolingo users doing the same. For free, every single day. Just with bugs, questions and the Duolingo lessons. Forget about the code, for now. Can you imagine how fast Duo could grow with that kind of massive effort?

Think about that.

Best regards, Paulo

February 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Paulo.Guedes

Hello, thanks for your words. Didn't forgot about this comment. Next week I'll answer it properly (and the other comments as well). Meanwhile, keep in mind that all of your effort and energy can be put to help this site to become better. Later I will explain my points in a better way.

January 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/DavidBrown64

I cannot contact Duo to get taken OFF the dissuasions. Have tried THREE times and they never respond with any solutions Getting very frustrated with my overloaded DISCUSSION comments inbox Can any one help The Undiscusion Tags DO NOT WORK

January 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/myra

@DavidBrown64, all your notification settings are on ;)

Please try switching the setting to "off" under https://www.duolingo.com/settings/notifications and let us know if that doesn't do the trick!

January 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/DavidBrown64

This was extremely useful. It is all I needed to manage the system for myself. If only I could have found this link for myself. I think this Link will help other users Thanks very very much

January 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Paulo.Guedes

David, we are thousands of users and the Duo staff is a very limited resource, when compared to the number of users. They do what they can, but sometimes it's difficult to answer promptly. Hope that Myra's advice helped you.

What I am proposing is some way to let users help, by doing some of the work. This is a very common trend, not only for open-source software but for a lot of other kinds of projects and products.

January 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/DavidBrown64

This was extremely useful.
It is all I needed to manage the system for myself. If only I could have found this link for myself. I think this Link will help other users Thanks very very much

January 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/spvalencia

l think chevre

August 15, 2016
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