I'm a huge fan of spaced repetition and Anki. I strongly believe that most people's professional lives would be improved by using it. There is a huge amount of information that falls into the zone of it's needed often enough that not knowing it is a pain, but it's not needed often enough that you would "naturally" remember it.
I've yet to find anything else that only takes 10 to 20 minutes a day that has a higher ROI. The amount of "compounding interest" it gives over time is incredible.
Learning to write good cards is skill that takes time and practice. The article from Andy Matuschak  is a great guide to learn how to write good cards.
A major limitation exists for spaced repetition software (e.g. Anki, SuperMemo, or other flashcard-style systems), in my experience using them for several years for long-term memory: it's neither necessary nor sufficient to use this software to learn certain topics.
Several excellent physics and math students I worked with have never used spaced repetition software, but were excellent at their studies because they consistently solved textbook problems. For them, they got the "repetitions" (aka exposure to facts and problems) via solving more new problems from the book nearly every day. Later problems in the textbooks would provide review of previous problems. This method can be far more effective than spending too much studying with spaced repetition software (which I have done in the past), as the time spent creating new cards and reviewing cards that are due comes at the expense of time spent solving new problems.
Ideally, you can perhaps find time for both activities. But in my personal experience, I learned mathematics more effectively by focusing primarily on textbook problems (reviewing older material through new problems) and spending a very limited amount of time with spaced repetition, versus even a fifty-fifty split between a textbook and spaced repetition that I've experimented with in the past.
In the past, I also spent too much time in the past remembering phrases and vocabulary when learning new languages, and not enough time practicing listening, writing, and especially conversation. Certain skills can only be efficiently developed by directly practicing them. While spaced repetition software remains an essential part to my language studies, it is very far from sufficient (even just a couple hours of conversation practice per week over three months, got me much further than primarily focusing on Anki/spaced repetition for six months).
Spaced repetition systems like Anki (though I moved to SuperMemo about a year back) are vital to my daily studies, but I've learned far more effectively by treating these systems as a supplement to more traditional and tested study methods that rely on active problem-solving. For technical fields, these are textbook problems from books by well-regarded authors, and for languages, these are conversation practice and writing articles that I request feedback on (in particular, teachers in small group classes have given me great, useful feedback on my writing).
Right, there's a big distiction to be made here.
Knowledge that is primarily conceptual (like almost all of math) generally does not benefit from spaced repetition. The learning involved is understanding -- a new concept may be hard to understand in the first place, but once you get it, you don't really forget it. Or you just need a super-quick refresher if you haven't touched it for a few months.
While knowledge that is primarily arbitrary-factual is the perfect candidate for spaced repetition -- mainly things like vocabulary, medical terms, and so forth. Just associating a largely arbitrary name for something. And indeed they are mostly useful for learning for exams. E.g. I used it to learn Chinese characters and could never have passed Chinese class otherwise. But on the other hand when I actually lived in another country that speaks a different language, spaced repetition isn't much of a help -- you learn vocab just by absorbing it day-to-day, like a kid does.
I mean for math I think I would have benefited quite well from sticking in various known derivative forms into Anki. You can walk and chew bubble gum here!
But the arbitrary-factual isn't they way people recommend using Anki. I really struggle to understand exactly what people are actually using it to learn. There are a lot of medical students and that makes sense, but that is... arbitrary-factual.
I've tried many times with other material, but I always get far more out of creating condensed notes and reviewing actual notes than quizzing random factioids in Anki.
I get that probably the idea is that creating prompts could guide me about which notes to review, but it seems easier to just review the notes. I think the people doing Anki are just putting the effort into making cards rather than into making notes. It would probably be nice if it were easy to convert notes into Anki but everything I've tried sucks and it just make taking each hour of taking notes into two hours of making notes and cards. I could have just reviewed notes for that hour. Closures are sort of okay but converting notes into closures is a bigger pain in the ass than it should be.
Maybe someone can make a LLM that takes some corpus of text and generates Anki cards of key points for review. Then I could just feed my notes in. But otherwise it really seems like a huge waste of time.
I don't see how making and reviewing notes is that different from making and reviewing cards. The more important aspect of using a system like Anki is leveraging the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve. Maybe if you already have the habit of making, organizing and reviewing notes you don't need a system on top of it like Anki?
That's fine if you're a student and can consistently do textbook problems. What happens when you enter the workforce where you very likely will not use most of the mathematics and get married and have kids? You don't have time to solve those problems.
