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Ryan Coughlin

Nov 23, 2019, 6:23:10 PM11/23/19
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Hey folks,

For the past few years, I’ve been working intermittently on a Chinese language translation game using sentences from Tatoeba. Thought you might appreciate this, please let me know if you have any thoughts or suggestions!



Alan F

Nov 24, 2019, 11:25:51 AM11/24/19
to tatoeba...@googlegroups.com, ryan....@gmail.com

Thanks for asking for our feedback. Here's mine:

(1) When I encounter a new app, or website, my first question is "What is this?" I don't like to be asked to register before that question is answered. But the first thing that came up was a "Register" dialog. Also, the label on the button was in Chinese, whereas the rest of the dialog was in English. Someone who doesn't know Chinese (or doesn't know it well enough to be able to read the button) is not going to appreciate this.

(2) Fortunately, I was able to dismiss the "Register" dialog and click on the "About" screen. I was hoping that page would quickly answer my main questions: What is this site/app? How does one play the game? Is it free? What will be done with the data I provide? Perhaps question-and-answer format (a question in bold, followed by a short answer, followed by another question in bold...) would be appropriate. But instead I got a long, unstructured paragraph of text.

As for the content, the first sentence was okay: "This is a Chinese language learning tool that can help students better understand the meaning and usage of words through context." But then I was expecting something like "The app shows you X. You need to do Y before your opponent does", not a lament about language learning ("As a Chinese language student myself, there are so many words for which I know the dictionary definition but am unsure how to use...") And if you're going to talk about Tatoeba, could you mention what it is? All you said was that you took crowd-sourced translations from it, and that you couldn't vouch for their quality but presumed the vast majority of the sentences are reasonably translated by native speakers. On that subject, would it be possible for you to offer a smaller number of sentences that you have checked?

(3) I was baffled as to why Spanish is offered as an optional language in the "Register" dialog, but is not mentioned in the "About" page (and all the avatars are Chinese).

(4) I couldn't even play the app on my tablet (so I had to try it on my desktop). There was so much wasted space at the top of each of the three panels ("Random", "Google", "Baidu") that only a few pixels of the button at the bottom could be seen on my tablet.

(5) What does "playing against Google" mean? What does "playing against Baidu" mean? I had never heard of Baidu before, so I had to go to my browser and look it up. I see it's a Chinese AI company (which, by the way, makes me want to stay as far away as possible).

(6) Perhaps "Rando" is slang for "a random person", but if so, I had never heard it before. It simply looked like a typo for "Random".

(7) When I did try to play "Rando" on my desktop, I was shown "Waiting for opponent". That is an immediate deal-breaker, unless you're talking about waiting a maximum of two seconds. What's the delay here? Am I waiting for someone to show up in real time and play against me live? That is something I would only do if I knew there was such a huge pool of people playing that I would never have to wait more than a few seconds.

(8) The "Google" option didn't work at all. What was it supposed to do? Maybe apply Google Translate to the sentence? If so, what if Google Translate gets the translation wrong? Are most users likely to realize this? And why would I want to involve Google when you've already gotten the translation from Tatoeba?

(9) Why do people need to register at all if the only data you ask from them is a user name? And what happens if someone else, on a different machine, uses the same user name? Will the app assume it's you?

Anyway, that's my feedback. I hope you find it useful. Good luck with your app!


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Ryan Coughlin

Nov 24, 2019, 9:26:16 PM11/24/19
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Wow! Thanks for your feedback; I really appreciate the amount of effort and detail you put into your response. The internet is truly a wondrous place. Now, I should’ve expected this kind of reaction but in my exhausted developer mind, I was just happy that my app was working half decently and thought it would be fun to share (devoid of any instructions whatsoever!). Anyway, I’ve addressed all your points and deployed the corresponding changes to the site. Time permitting, I hope you’ll give it another look!

  1. Good point, I’ve postponed registration until the user actually attempts to enter a game. There should not have been any Chinese text, I’ll try and fix that.

  2. My apologies, I got pretty lazy with instructions. At any rate, I really like the format you detailed and have implemented it almost verbatim. The rating of a sentence is included in the data that Tatoeba provides to developers, so at some point I do hope to only offer the highest rated translations.

  3. I only recently implemented Spanish as a proof of concept and has an outstanding issue - it is now discussed in the “About” page.

  4. Sorry about that, definitely hasn’t been optimized for mobile. I’ll get there!

  5. Explanations of game variants now included in the “About” page. I understand your concern about Baidu (essentially China’s equivalent of Google), I chose it because it has exposed free translation APIs. I may seek to retire it given the stigma.

  6. Haha, okay. It is slang indeed but not worth the confusion.

  7. Indeed you are waiting for some random netizen to join your game room. With no user base, I understand this will be infeasible for most people. It’s mostly for demo purposes at this point - I will attempt to address this in the “About” page.

  8. I hope this is not a bug and just a symptom of my not providing instructions. Confusion should be cleared up by the about page (you were basically being prompted to translate the English sentence into Spanish/Chinese).

  9. A username is requested merely to track score history and populate the leaderboards! Someone could indeed use your name and affect your scores/rank, I just haven’t had the time to add in user authentication. For now, it’s the wild wild west!

Many many thanks,
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Alan F

Nov 25, 2019, 9:05:55 AM11/25/19
to tatoeba...@googlegroups.com, ryan....@gmail.com
The instructions look much better, and I'm glad the registration dialog is no longer the first thing to come up.

Quick notes:

(1) One of the sentences I got was "Many of the world's seven thousand or so languages are spoken only by handfuls of living people and are in danger of extinction." That's way too long for a timed game. I suggest severely restricting the length of the sentences.

(2) There are going to be many possible translations that will match any but a very short sentence, which means that competitive play may not make any sense.

(3) On your instruction page, you write this:

Earn enough points and you will triumph over you opponent in this exhilerating reverse tug-of-war!

It should be:

Earn enough points and you will triumph over your opponent in this exhilarating reverse tug-of-war!

But what is a reverse tug-of-war? The first one whose opponent drags them over the line wins? In any case, how does that apply here?

Best regards,

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Ryan Coughlin

Nov 25, 2019, 5:55:41 PM11/25/19
to tatoeba

Hey Alan,

Thanks for coming back! Here are my responses:

(1) Currently responses are not timed, but that is something I have intended to add. When this is in place, I agree sentences will have to be filtered by length.


(2) For ultra-competitive game play, this may not make sense. But for casual language learners, I think this only adds to the fun. You would have to accept that there is an element of luck, but that’s part of what has made some games (Mario Kart comes to mind) so successful. And from a learning perspective, you would get to see less mainstream/standard phrases or constructs to add some variety to your speech!


(3) Thanks for the spell-checking! Reverse tug-of-war is intended to indicate, instead of pulling something to your side, you push something to towards your opponent’s side. Visually, the point of the game is to push your force/wave/energy over to your opponent’s end.

Thanks, Ryan

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