Yak Tack - Interview with the developer of a fantastic app

Did you have any prior development or coding experience?

Yes! I’ve been in software development for about 23 years. I first programmed in Java, then .NET. After that I worked in Ruby on Rails and React, which is what most of Yak Tack is built with. I did learn mobile app development to build Yak Tack. The mobile app (Android and iOS) is built with React Native, although I do have to make Android- and iOS-specific changes often.

What was the most challenging aspect of developing mobile app?

It was determining the balance between what Yak Tack can process asynchronously, and what needs to be done synchronously. For example, when someone searches for a word that Yak Tack hasn’t seen before, the app makes a synchronous request to a third party to get the part of speech, definition, and example text. Then the page renders. Synonyms and etymologies are gathered asynchronously, and are then made available the next time someone looks at the word. If the app didn’t do that, it’d take to long to load the word page for the first time.

Jeremy Thomas is a software engineering manager by day. Yak Tack is his diversion. He has long held a fascination with words and has been searching for techniques to improve his vocabulary. Often he would hear a word in conversation, like extemporaneous, and look it up on Google. A week later he would hear it again somewhere and forget what it meant.

Name a few of your favorite apps and reason you love them.

Google Maps is hands down the most useful app I know of. I use it all the time. And I was born in a generation without mobile phones. I can’t figure out how we were able to find our way anywhere without it.

Next is ChatGPT. Much of Yak Tack now runs on top of GPT-4 because of the progression in generative AI that OpenAI brought to the world through Chat GPT.

Last is Heroku. Heroku makes infrastructure a breeze. Yak Tack runs on it.

How long have you been working on this app?

Since 2018. I do it in my spare time. Otherwise I’m the Head of Engineering for a Silicon Valley tech company.

What need of the user did you have in mind when developing this app?

There are so many helpful-yet-under-utilized words out there. I wanted to make it easier for people to find and remember them. “Peripatetic,” for example, means “to wander from place to place and work for a short time in each.” Beautiful. But we’ve found a niche with people who use Yak Tack to learn English. Most of our users are non-native English speakers.

In what way do you think your app is better than similar apps on the market? Please describe in detail what innovation you think you bring and what you are proud of in your app.

When I tell people about Yak Tack for the first time, they often relate it to Anki. And that’s an apt comparison. But I need to tell you a story, then I’ll get back to why I think Yak Tack is more helpful when it comes to vocabulary expansion.

Here’s what usually happens when I go to a restaurant and order a hamburger. The waiter asks me how I’d like it cooked. I reply “medium.” And then, about 10 minutes later, the hamburger arrives with the bun flipped over, and an array of ingredients spread out around the side of the plate; lettuce, tomato, onions, etc. Ketchup and mustard are often on the side, too.

I hate that.

I’m paying the chef for her expert opinion about what makes a hamburger taste good. What criteria do I have to determine which of the optional ingredients I want to put on? I want the chef to decide for me. I want the chef to be opinionated.

Anki is the hamburger with all the optional ingredients. It’s highly configurable. And it’s not opinionated.

Yak Tack is a fully assembled hamburger. Eat it as it’s delivered. That means it’s not configurable. But it does one thing well, and that is help people remember English words. Yak Tack is the spaced repetition and English-word expert. People can sit back and eat it up.

What are your future plans and expected features of the coming new versions of this app?

We’re going to delve deeper into AI. Specifically, we’ll incorporate tests where people write in the definition of a word, and we’ll use AI to score their accuracy.

Assuming new users of your app are reading this page. What do you want to ask them to do (contact you about X, Share the app, etc.)?

Visit our website or download the app here and remember a word or two. Then shoot me an email, [email protected], with feedback or feature requests. I’d love to jam with you on those.

Yak Tack

About App:

Hi, this is Yak Tack. Yak Tack is a simple app that helps you remember English words.

We love words. We hate forgetting their meanings. Have you ever listened to someone use the word ostensibly in a conversation and wondered what it means? Have you ever searched for it on your phone?

ostensibly: seemingly or according to what is shown, but not necessarily true; apparently

Have you ever encountered the word ostensibly again in an article and realized you forgot its meaning?

We have.

Spaced repetition helps us remember. Spaced repetition is a method that improves memory. We use it. Basically, when you want to remember a word’s meaning, we remind you of it often at first, then less often as time goes by.

We call this process “tacking.”

(If we had Yak Tack when we heard the word ostensibly in that conversation, we would have tacked it and remembered its meaning when we saw it in that article.) It’s more fun with friends. We learned the word ostensibly from our friend in that conversation. Friends introduce us to new words.

We’ve made it easy for you to connect with other people on Yak Tack who are learning new words too. When they start tacking a new word, we’ll let you know. They’ll be your word buddies.

We’re popular around the world. Well, what we mean is, people from different countries are using Yak Tack to learn English, even Japan. And we make it easy for them to remember words in their own language.

Is it free?

Yak Tack is fully functional for free. But for $5.00 (USD) per year, Yak Tack is even better. Don’t worry about that now. Start tacking for free. We’ll talk about money later if we need to.

Categories: Education

Date: October 25, 2023

Developer: Jeremy Thomas

About developer: Jeremy Thomas is a software engineering manager by day. Yak Tack is his dive ... Read more

Website: https://yaktack.com/


App URL in iTunes
App URL in Google Play


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