I had lost all hope till I started using spaced repetition to relearn what I'd forgotten. Is it as good as doing textbook problems? No. But it's better than not doing anything. With spaced repetition I can have gaps of months at a time and can still get back to the material without having to start all over.
It would definitely be hard to use Anki for conceptual learning that requires fresh problems to prevent memorizing answers. One could link to an outside site keyword categorizing problems matching specifics, I suppose..
Really though a lack of spaced repetition on practising conceptual problems is just as noticeable as the lack of spaced repetition on factual learning. Very few fields are so perfectly structured that you get practices on their earliest levels by doing later levels and then working in the field, i.e. plenty of mathematicians admit they no longer do arithmetic well.
N=1. I found that conceptual knowledge and eureka moments always result in substantial or at least non trivial changes in the way I parse and understand information, so much so that their integration is seamless, automatic and permanent.
Otoh, certain stuff that are not particularly important need frequent repetition, eg learning a foreign language that you are not actively using.
I am considering using it for leetcode problems and questions.
> Otoh, certain stuff that are not particularly important need frequent repetition, eg learning a foreign language that you are not actively using.
In that use case, you are much better off reading content in that language and watching content in that language. Vocabulary memorization as isolated activity makes sense only as additional activity if you have additional time on top of that.
I mainly use anki with cards that involve the vocab in some context. I found that the context enabled me to eventually understand without translating to any other language, I am still quite limited though. I think that falls into your suggestion of learning within some kind of broader context, which I agree.
I've been working on https://github.com/trane-project/trane for the past year or so, mostly to get around these limitations. I tried to find a way to use Anki or another existing software to aid my music practice, but I couldn't get it to work.
Some ways in which it's different:
- Dependencies are core to the system. For example, if I am learning a music piece, I want to start by learning small sections and only move on to larger sections when I am good enough at the small stuff, eventually ending with a final exercise that tests my performance of the whole piece. A lot of knowledge/skills follow that pattern, but I couldn't find a way to make Anki or SuperMemo understand this.
- It's meant for both memorizing stuff and practicing exercises. I have tested it with your exact example (math problems from textbooks). It works fairly well, but it's at a very early stage (you can look around at https://github.com/trane-project/trane-math, but it still needs a readme). So it's doing the same thing as the students you mentioned. The difference is that the scheduling is done automatically. Review of existing problems and addition of new ones happen without requiring planning or tracking from the student.
- There's an emphasis on generating the flashcards as text files, so they can be shared. I don't understand why people insist of remaking their own flascards every time. If someone wishes to learn guitar, for example, it's my hope they just download some courses and start learning without spending any time redoing flashcards. This design choice probably makes it harder to write the flascards, but it balances out once the flashcards are done and can be passed around.
A quick question that I could not answer from reading the Github page: How married is the learning process to those "courses" you describe? If I have a topic X and start with 0 knowledge about it, could I use trane to learn it if there is no premade course yet? I assume to create a course about it, I would have to have quite some knowledge about the topic already, to be able to think of exercises and rate them in terms of difficulty/hierarchy.
Sure, even for the task that it was designed for, learning Japanese, I mostly pursued a method of just writing stuff in a notebook over and over when I was getting that degree. But the specifics of Anki itself are less important an observation than the main one: despite the widespread conviction that rote learning is pointless it is actually extremely helpful to a wide number of fields of endeavor.
You're right that retrieval practice isn't optimal for all types of knowledge. But not all spaced repetition systems are flashcard systems.
Just under a month ago, I read about 'math academy' here on HN. One thing it does is sort of what it sounds like you envisage: surfacing exercises relating to concepts you might be about to forget.
> (though I moved to SuperMemo about a year back)
What pushed you to make the switch? Was it Incremental Reading, or some other feature/reason?
My main motivation behind the switch was that I had too many daily reviews of very old cards that I knew well in Anki, after using the software very close to daily for several years. I read that SuperMemo handled older reviews better, and I was also optimistic at the time that the learning schedule really was better than Anki's (as SuperMemo uses a significantly later version of the algorithm that Anki is based on for scheduling reviews).
The software switch had its ups and downs. First, the downsides: a significant one-time cost included the time spent learning all the items from scratch, as the import of cards from Anki to SuperMemo didn't preserve the repetition history. Another one-time cost, though minor, was some friction setting up the software (it took an abnormal number of days to receive the activation code, which I eventually received after a follow-up; maybe the company had a problem with their system at the time).
