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Crowdsourcing possibilities in duoLingo

Hi everyone!

I wanted to comment on the crowdsourcing aspect of DuoLingo because I think their business model is genius. As far as I understand it (and please correct me in the comments if I am wrong), their goal is to translate the internet. They charge a fee to a website for the translation work, and we the users are doing the work for free through crowdsourcing, gaining points and leveling up in the given language while challenging ourselves with new context and words not seen in the lessons. Everyone wins.

I'd like to make a few suggestions about crowdsourcing, mostly to open up a dialog about what else a large base of multilingual, enthusiastic users could accomplish in the context of adding value.

The users could create content for the lessons. As of now, I believe DL creates all the content for the lessons. I am only learning portuguese but so far I have noticed that the questions repeat quite often within the same lesson, in different forms (eng -> port, port -> eng, multiple choice). Having such repetition is not as challenging to the user. I find myself thinking "oh yes I know this one. The commander speaks with the colonel." and I rely on knowing what the sentence says because I read it only a few questions back, instead of translating it/thinking in portuguese.

Sometimes I get all the way to question 20 before failing a lesson. When that happens it gives me a good opportunity to see how much content DL has put into a lesson. It seems to me that there are 20 and only 20 questions for each lesson, meaning I see the same 20 questions if I repeat the lesson. If the users created the content, there could be many more possible questions per lesson, meaning you may get no repeats if you do a lesson over again. This would make the lessons a bit harder but would also prevent the users from relying on question familiarity and instead have to think about each and every question.

I have also noticed that a lot of the time the english sentences are unnatural. How many times have you said the words "Go, men!"? I usually report these unnatural phrases through the error reporting, unless I'm using the mobile version, which doesn't allow error reporting. This problem of unnatural phrases could be remedied if the users are creating content in their native languages.

Perhaps DL could allow a way for users to create lesson questions through crowdsourcing as they do with the translations. They could give us mandatory input variables, like if you want to create questions for the imperative module, you have to use this word in this way and it has to be the imperative form, between 4 and 7 words, for example. Then have other users vote on how good the questions are, and use the highest rated questions in the lessons. Everyone could get some points for attempting to create content, and extra points for creating content that the other users voted as good questions.

I also had some thoughts about users recording the voices for playback on the questions, but that is probably a bad idea because everyone's voice/background noise/recording equipment is different and it would be very inconsistent. Possibly fixed by a voting system like the content creation, but it might be very frustrating to be constantly listening to a different voice on each question. The portuguese voice is very robotic but everyone is saying the other languages are better so maybe not such a big deal.

I don't really use the social network aspect of DL yet but please add me as a friend if you would like to compete or chat. I gained 800 points this week and hopefully I can keep up this pace. I am fluent in spanish so a lot of the concepts in portuguese are very familiar. I can't imagine trying to learn all these concepts only using the DL lessons.

Overall I think DuoLingo is doing a fantastic job. They've tapped into that part in each of us that wants to see our words known/level/hot streak/lessons completed increase, and our trees become gold. They've made it a game. Harnessing the power of crowds could take them much further so I just wanted to open a discussion and see what opinions/ideas you guys might have about it. If any DL moderators read this, maybe you could comment if there is any functionality like this on the horizon.


August 29, 2013


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