And just as quickly as it started, it shall end. I’m stopping my participation on Khan Academy.
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.
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.
Edit (2/12/2017): Turns out that the red bar issue has now been resolved. However, due to other commitments in my life, I do not think I will be able to be an active member of Khan Academy. Certainly nowhere near active as I used to be. However, I will leave this post up as it is.