Why did Dimitris start this site?
Hello, I’m Dimitris and I live in Norway and I’m studying Norwegian in order to improve my ability to communicate on a daily basis. Although I’ve been using the Premium version of Norwegian Class 101 for short texts, I wanted to begin writing longer texts. Most language tests have reading, writing, speaking, and listening sections. One of the areas examined on several language proficiency tests, including the Bergenstest is also the ability to edit. So this site will also give people the ability to practice their editing skills, honing in on the errors of others and looking for ways to improve the quality and flow of the text. Since I’ve studied many other languages over the years, this site gives me the opportunity to continue practicing those languages, too.
Who Would Benefit Most from Using Yozzi.com?
- are studying at a university in a foreign language
- are required to regularly write reports in a foreign language
- are preparing for a foreign proficiency language exam
- live in a country where a foreign language is spoken and they seek a strong command of the local language and solid writing skills in their target language.
Improve Your Writing Skills in Your Target Language
This website has a unique editing feature to help users improve their writing skills, with the help of feedback from the community of users. The first version, launched in May 2016, is in eight languages: Chinese, English, French, Greek, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese and Spanish. If you have an article to submit in any other language, it can be classified as ‘other’ and the menu functions for editing and commenting on that article with be in English. You can share the article with others via e-mail and social media to seek feedback on your writing.
Rather than writing in the language(s) you are most comfortable in, this site encourages people to write in a language in which they would like feedback for improvement from the community. Users can create a log-in ID in order to begin editing articles. At the current phase, you can send me a guest post or request to engage in an interview. I will post the article directly onto the site.
At the bottom of each page there is a place for others to leave a comment to help you improve your writing. Please use the if you are interested in contributing an article to yozzi.com. If you want to practice your editing skills, then scroll through articles in your target language and look for errors. Editing skills are frequently integral parts of advanced-level language proficiency tests. So by reading articles and interviews that are not written by native speakers, you have more of an opportunity to be on the alert for how to improve the flow of an article, its grammar and syntax.
To edit, highlight an area on the screen, choose a category from the drop-down menu, and write a comment about the article. You can read what others have said by scrolling to the bottom of the page. You can vote for those suggestions you agree with. If you’ve never used the site before, you’ll be asked to register first.
From Language and Culture Website to Site for Improved Writing Skills
Here are some details about the timeline of this startup and its evolution and pivots, as Dimitris switches to the first person:
Pre-launch: discussions leading to the creation of this website began at the MBA alumni dinner in late November 2015. I had just returned home to Oslo from a great trip to India, which was the final gem of my long-term 'bucket list'. While I still wish to enjoy exploring new parts of the globe, now that I've been to about 100 countries and all continents, I feel ready to move onto areas where travel is not so much the focus of my life.
So during the alumni dinner, my neighbour suggested I share my experiences, languages and knowledge with the world. Later during the winter, I met with my fellow alumnus who again motivated me to find greater freedom by working for myself in an area where I have passion.
Since I'm interested in language and culture, I began to think of how I could contribute something new and helpful to the community, while at the same time seeking to earn a living from it.
Initially, I thought about blogging in my eight strongest languages in order to share my intercultural experience and MBA knowledge with the world in order to promote myself as an Intercultural Management Consultant who can also do work in strategy and finance.
Later, as I thought about my languages and all the mistakes I make when writing in them, I thought that it would be nice to have an editing system that would allow people to look at the mistakes in my writing and suggest ways to improve it. I began to think creating an online community where many people could share their stories and improve their writing skills, especially in languages other than their strongest one.
Then I registered the domain name: PolythePolyglot.com. 'Poly' was an old nickname. It seems a lot of Greeks with a Poly + anything in their last names end up with the 'Poly' nickname in the Anglophone world. In the end I chose the name Yozzi.com because it is more marketable. It could even become a verb: to yozzi...'to write an article in your target language and share it with others for feedback'.
A Cross Between Medium and Lang-8
As I learn different languages and reach a more advanced level in each language, I was thinking it would be great to write regularly in each one in order to maintain and improve them over time. Even better, if I could get feedback from others, it would help me know what mistakes I was making and help me improve. At an advanced language level I feel the need to write longer samples, for example 500 words or more, in order to tell a story or draw a line of argument. When I use the free version of Lang-8, I am restricted to only improving two languages and to edit only in one language. What if I want to help somebody by editing one of my other languages? What if I want to work on a different language? Then Lang-8.com comes up short. In addition, the texts that we write there are very short. I think it would be more fun to create a blogging platform, such as medium.com where people can share stories in different languages. Ideally yozzi.com encourages users to post in a language other than their strongest one, so that they can improve their writing skills in their target language(s).
What does yozzi.com do?
It allows visitors to read blogs posts (targeted to be 500 to 1000 words each) in eight languages: Chinese, English, French, Greek, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and to use a tablet or a computer and the built-in comment system to critique the grammar, syntax, spelling, word use, logic, cultural aspects and such, of each post. A quality review of the feedback (voting up and voting down) is included.
It allows visitors to post blogs in the above eight languages and to receive feedback from other site users about the quality of their writing, logic, and such. Posts in other languages are also welcome, but the editing function is only in English for other languages.
Lightning Startup Talks Polyglot Gathering Berlin
I'd already taken on the role of volunteer as Sponsorship Coordinator of the Polyglot Berlin Gathering 2016. The organiser Judith Meyer mentioned that this year we would be having lightning talks where startups could make a presentation. It struck my interest as a way to present the website to the Polyglot Community. Once it was clear that I would be able to present, I began to focus my launch date for the 7th of May 2016: the day of the startup lighting talks.
