Let us take a moment to reflect on Tofugu's greatest failures vis a vis WaniKani.
- Shockingly paternalistic SRS management
New to WK but not new to kanji and want to mark items burned (or at least Guru’d) so you can get to the material that’s actually new to you? Sorry, this could easily be accommodated but that’s not the WaniKani way.
Failed a review for an item at Enlightened and know that you’ve forgotten it completely and want to set it to Apprentice, rather than wait weeks for the next time it appears in your queue (so that you can fail it again)? Sorry, this could easily be accommodated but that’s not the WaniKani way.
Do WK’s SRS intervals not work for you? Perhaps you should consider Anki instead.
- Failure to (effectively) crowdsource visually similar kanji
According to Tofugu, 庭 is not visually similar to 廷 in spite of the fact that the former is exactly the latter but sporting a mullet.
Of course, this isn’t an actual conscious conclusion that Tofugu arrived at after careful consideration. Instead this is the natural result of the approach they decided to take, which was to start with an empty bucket for visually similar kanji and let the users decide what goes in.
Which would be great, if the site actually provided an affordance for users to directly influence this process. Instead users have to report them to a human (who may or may not agree), and then the new information doesn’t get in until the next update… (And who knows how much work the sad Tofugu staffer has to do on their end as part of this process.)
Compare this with a system which allows the user to simply paste in the kanji they believe is similar, with the “similar kanji” instantly appearing on the kanji detail page for that user, and once a certain number of users have marked two kanji as being visually similar, that linkage is presented to all users by default. Users would be able to upvote or downvote suggested similar kanji, and a downvote would remove that association from the downvoting user’s kanji detail page. Each user would have complete control over their own list of similar kanji, with no staff involvement. There’s no issue of trolls flooding the system with garbage since access requires payment.
- Failure to leverage whole kanji as “radicals”
(For 漢字 pedants who want to engage in Internet fisticuffs over what a “radical” is, here I’m using the term the same way WaniKani does.)
If WK had taught 廷 before 庭, then “garden” could have been introduced as “courts + mullet”, which means one less radical in the meaning mnemonic AND reinforces the kanji for “courts”. (“When would you find mullets in a courtroom setting? Only when court is being held in the garden. Things are a little more relaxed in the garden courts.” vs “If Big Bird had a mullet, he’d be king of the garden.”)
There are many examples of similar missed opportunities, which you will encounter if you continue with the system.
- Failure to crowdsource mnemonics
Some of Tofugu’s mnemonics are just simply trash. Consider 景色:
“You’re admiring the scenery and you notice key marks all over everything. You realize it’s that girl who keys everything and you say to yourself kay she keyed (けしき) that, kay she keyed (けしき) this.”
Setting aside the other issues with this mnemonic, wouldn’t “kay” be けい and not け? Fail.
While Tofugu does at least provide users the ability to enter their own mnemonics, this is exactly the sort of task that would benefit immensely from COLLECTIVE creativity. It’s not hard to imagine that there’s a number of very clever WaniKani users who have come up with very memorable mnemonics, which COULD be helping EVERY user, but instead will never escape the confines of the author’s account.
Crowdsourcing mnemonics presents more of a challenge than identifying similar kanji. Since we’re talking about raw text entry, there will absolutely be mnemonics created by some users which would offend other users. But, again, since the platform requires a paid account, this is not so hard to address effectively. You simply require that any user who is sharing their mnemonics to flag any which are not G-rated or are otherwise even slightly politically incorrect / unwoke / wrongthink. Such mnemonics would be hidden by default, and would only be shown to those users who have declared themselves (via settings) to be mentally stable enough to handle the risk of being offended in exchange for the reward of mnemonics which would be easier to remember.
- Tepid mnemonics
And here we’ve arrived at Koichi’s greatest self-betrayal: the decision to purge every Tofugu-created mnemonic that is more spicy than distilled water. Back in the day, he himself made the case that the value of a mnemonic is measured by how strong an impression it makes in the learner’s memory. Are some people offended by “b__bs” and Hard G_y? Apparently. Do “b__bs” and Hard G_y make mnemonics more memorable? It seems the answer is immaterial to Tofugu, since not offending anyone has been deemed more important than maximizing the effectiveness of the mnemonics. I guess he was afraid of being canceled over “b__bs” and Hard G_y.
I understand that J_seph St_lin is one of history’s greatest monsters, responsible for the deaths of millions. But it’s precisely that fact that makes mnemonics mentioning him (now purged forever, Fahrenheit 451 style) easy to remember. Much more so than the cuddly fictional replacement Tofugu staff came up with, farmhand Jourm.
What’s most confusing about the whole debacle is why anyone so easily offended and wrapped up in their own identity politics would take an interest in a different culture with norms at odds with their own worldview. Reminds me of a certain line from the movie Blade about some people always trying to ice skate uphill. But that’s a whole other topic.