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Week 1: Sunday Summary

By Memrise Blog

“TheCube features a Memrisian plant”

A few of our community have been wondering on the forums what we’re up to, so here’s a first instalment of what we’ll call the Sunday Summary- an end-of-week overview of what we’re working on, the state of our morale, our plans for the future and any anecdotes from the week’s work.

First thing to say this week is that we have moved into TheCube, a trendy and friendly co-working space off Commercial Street in London. It’s a great space, the brain child of Araceli Carmargo-Kilpatrick, a New Yorker with fabulous hair and an understanding of the connections between physical and mental space.

So we’ve all moved into the Cube, and we’re having a great time as we gradually get to know the other Cubers: a magic hotchpotch of hipsters and geeks- just like us.

“Katie Rae from Techstars Boston”

On the Monday of this week, we had the luck to be able to welcome Katie Rae, director of Techstars Boston, to the Cube. Techstars Boston is the (amazingly valuable and beneficial) incubator program from which we recently graduated.

Katie has been in a whole crowd of startups, is something of a phenomenon and much loved by the team. She oversaw a delightful all-day brainstorm on Monday, as we carved out what our mini-goals are going to be over the next couple of months. We’ve emerged with an unusually organized plan centred on amplifying the fun of using Memrise, enriching the content and variety in the learning and getting a fully-synching iPhone app operational as soon as possible.

So after we bade Katie goodbye, we got to work on the plan.

“TheCube gives onto a splendid courtyard”

Spencer and Greg immediately threw themselves deep in the scheduling algorithm, brows furrowed. This is a very complex piece of the Memrise machinery, the part responsible for making sure that you are reminded and tested on what you have learned at the optimal moment.

We’ve been looking forward to updating this for a while, and some of our community have also recently been struggling with a somewhat torturous bug where a single wilting plant, no matter how much water it is given, refuses to unwilt itself. Madness. Sorry if you’ve been suffering this one. We should now have fixed that and we’ve also made some huge leaps in the sophistication of the reminders (especially for items that you have not seen in a while). Hopefully, a few tremors notwithstanding, this should greatly smooth your learning experience.

Meanwhile, Evan, our back-end guru (also the most musical and least flappable member of the team, operating like a mystic from his minute little computer in the corner) has this week rather smoothly picked us up from our previous hosting service and deposited us into the arms of Amazon’s servers. This means that we are going to run slightly faster, and be much less susceptible to clamming up than we have in the past to big bursts of traffic.

Across from Evan, Dan Fast, our games-designer and game iPhone developer, has been busily working away on the menu infrastructure for the iPhone app. It’s taking lovely shape, and we’re hoping to get something out in time for Christmas. We’re joined next week by Mathias, who’ll be boosting our power in this department to get a gorgeous app into the store as soon as possible. Train rides will never be the same!

On the content front, Coralie has been busy adding videos of suave parisian enunciating words, and putting together the centralized database of 5000 French Words which should soon allow all mems to gather on the same  fact-checked words, rather than being dispersed all over the database (because people can create their own flashcards on Memrise, the system naturally tends towards massive redundancy- hundreds of different versions of the same word)- we’re working on a long-term solution to this, but it’s a work in progress so hang on for the full functionality which will gradually develop in the coming months, and will allow you to create in seconds sets of words replete with video, audio, mems and the rest.

“We work alongside some very hip people at TheCube”

Over to the front end department. Kev, our designer and visuals man is on a bit of a mission to improve, enrichen, simplify and make beautiful many of the pages on the site (some of which he’s been known to describe as “like an anxiety-attack”).

He’s being egged on by Eliot, our front-end man, in devising new pages for the individual languages, which should roll our shortly. It’s fun watching the two of them work: conspiratorially, languidly and with deep attention to detail. They remind me of two elves cobbling shoes secretly in the middle of the night.

Ben, our community manager, operates from Beijing. We Skype with him all the time (easy to forget just how amazing the internet is, obliterating illusions of distance so effortlessly!) an experience that’s only improved by the noisy presence of his two young girls screaming around in the background all the time. Goodness knows how he’s so productive.

Ben’s been busily organising our content-creators around the globe to improve the German, Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese and SAT-vocab content forward another few steps. He’s endlessly on Skype and in Google hangouts talking to Berlin, or Peru or San Francisco. His army of volunteers are doing wonderful things.

For my part, I have begun to turn my mind a little to increasing the size of the Memrise community. We’re really quite a powerful and enjoyable way to learn now, and we deserve a few more members (don’t be afraid to invite your friends, now!). So hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we’ll be seeing a little bit of press and a few more people learning a language for fun. We had a couple of little appearances in the Independent this week (here and, absurdly, here) and hopefully there’ll be more to follow.

The week finished on a peak, when we had our friends Brent, Jesse and Eric from Evertue to dinner on Saturday. Evertrue were one of our fellow teams at Techstars Boston 2011, and the bond of that experience you already feel runs deep. They’re doing wonderful work in connecting non-profits to their alumni and supporters. Currently on a quick tour of the UK.

And  our week ended in a nightclub somewhere under a railway bridge in South London, dancing with Evertrue.

If you have any questions or ideas for development, do let us know in the comments section!

Till next week.

p.s. If you’re wondering why the team is so, as the Americans might say, dude-heavy, well might you. Our ambitions to be a feminist start-up are suffering from the lack of female coders applying for work with us. Women, if you already code, get in touch; if not, learn!