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Mobile Updates: subtitles, transcripts, and stability improvements

Posted on October 30, 2019 by Matthew PhilpotMatthew Philpot

Hello Linux Academy learners! This last month has been a busy one for the mobile team, in more ways than one. For this blog post though, I’m going to shake things up a bit. While I normally find myself writing the post throughout the month, this time I’m doing it all in one go. I think this will give me an even better ability to translate thoughts into words and recount the last month of development.

When I logged into my computer this morning, coffee in hand, I thought back to my first monthly update. There, we peered back into time, looking at the first version of the app in all its glory. Well, glory may be a bit of an exaggeration. That first revision, which was released before my time here at Linux Academy, was more akin to someone learning to code “Hello World” for the first time. It was cute. Anyways, looking back I was reminded why we – all of us here at Linux Academy – do this in the first place.

That reason is you, our students and learners. We’re here because we love helping others achieve their goals, and we love this community of learners that ever-supports each other in our quest for more. With that in mind, let’s take a dive into the last month of mobile development here at Linux Academy.

Subtitles / Closed-Captions

As some of you have already noticed, earlier this month we officially released the first iteration of closed captions on mobile. This was a highly requested mobile feature since its debut on the website. While it’s not abnormal for mobile apps to lag behind the website in feature releases, our delay was caused by API issues which prevented us from implementing the feature.

Mobile Apps - Interactive Transcripts

Subtitles are available for both online and offline videos with Android. With iOS though there is a small, albeit temporary, caveat. Closed captions are currently only available for offline videos. There were some small formatting issues that iOS is unhappy about, and we’re working to resolve that. I don’t have a timeline for when they’ll be available for streaming videos via iOS, but hopefully, it’ll be soon.

I do have some extra notes to add here. First, since we have received some comments about the subtitles not being 100% accurate. This will definitely improve with time, but getting the feature out for you all to use was more important than ensuring absolute accuracy first. Second, subtitles aren’t available for every video yet. We are constantly working to get subtitles added to all of our content, but this takes time. For videos that don’t have subtitles yet, you will receive an error message similar to “Subtitles not available”

Okay, now onto the fun things in the pipeline.

Transcripts

Coming soon to iOS and Android! I have to be honest. We weren’t planning on implementing transcripts until later this year. Our resident iOS developer, though, implemented it on accident while he was working on subtitles. I know, I had the same question. How do you implement it by accident? Either way, that means you get to benefit from it and get to see the feature sooner than planned!

Mobile Apps - Interactive Transcripts

In addition to following along, you can scroll and click on any of the captions to watch the lesson from that point. We really think this will take mobile learning to the next level and I hope you’re as excited as we are.

Installation and Upgrade Statistics

When talking about mobile development, it’s pretty easy to say that stability is the most important factor. In my mind, features come second, and UI design in a close third. Why is reliability first? Simply put, this is due to how long it takes updates to be installed – spoiler, it takes a long time! For our internal statistics, 95% is when I can safely say that “most” students have installed an update or have an app where a bug has been fixed.

Every Monday, I like to go over installation statistics from the Google Play developer console to see how many active installations there are and the distribution of app versions. While I can’t share exact numbers, I can share an example based on the results.

Let’s say I wanted to estimate how long until 95% of our active students have installed a version of the Android app that has subtitles or closed-captions. Based on our analytics data, that could take upwards of 2-3 months! In most cases, over 85% will have updated the app within the first two weeks, but it’s that extra ten percent that takes a long time. I’d like you to keep this in mind.

 

Stability Enhancements

Let’s talk about how the apps have fared recently. I will be the first one to admit that September and October were rough for us. While we still enjoyed a high crash-free rate across our iOS and Android apps, we were affected by two major issues that resulted in frustrating user experiences:

  1. The first was authentication-related – we had students that weren’t able to login or create accounts. Since this was server related, it is a lot easier to fix for everyone all at once.
  2. The second was video related. We had been running so hot-and-fast with mobile updates that we didn’t take the time needed to go back and ensure the experience was as bug-free as it needed to be. Being an issue with the app itself, fixes can take a long time to roll out depending on Google Play or the Apple App Store.

Both of these issues have since been fixed, but it left us with plenty of time to reflect. Referring to the above, this is why it is so important to update apps regularly. I genuinely feel bad for students that are still suffering from video-related issues that were fixed by newer versions of the app.

Looking Forward

I’d like to say that while we don’t intend for this to happen, bugs do make it through the cracks and we wouldn’t have been able to find and track them down without your help. So a big thanks to all of our students that reported the issues and helped with our debugging. Going forward, we will be more diligent before making releases. It may result in features taking a little longer to develop, but we feel this is the best way to go forward.

Finally, I like to close out each monthly update with our plans looking ahead. It’ll be short and sweet this time around. For the rest of the year, our gaze lies solely upon a new ‘Community Groups’. We’ve just received final designs from our UI team that we’re super excited about and can’t wait to get started on. I look forward to sharing more updates in the future!

Until next time, we look forward to your feedback. And to download our iOS app, you can click HERE, for Android, click HERE.

 

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