My Recent Khan Academy Activity Drop

And just as quickly as it started, it shall end. I’m stopping my participation on Khan Academy.

Angry

If you’ve been following my blog for a bit, you might notice the similarities to this post. That’s no coincidence, as I thought it would be fitting, almost poetic, to end my activity streak on Khan Academy with a post, just as I had begun it.

So, what happened? In short: incompetent programmers. It’s surprising how most of negative experiences in life is not due to anything other than incompetent people. But, I believe it is far more important to explain what went wrong.

The first negative experience I had was when I noticed I could not complete exercises without getting the dreaded red bar of death on Khan Academy. This bar usually occurs if you try and solve multiple exercises simultaneously (ie. in different tabs), and causes the website to give you a desynchornization error. Usually, this is done to prevent people cheating. However, I got this red bar after every single answer I input, correct or incorrect.

Khan Academy Red Bar

I contacted Khan Academy more than 3 months ago regarding this issue and they have still not addressed this problem. I did poked around a little bit as well determined that it is not a website issue per-se. That is, not everyone will have this problem. It is an account-specific issue. I was able to determine this because upon logging out, I was able to complete exercises without any problems. I also brought this forward to the Khan Academy staff, who have still not been able to resolve the issue. This has significantly reduced my progress rate, and has made completing exercises extremely frustrating, so much, that I have stopped working on them entirely.

Next, let’s talk about the discussion forums. I found that I spent a lot of time on the discussion boards, helping other people by answering questions that they may have. The issue I have with the discussion boards is the utter lack of moderation present. Khan Academy brags about having “Guardians” that are there to moderate the boards in place to ensure that no inappopriate content or spam is present. Additionally, they are to ensure that the discussions that take place are of high quality. I have flagged and downvoted numerous posts, multiple times, with no effect seen. These Guardians are apparently terrible at their job, or extremely understaffed.

And the understaffing is just an excuse. I actually applied to volunteer as a Guardian, but the form that they are using (which isn’t even present on their own domain, but some half-assed Google docs form) is from 2016! Very professional.

The lack of moderation doesn’t only cause a problem with regards to spam. It also causes a problem because when you give people the power to vote on answers, you better make sure those people know what they are doing. These “people” are school kids, so you can guess how well that works out.

What is the problem exactly? I’ve seen people downvote correct answers while they upvote incorrect answer, because it was simpler, or more convenient. My attempts to correct them have also fallen upon deaf ears. But that’s not my problem. My goal is to help by providing correct information. Whether or not people choose to accept that information is up to them. There is a very fitting quote for my situation: “Never waste your time trying to explain yourself to people who are committed to misunderstanding you.”.

Lastly, my issues with the site are endless. The discussion boards are terrible when you’re trying to explain advanced concepts in math to people. They don’t even have a LaTeX parsing engine on their boards, and it is a math website! LaTeX is so universally critical for typesetting math, almost everyone uses it. Do you know why? Because it’s easy to implement.

Yet, the programmers at Khan Academy have decided against using it. I actually checked the source code of Khan Academy to see how the site operated and it made me want to cry. The terrible programming practices and inefficient code is just horrendous to look at. At any point, that site will come crashing down, and to be honest, I hope it does. I hope the people working on the programming team get fired because of that. That level of incompetency in coding should be unacceptable anywhere. I hope they have to rebuild that site from scratch (and do it right this time).

And please don’t give me the “it’s a non-profit” excuse. I’ve talked about charities in depth in this post. So, I checked their tax returns (because non-profits and charities have to ensure their tax returns are public). Turns out that they had a revenue of around $30million. And don’t get me started on how salaries played into the total expenses.

So what happens now as far as my blog is concerned? I’ll have to remove the Khan Academy Questions and merge those posts into the “Yay” category instead. A small inconvenience, but significantly better than continuing to offer my support on Khan Academy – a website that just doesn’t seem to care about the user experience and has a team of terrible developers that continue to make bad choices on which direction to take the site. And anyway, as of right now, I only did one Khan Academy post, which you can read here. So I didn’t lose too much time.

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4 Responses to My Recent Khan Academy Activity Drop

  1. Magnus Chase says:

    well… it’s not just the website … the app also works in the same way (check out) : https://plus.google.com/communities/115871747698269443910

    The developers of the khan academy Beta seems to ignore me and no one explains what is going on …

    If salman at least did something about it …

    Good luck for you negative streak .

    Regards

    Magnus

    • aommaster says:

      Hi Magnus,

      Thank you for your post. It looks like the website has just gone downhill since I joined a few years ago. I personally don’t think it’s Salman’s fault, but I do lay blame on the people who are supposed to be managing the development team. They seem to be more focused on putting out content, rather than fixing the current issues on the site which are causing a significantly worse user experience.

      And it’s a shame. The website has a lot of potential to be a great learning hub for students. It’s just another example of a great idea ruined by poor management.

  2. Jett says:

    1. I’ve met many “power users” who can’t progress in Math once their account is infected with the Red Bar. It’s a really unfortunate limitation, since there are many, many other websites out there with huge databases to store way more data than KA does. I have come to the conclusion their databases have a setting to either stop collecting data from these accounts (to avoid crashing perhaps) or this problem was never foreseen when the site was built and wasn’t ever fixed. Either one is bad, hopefully it is fixed in the future. The account problems seem to start when 10,000 badges are reached, though you only have 7473….

    2. I completely agree, there is a lack of constant moderation on their site. The reason is because the current Mod team has shrunk to less than a dozen active members according to my estimates, but don’t quote me on this. KA has since hired a “Community Liaison” who manages the Guardian program and Support Advocate program on the Help Center, which I am apart of. I’d like to also join the Guardian team soon, and really hope these programs grow so the public forums just feel cleaner in general.

    3. LaTeX needs to be implemented, it would be great to have when asking questions in Math.

    Over a dozen of their longtime developers left KA late 2016-early 2017, which I’m sure was a big loss since they likely knew the code extremely well. I disagree that the site will crash in flames, they care too much about the general mission to let that happen, and a completely new site is very unlikely. Overall, KA needs better management in some areas (especially Computing… Pamela Fox left) and long-term issues need to be fixed.

    Talk soon,
    Jett Burns

    • aommaster says:

      Very interesting perspective, Jett. Thank you very much for sharing. Personally, I think the site needs a huge overhaul. I was digging around the source code of Khan Academy, trying to find a fix or a workaround for that lovely red bar, and it was basically like a bowl of spaghetti. The code was just unnecessarily complex.

      Having some experience in software development, I can even tell why that is. They worked on code, and just kept adding stuff to it, trying to not break what was already there. And now, it’s the mess that it is.

      I think a full overhaul of the code is very much needed. Problem is getting the time and the resources to do it. I don’t see it happening any time soon, which is I don’t intend on returning to Khan Academy either.

      It is very unfortunate, but such is the way of things.

      But thank you, once again, for your insight Jett. It’s great to see that there are other community members that also care about this site.

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