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Real Time vs. Skritter Time

joshwhitson13   January 31st, 2011 6:14p.m.

On a typical day I like to use Skritter for 45 minutes in one session. If I haven't cleared out everything that needs studying, I continue in increments of 30 minutes throughout the day.

Something I have suspected for awhile, but never measured, is that Skritter's clock is inaccurate. Sometimes, particularly when loading new words, it appears that the clock pauses for a second or two.

Today I decided to time myself. I started my 45 minute session at 5:17pm, and stopped exactly when Skritter's timer said I had reached 45 minutes, 6:07pm. The problem, obviously, is that this is actually 50 minutes, not 45.

This isn't really a problem, as I'm happy with the rate at which I am learning and how Skritter is helping, but for some reason it bugs me. Arguments about the relativity of time aside, my obsessive compulsive side emerges when I think that my 50 minutes are not being recorded as 50 minutes.

And so, I wonder a) what exactly is causing this discrepancy, and b) is there anything that can be done about it, or should I just get over it?

nick   January 31st, 2011 6:26p.m.

Almost all of the discrepancy comes from the clock stopping when you finish a review, before you move on to the next work. Depending on how much you do this, your Skritter time will be lower than your real time be a little or a lot. It was originally designed this way to emphasize time spent trying to actively recall the prompt over time spent rehearsing after the answer is shown.

It's since come to be viewed as more of a bug because it irks users who want their studies measured in real time. The fix is involved, though, so I haven't gotten around to rebuilding the time-tracking system.

Your five minute difference is actually amazingly small. It usually takes me about thirty minutes to do a twenty-minute session, and I hear from other users where it's usually a factor of two. Good job on moving quickly to the next prompts!

YouJing   January 31st, 2011 6:39p.m.

I usually get 15 minutes or so per 30 minutes in front of Skritter. I get almost no time for definition prompts as I tend to think about them after I answered the pinyin prompt, before I hit space.

I would also prefer if the clock showed real time.

mike_thatguy   January 31st, 2011 11:26p.m.

I'm happy just looking at my computer's clock for the real time interval, although it can be a bit discouraging at times when there's a big discrepancy. Hehe.

jmonroe2china   February 1st, 2011 1:28a.m.

Both clocks would be nice. Either way, Skritter rocks my socks!

HappyBlue 善卿   February 1st, 2011 1:49a.m.

To me, I want to know how much time I've spent on characters, not how long I've sat in front of the PC. There are times I take a toilet break or a take a sip of tea and I think it's only right that these aren't counted.
Playing Devils Advocate a bit, I guess, but I'm happier to see 'Skritter time' than real time.

mcfarljw   February 1st, 2011 3:00a.m.

Ideally I'd like it to be 100% accurate, but in the absence of that I'd rather it underestimate my study time. In this case a false negative is better than a false positive.

jww1066   February 1st, 2011 8:13a.m.

In my case it's definitely close to a factor of two because I'm Skrittering while doing other things (working, etc.) and switching back and forth, so often I'll stop on a character and the clock will get to 30 seconds and stop. If it measured real time, it's a little unclear on what it would do when someone like me switched to a different tab, or (worse) left the Skritter tab open and went away from the computer for two hours.


YouJing   February 1st, 2011 8:27a.m.

One thing that would give times closer to real-time would be if you get a few seconds on the clock to review your answer, look at the sample sentences etc.

Another question, does the clock measure whole seconds or milliseconds? If you clear a review in less than a second does that add time?

mw   February 1st, 2011 8:37a.m.

I'm curious why people believe it is important to know. What do you guys use that information for ? When I Skritter I stop when there's no time left or when I've had enough, whatever comes first. :-)

ocastling   February 1st, 2011 8:41a.m.

@ James: I fully agree, I want to keep Skritter time as I often step away from the computer while Skrittering

nick   February 1st, 2011 8:43a.m.

A source of discrepancy is that the Flash client keeps track of fractions of seconds, but when each review is submitted, it's rounded to the nearest second (or 1, if you did it in less than half a second). The server adds up all these whole seconds instead of the fractions. That can cause you to see 20:05, reload the page, and start at 20:34 or what have you.