Now it was late March 2016 and I had to develop what is known as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). This meant that I wanted to turn my paper prototype into real software architecture that users would appreciate. Having been to IT workshops under Tom Gilb and Niels Malotaux, in Oslo (at Itera and IKT Norge) and London (at the British Computer Society), I had a network of people to reach out to. One of my Oslo-based classmates at Itera met with me to discuss the feasibility of having an MVP ready by the end of April 2016.
Learn Startup Methods
Another characteristic about this website, is that it is a source not only for improving one's language and writing skills, it is also an open laboratory for entrepreneurship. This website will share the entrepreneurial process of the site itself with the readers. The webmaster and founder, Dimitris Polychronopoulos, trained in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Haas Business School at the University of Berkeley in California. He is also a follower of the 'Lean Start Up', by Eric Ries. In addition, Dimitris has been participating in workshops and training led by Ash Maurya, the author of the books 'Running Lean' and 'Scaling Lean'. Scaling Lean, which is to be published in June 2016, shows how to scale a startup by engaging in feedback from the users in order to successfully build up a startup.
Design Thinking and Scaling Lean
The first week of April 2016 was Design Thinking Week at the University of Oslo. It was great to attend talks by three presenters: Marques Anderson of WE Foundation, Professor Mark Kroeckel from New York University and Osthinks and his former student Marie Saasen, who is the founder of Studio Saasen. Even better was the workshop that followed on Thursday and Friday. The features of persona mandala and prototyping were reminiscent of our workshops at the Innovation Lab of Berkeley. These are phases that are important for a startup to keep in mind as there are potentially many customer segments, each with a story to tell. In Berkeley we learned that during the initial phase gearing up for the prototype, it was important to focus on only one persona mandala. Knowing what the user says, does, thinks and feels allows a startup to create something meaningful for the end user. At the time of the April 2016 workshop, I was thinking about polyglots as the first people who would use this website. University students who are regularly submitting text in a second language was the second group I was thinking of. After the workshop, I began to see a bigger potential of users in the long run.
Then on the 14th of April, I attended a workshop by Ash Maurya, whom I had met the previous year in Oslo while helping comment on Tore Rasmussen's 'Playing Lean', the board game version of Ash's book 'Running Lean'. In April 2016, Ash was presenting his new book 'Scaling Lean' which builds up from 'Running Lean' by addressing the kinds of issues that a startup with face as it grows. These issues tend to revolve around constraints, as explained in the books 'Theory of Constraints' and 'The Goal' by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. Since 'The Goal' was already a part of my Supply Chain Management course during my MBA, I was already familiar with these concepts. Ash takes the concepts further by applying them directly into examples that commonly occur as startups struggle to grow and become sustainable.
At the workshop, Ash also discussed the importance of not building something that nobody wants. Ash also said not to spend money building something unless you have evidence from the users that it is something people want. Part of me began to say 'oops, I've already begun to build something that I intend to present at the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin. Am I going to be a victim of the 'innovator's bias'? Ash says that entrepreneurs' singular passion for their solution is the number one reason products fail. What if nobody wants it? Another part of me felt I was on the right track, given the positive reaction of some participants at both April workshops I attended. I told myself sometimes we just have to take a leap of faith. In addition, at least I was building a solution for a problem that I find real. I was hoping other language learners would also share the same problem. Ash also writes, "Before rushing to build, make sure that the underlying problems you identified...represent a monetizable problem worth solving." In early April 2016, I did a Lean Canvas and started working on the business model. I feel this is going to be the trickiest part of the process. How much would people be willing to pay to be a part of yozzi.com? If people aren't willing to pay, could I get enough traffic an possibly earn money from affiliate marketing and click ads? Would I develop my own material over time and sell it on the site? These are things I will have to work out. Right now it's a non-profit, so there is a donation form, to contribute to making this site a success.
The next stage came in late April. I decided on a new name for the site: yozzi.com. PolythePolyglot is too long an not catchy enough. We learned at Berkeley with Mark Coppersmith and John Danner that it is completely normal to change names in the early stages of a startup. Yozzi.com is no exception. Learn more about why the name yozzi on a separate post.
Initial Content of the Site
What kind of content will the site feature?
Initially the site features interviews with entrepreneurs and people with intercultural experience. It also features posts based on the experiences of the site founder, Dimitris Polychronopoulos, from his MBA, his world travels, and his experiences learning about different languages and cultures. With guest posting from others, it can develop into broader fields as well. Guest posts are also welcome in languages other than the eight languages listed.
What else might the future bring to the site?
Another future phase of the site is to add a feature of confidentiality in which writer can also pay editors to review their work, rather than relying on the community to review their posts.
One possibility is a premium membership which can feature a particular user's work in relation to the posts of others, following the example of Lang-8. This means would be possible once a critical mass of users were reached.
What else is in the works?
In the more distant future, perhaps the ability to work offline with an article and submit feedback later could be helpful. An app that follows the model of Innovative Language, would be nice as well. I've used Innovative Learning as a premium member in Chinese, Dutch and Norwegian. Now I'm only focused on Norwegian and it's great to have the app on my smart phone so I can send messages to my teacher and receive corrections and feedback on the go.
Who can help out?
There are some job opportunities that may arise over time. Initially these will be on a temporary, part-time basis or possibly a one-time contract assignment. Use the contact form and send me a message if you're interested.
- social media guru
- marketing and PR
- IT development
- data analyst
- graphic designer
- Chinese social media and WeChat specialist