Caleb here 👋
Welcome to the Patch Notes + NativShark Developer Update~
First let me give you a quick changelog, then get into breaking down the changes a bit, and finally I’ll share a more general developer update as far as what we can expect in the near future with product development.
I’ve been looking forward to this update for quite a while and now seemed as good a time as any to make the changes and ship them!
A couple smaller changes mostly adjusting some default behavior of the site to be closer to how most students interact with the site.
The biggest change in this patch is: “Removed Streak Tracking”.
Now you may be wondering…
Instead, those badges will be tied to your overall “Days Studied”.
What is the purpose of a streak tracker? The answer might seem obvious — to incentivize people to show up and study consistently.
And a streak tracker does just that… until it doesn’t. As soon as you break your streak, it feels like all that work you put in just evaporates, and you have nothing to show for it. This is a truly awful feeling, and it might even lead you to question if you want to consider studying at all. In other words, it might achieve the opposite of its intended effect. We have unfortunately on numerous occasions seen this exact scenario happen to students then they sometimes never resume their studies or if they do, it’s with a feeling of disappointment, shame or even guilt. All of which are not conducive to a good study experience.
Even if you manage to maintain a perfect streak, the looming threat of it disappearing is negative reinforcement. Subconsciously, this leads to associating the idea of studying with negative feelings, i.e. “if I don’t study I’ll be punished” which is also the literal opposite of what we want NativShark to be and studying in general to feel like. You shouldn’t feel afraid or punished about not studying or missing a few days now and again, that’s part of life and it doesn’t make you worse at Japanese or a failure at studying.
We want our platform to help learners optimize for long-term success. Streak trackers incentivize short-term success and consistency while endangering long-term success and consistency. That said, of course, exceptions exist but they are just that— exceptions. For example, only 0.33% of ALL accounts on NativShark have a streak count higher than 30 days. Even if we take into account monthly active users and not all accounts, the number is still in the single digit percent of students. Clearly, streaks are not any sort of useful success metric.
However, the number of students who have more than 100 days studied is in the double digits percent!!
In contrast to the negative reinforcement of streak tracking, building up your overall Days Studies to as high a number as possible incentivizes showing up consistently in the long term: Yeah, I missed a few days, or a week, or a month, or even years. But I could jump back in today, and I could see that number go up. I’m only a few weeks away from that next badge, after all.
This contributes to the positive reinforcement effect of Days Studied which is known to be a more effective strategy for learning over long time horizons.
A day studied is a day studied and each one is an investment in your progress and success with learning Japanese and no one can take that from you. Not even you 😊
Because if it exists, people will use it, wonder if they “should” use it, wonder if they’re doing something wrong by “not” using it, compare themselves to people who are using it and so on. All of which we just don’t want to participate in anymore. Additionally, I’ve personally heard from many students who have reached out about the negative effects of streak tracking. Just saying “well don’t use it” doesn’t really feel like the kindest answer.
For those who really, really like streak tracking, don’t find it negative at all and find it helpful even over the long term (because certainly, this is totally possible and is certainly valid experience as well!), there are a plethora of apps on the app store / playstore for streak and habit tracking.
Two I’ve enjoyed in the past are: Habitica, and Daylio. I can recommend either of them quite readily^^
Maybe. But I say that simply because one can never say never. If it does, it will look very, very different from what we used to have and it is not something the team is thinking about / working on at all right now.
Here’s a look at the UI:
NativShark started development in early 2020 and launched in late summer of 2020. It was about 8 and a half months of development time that brought us the majority of what we have now.
Since that time, we’ve pushed out a lot of QoL updates and NativShark has become a great place to learn Japanese.
For NativShark “1.0” I’m pretty happy with where the platform is at but we can’t help but wish for even more, and I know many of our students also have really cool ideas as to what we could build and how we could make the learning experience even better.
And we shall. But the current codebase and infrastructure, as with all software products, has become the thing holding us back. NS 1.0 has it’s issues. Issues that make it slow or nearly impossible to continue to update in the way we’d like to.
That said, I’m here to announce that this year, our engineering team — which is only Caleb (me) and Chie right now — will be putting all of our focus and effort into building what we’re currently just calling “NS 2.0”, though we’ll likely come up with a cooler name in the future ^^
This is the first time I or Chie has built something of this scale on our own so we expect it to take a while and there’s much to learn. With NS 1.0 from the development POV I mostly operated as product engineer manager, in addition to running the rest of the company, and I ultimately didn’t end up pushing much code myself.
Now, the company and product are running quite smoothly at a good “maintain” level and now I get to spend a lot of my time reflecting over the code and decisions made in NS 1.0 to make NS 2.0 the best it can be which will allow both the product and the company to break free of “maintain” and into “high growth” at some point in the future.
It’s actually so exciting and I’m really looking forward to the challenge. It will take time, much like learning Japanese itself, but it will be well worth it. Luckily building and writing code is one of my favorite things to do so that alone is exciting going forward this time around.
One of the big things we’re making a focus with this rebuild is making sure that we’re able to create a Native Mobile app version as well that lives on the App store and Play store as by far more than anything else, this is our most requested feature.
With all that, NS 1.0 is officially on a development “new feature” freeze and entering “sustain mode”.
Here’s what is important to us during this time:
Any other feature or function is secondary compared to those two primary directives, so unless one of those two things is directly impacted, it won’t be high priority.
That said, I will be working on a bunch of smaller projects along the way that I’ll be using as learning and testing grounds for NS 2.0. So definitely keep an eye out for some interesting projects coming out this year.
When it comes to our planning of NS 2.0 over the next year, nothing is sacred and we’ll be rethinking and re-examining all areas of our learning platform. 2.0 is going to be an incredible upgrade.
We feel now is the perfect time to take this step as 1.0 has essentially reached its maturity point. NativShark works. People are truly learning Japanese and we’re growing at a, slow, but consistent rate. Furthermore, we’ve successfully published new content on a weekly basis for more than two years straight and with Phase 3, we’re now in the “tail-end” or “second half” of the core Japanese path. You can get really good at Japanese through NS now.
We anticipate it to take us the rest of 2023 to properly plan NS 2.0 and hope to be launching sometime in 2024 (it could be faster but if I’ve learned anything from the development of 1.0, everything takes longer than you expect and it is important to pay attention to the small details when you’re building with longevity and stability in mind. We shall cut no corners this go around.)
Please do continue to share your wishes and ideas for NativShark in the #building-nativshark forum channel in the community on discord because it’s always encouraging to hear what people are thinking about and it helps guide the development.
Looking forward to chatting with you all in the community and seeing how much we all learn this year!
Until next time~