Details about the Dictionary Release

Good News and Bad News

The posters are finally finished as of a few months ago. That’s not really news, but we are proud of our work. We’ve sent out nearly 2000 PDF posters and they’re already being used in some of the best schools in the world, including CET Beijing, Leiden University, The University of Texas at Austin, the California State University system, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

On to the announcement.

Short version:

The Bad News:

As we announced last week, the dictionary will be delayed. Here’s why:

Former co-founder Christian Schmidt unexpectedly left the company last November. He removed the company’s funds and some company property without permission. The situation is currently being dealt with in the Taiwanese court system. Needless to say, this has made it impossible to meet our original release date.

The Good News:

We will see this project through to completion! Fortunately, we have signed a contract with a new investor, which will allow us to get things moving again. The company has been restructured and measures have been put in place to ensure that this sort of thing cannot happen again. Development of the dictionary will continue.

Harvey Dam, who handwrote the head entries and stroke order diagrams for the posters, is coming to Taiwan to join our team as Data Team manager. He is very excited about it and we are excited to have him. Harvey’s linguistic expertise and attention to detail is a great fit for the Outlier team and we’re looking forward to working with him.

Long version:

Here is some more detail, including:

  • Our commitment to you
  • Why are we just telling you now?
  • How we plan to mitigate the delay

Our commitment to you:

Ash and John are committed to making sure you get the product that you paid for. We have sacrificed a lot and worked very hard over the last six months to secure investment to ensure that we can finish what we started. Now that we have the funding to move forward with development, we will be hiring a team of researchers and assistants to help us finish in a more timely manner.

Why are we just telling you now?

Originally, we had hoped to already have the situation resolved with the co-founder who left, and to have already resumed working on the dictionary full-time before informing you. The reason is simple: we weren’t sure how making an announcement would affect the situation. We also wanted to wait until we signed a contract with the new investor before making this announcement. That way, you don’t have to be dragged through all of the ups and downs of the situation (trust us, that isn’t fun at all).

How we plan to mitigate the delay:

We want to put something useful into your hands within 3 months of getting the investment funding, so we’ve altered our original release plan. Here’s how:

Original Plan:

  • Release a full-featured version of the dictionary covering 2000 characters in May 2016
  • After this, Ash was going to spend 6 to 9 months finishing his PhD dissertation, which is directly related to the dictionary
  • Release a 3500 character version approximately one year to a year and a half after the first version

New Plan:

  • Release a “mini-version” that will give enough information to get you started using functional components right away. Basically, a DIY version. It will have functional component breakdowns for the most common 2000 characters, and entries similar to the demo for the semantic components. We’ll make blog posts showing how to use this info effectively. If you ordered either the Essentials or the Expert Edition of the dictionary, you will automatically receive a copy of this mini-version. We will also update you regularly as to our progress (at the very least monthly, maybe every 2 weeks). We’re considering putting a dashboard on our site that shows progress, if that’s something you would like to see.
  • Release an update shortly thereafter covering another 1500 character breakdowns for a total of 3500 and entries for any new semantic components that are not covered in the 2000 character version.
  • Next, start filling in the full character entries (i.e., that contain all of the information for the Essentials and the Expert entries as shown in the demo) and send out updates on a monthly basis. Continue to do this until all 3500 characters have full entries.
  • Ash will write his dissertation only after the complete 3500 character version has been released.

So, while the initial release is delayed, the final 3500 character version will likely be finished earlier than we originally planned.

Also, for those who signed up to be a beta tester: the initial release will essentially be an open beta, so we won’t be doing a closed beta, in the interest of putting out something useful as quickly as possible. We’d love to get feedback from any of our customers once the initial version has been released!

The Future is Bright

Beyond the dictionary, we have plans for many cool products for learning Mandarin and Japanese, including a version of the dictionary aimed at people learning Japanese, an app that will help basically anyone master tones, etc. With each product, we’re working toward a comprehensive language learning solution.

We take our commitment to our customers very seriously, and we want to reiterate that we will be seeing this project through to completion despite the delays. We’re also serious about transparency going forward—we’ll be posting updates on both our blog and our Kickstarter page whenever we hit any major milestones in the development process.

As always, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or concerns.

-Ash and John

PS: As for the printed posters, we’ll be sending them as soon as we have the funds to do so without further delaying the dictionary release.

8 comments on “Details about the Dictionary Release”

  1. pdwalker Reply

    It’d be appreciated if you’d post regular blog updates as to the status of things, even if to say “no change this week”

  2. Daniel Reply

    thanks for all the information sent out last month and your commitment despite the difficult situation. This is highly appreciated!
    Now I wonder: where can I find the regular updates?

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