One of Catrin’s favourite festive activities is suggesting that I become a little more like Walter Matthau every year. Unfortunately for her, although I’m a huge fan of Walter Matthau and take what she’s saying as a compliment, I’ve never actually seen ‘Grumpy Old Men‘, so I’ve no idea how close to the truth she may or may not be.
One of the things that seems to trigger this description is my response to ‘The Best xyz of This Year’ and/or ‘Our Predictions for Next Year’. I’m not a big fan of that kind of ‘fill the schedule’ programming, so it’s probably a good thing that we don’t usually watch much TV, and I probably like it even less in newspapers. I mean, this year, next year? We’re right in the middle of a (not particularly good so far) rugby season, that’s all I know. It’s all a bit made-up, isn’t it? There’s nothing particularly special about being on this side of the sun rather than on the side we’ll be in six months, is there?
So it seems fitting that I should wind down for this week by looking back at what’s happened in the last seven days, and looking forward at all the things that should happen in the next seven days.
Okay, okay, I guess that doesn’t work as well.
Colour me hypocritical then, and let’s just hope I’ve heard the last of it by this time next year.
Looking back before looking forward
Well, I can’t, really. I can’t remember that well. Too much has happened!
I know we’ve, er, pretty much missed all the targets we set ourselves back in January – apart from perhaps the biggest, to have someone else working full time, which is almost certainly the single most important. And we’re tantalisingly close to a number of other entirely made-up targets, so that’s good.
We’ve spent a lot of the year trying to understand the right way to present our Spanish material to a marketplace that doesn’t seem to work on word-of-mouth in the same way as Welsh does – and I think a lot of what we’ve learnt will be an important part of what happens next year. Oh, and I, er, decided to re-write our central framework, er, several times – enough to bring Louis to tears, anyway, as he kept on having to change the Dutch lessons. Ahem.
In the broad scheme of things, I think I’ll remember this year as being mostly about two things – 1) backs, and the heady delights of being part of a community that helps keep the wheels turning when backs misbehave – and 2) the value of doing the groundwork and not settling for second best.
That, I think, has been why 2013 was fairly slow in a lot of ways – because we’ve been working on building structures that will let us produce more courses in more languages, and on making sure that those courses will be as good as we can make them. If I’m right, and if I’m right that we’ve done most of that work now, 2014 should be fun…:-)
What might be coming down the tracks, then?
Let’s split it into two parts – definites and maybes.
[Disclaimer: you’ll probably notice that the definites are all about Ifan’s workload, and the Maybes will all be about mine. Let’s call it delegation rather than harassment in the workplace…;-)]
We’ll launch a new website design, which will make it easier to find things and harder to get lost.
We’ll launch a new social layer, so there’ll be an end to separate logins – hooray!
We’ll build some tools to make starting and running local meetups easier, and to make the meetups more findable.
We’ll integrate the weekly email with the new site and the new social layer, which will make life more enjoyable for Dee…:-)
We’ll offer vouchers and different ways to pay for courses, and actual CDs – hooray! Which will also make it possible for us to start offering things on eBay, Amazon, Groupon, and other voucher sites.
We’ll start publishing on Audible [Amazon’s audiobooks department] – that one’s thanks to Jeff…:-)
We’ll build a far better understanding of how people use the first few lessons, and as a result of that do a far better job of helping people succeed with them – including much more advice and support for the first 5 lessons.
We’ll take our lesson databases online, which will allow more automation, more functionality, and a faster process in recording/producing new courses, and will allow us to add options for voices/accents/etc.
I’ll finish writing the latest version of the central framework for three full courses, and for a new set of listening practices which I think are going to make a very important difference.
We’ll run some test two day highly intensive courses.
We’ll actually finish Course 3 of SaySomethinginWelsh! Yes, and the Course 3 vocab lessons! I promise! And we’ll have a new kind of listening practice for you…
We’ll get three full courses completed for Spanish, and three full courses completed for the new Welsh course – as well as at least 10 Welsh starter sessions for families. [Oh good heavens, did I really just promise that in public? It’s time to shut up and put everything else under ‘Maybes’.]
We’ll work on developing a consistent experience for mobile users, across the site and from course to course – we still need more thought on exactly the right way to do this, but we know it’s an important one to get right (and it’s definitely a huge help that Ifan is principally a mobile user!).
Ifan and I will spend some time working on an idea I’ve got for semi-automating the process of building courses in new languages, which Iestyn is keen for us to call the SSiBorg. As those brave souls who’ve been doing it know, this is a tough gig, with a lot of not-at-all-obvious booby traps. But I think if we combine word for word translation with sample phrases, and then… okay, I’ll spare you the detail. If we can get it to fly, though, we should be able to open the doors for anyone who wants to build an SSi course for their language, and make sure that they’ll all be at least as good as what we build centrally.
Jeff and Ifan and I have been batting around some ideas about what we can do to help Welsh language musicians, and how the musicians can help learners – this will be a bit time-dependent, but if we crack it I think it could be very exciting indeed.
Money. That’s a maybe, because we still haven’t found a consistent, reliable way to promote our Spanish course – but I think we’re getting pretty close now. If I’m right, and we can develop a more professional level of cash flow, then (rather conveniently) Iestyn and Cat won’t have to starve, we’ll be hiring and our Maybes will all turn into Definites…:-)
We’ll run some test three (and maybe even five) day highly intensive courses, and hope to get the results on television. Perhaps we’ll run a 10 day super-intensive course before the end of the year, even if just for the joy of seeing other people suffer.
Is that enough for one year?
Yes, I think it probably is. In fact, I’m feeling a bit tired looking at it now, so I’m going to post this and go and lie down for a while.
If there’s anything important you think I’ve missed, please feel free to stick it in a comment, but don’t be surprised when I say ‘Yes, I’m sure that would be lovely in 2015’…;-)
Oh, I forgot!
Definitely holidays at some point.
When I say at some point, of course, what I really mean is starting right now.
Nadolig llawen iawn i chi gyd!