I always try to hit the twenty minutes to have a target for each day, and because studying about the same amount of time each day keeps my review load and progress even and efficient.

I tried to modify the system to allow the time to count a few extra seconds when you were done with each review and looking at it, but the code got nasty, so I gave up for now. If we did do a system that tracked more real time, it would come with better AFK tracking so that James's strange doing-things-other-than-Skritter behaviors wouldn't mess up his time.

west316   February 1st, 2011 11:51a.m.

I would prefer to have it tracking real time. I am trying to get myself down to under twenty minutes a day of study time. I want the queue done, though. You shouldn't let the queue run your life, but it is important to try to keep it at zero.

I will hopefully be incredibly busy this fall. I still have a few more months of not adding items, but I would prefer to have an easy to see measure of how much total time per day is spent in front of the web site. To be brutally honest, I don't see much use in the current "Skritter time."

jcdoss   February 1st, 2011 12:35p.m.

Nick said, "I always try to hit the twenty minutes to have a target for each day, and because studying about the same amount of time each day keeps my review load and progress even and efficient."

I think this is pretty important to repeat. Regardless of how you measure the time, keep your daily seat-time consistent.

nick   February 1st, 2011 12:38p.m.

Would you guys be happy with the total page-open time (not compensating for AFK or anything) as a tooltip for the timer, or would that not be very helpful?

west316   February 1st, 2011 12:45p.m.

I would be happy with that. I think that is a good compromise.

YouJing   February 1st, 2011 1:28p.m.

Right now the you have 30 sec for a writing prompt and 15 for the others. Would it be hard to make it so that you in the same way had, lets say 10 seconds to look at the right answer and read sample sentences etc. The the clock would never "stop" ticking until you went away or took to much time. Much like now, but the Skritter time would be much closer to real time.

Aurora   February 1st, 2011 6:15p.m.

Like Nick and others have said, I like the current way because I know exactly how much time I have been studying. For personal and soon teaching reasons.

I will be teaching a group of middle years students this year who will be using Skritter - I want to be able to see how much time they have been 'studying', not how much time they have had the screen open!

I too keep the window open and get to it when I have a 'window of time'. But even when I am actually skrittering, I like it because sometimes I will spend minutes trying to remember a mnemonic - this time should not be measured. I have a goal to skritter 20 mins per day - I want that to be actual productive time - it pushes me to remember the mnemonic quicker instead of wasting time trying to think of it.

There is an issue of 'procrastination' too - thinking time overtaking actual study time (the mind can 'wander').

Please don't change it - have both a study time and real time clocks - but dont get rid of the actual study time clock!


jww1066   February 2nd, 2011 5:29a.m.

@mw Aside from the motivation factor, it's mostly important for statistics. You can look at the progress page and see how many hours you've spent and how many items you've learned per hour. Given that the ratio between Skritter time and real time is different from person to person, you have to take the progress page totals with a grain of salt.

jcdoss   February 2nd, 2011 12:50p.m.

I'll voice my support for leaving it the way it is. At first, I thought I'd like to see it changed to real time, but after 9+ months, I've settled in on a good workflow keeping the 20 minute mark as a good stopping point.

In fact, if I could change anything about time-keeping, I'd say the clock should stop after I hit the "1" button on a writing prompt. Sometimes, I just plum forget a character, and I hit the red 1 button, but the clock keeps ticking.

nick   February 6th, 2011 7:39a.m.

I've added a tooltip to the clock that tells you how long ago the page was opened. it's not great, because it doesn't take going AFK into account, but if people find it useful I can try to add some simple heuristics for that, separate from the other method of tracking progress time (which will need more work to improve).

west316   February 7th, 2011 2:20p.m.

@ Nick - I like the new tool tip. I would rather you just leave it like this. I don't want the computer to guess when I was away from my keyboard. A lot of people like the current dominant Skritter time method. I like to know raw page open time. The current dual clocks method satisfies both methods without any further modifications needed.

The raw time told me exactly what I wanted to know. From the moment I opened the page until I was done with Skritter, I used 15 minutes of real time. Thanks!

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