Long-term downsides include the lack of easy image occlusion (aka, covering up parts of a labelled image and revealing just one label in separate flashcards). If I studied maps/diagrams with spaced repetition or anatomy like in my high school biology class, this would be a dealbreaker (though I suppose you could use keep using Anki along SuperMemo). In my experience, it's far easier to occlude images in Anki than in SuperMemo. Also, the Windows desktop version I use doesn't have a mobile version, which is a very significant downside. I'm now used to reviewing SuperMemo in the evening or when I think it's a good time, via software called Parallels to run a Windows virtual machine on a MacBook, but there's a lot more friction to starting a review session. To add to the friction, backups are a bit harder (though I've made it easier by setting up a custom keyboard shortcut to press the sequence of keys create a backup in a folder in cloud storage).
The main upside is that I do think (noting that I may have confirmation bias) that the flashcard scheduling really is effective and also more efficient. I no longer face significant numbers of very old reviews, and I do subjectively feel that I retain my cards better.
To add objectivity on effectiveness for accuracy, according to SuperMemo's data, I have a 97% retention rate on my French cards which contain a lot of very old cards, though I aggressively remake cards that become "leeches"; an 89% retention rate on my Spanish cards, which have much more newer cards; and a 93% retention rate on my mathematics/sciences/miscellaneous readings cards. Unfortunately, I didn't keep a records for Anki cards in comparison, and there may be other factors behind increased retention (if any) such as following better practices when making new cards . I wish I had numbers for time efficiency, but I can confidently say that I don't dread spending time reviewing old cards (though once again, there may be some other factor).
On SuperMemo's other features: I also did try the "incremental reading" feature of SuperMemo, but ultimately, I borrowed some of the principles and stuck to a personal method of taking notes from different books, while switching between books (instead of only focusing on one subject a day) to help stay alert while studying the materials. There are also other features of SuperMemo for sleep tracking and task scheduling, but I didn't personally enjoy using them (I personally found that sleep tracking didn't account well for daylight savings, and I prefer other simple apps accessible by mobile devices for scheduling and task tracking).
To make a very long story short: I switched to try and reduce time spent during reviews, but ended up spending a lot more time setting up and getting used to the software. I didn't really mind the fiddling that much, as spaced repetition software was a sort-of hobby for me in the past, but for other people who'd just like to learn, Anki provides a far more direct way to try spaced repetition.
SuperMemo is effective for me now, as I don't spend much time at all fiddling with the software. But I'm not sure if I would enthusiastically recommend the switch to other people unless they're interested in spaced repetition software (and thus don't mind fiddling with it), and they also have some dissatisfaction with Anki in some way. In any case, with either software, I've found my studies to be more effective by treating spaced repetition as just a supplement to other forms of study that require active problem solving.
 Better practices included more strictly following Wozniak's twenty rules here (also relevant for Anki users): https://www.supermemo.com/en/blog/twenty-rules-of-formulatin...
I had the same experience. I tried Anki for 2 years to learn to crack programming interviews, and failed. Then I started doing leetcode problems regularly on the site and that helped me to get past my block.
> I learned mathematics more effectively by focusing primarily on textbook problems (reviewing older material through new problems)
As a caveat, sometimes it can be hard to do this. If I randomly pick textbook problems, I have no guarantee that the new material will review the old.
I've found the sweet spot.for Anki is the things that I need only occasionally but not never.
Things I use frequently I already pick up through repeated use, things that I never use eventually falls out.
But things that are somewhat relevant about that I find myself googling more than twice is a good candidate to Anki.
I’m switching my job next month. That means a lot of new acronyms to learn of software components, departments, and projects. Anki helps me learn them.
> Several excellent physics and math students I worked with have never used spaced repetition software, but were excellent at their studies because they consistently solved textbook problems.
Isn't it the case that only minority of students uses this software or flashcards in general anyway? I mean, of course it is possible to succeed without it, because overwhelming majority of students/learners are not using it.
The idea gets more interesting depending on your idea of success. If success just means passing the course, you definitely don't need spaced repetition (but then again, you can also maybe get by via cramming two or three days before each test and rushing assignments, though this wouldn't be a good experience).
If you define success as doing very well in the course (and remembering what you learn in the long-term), the idea gets more interesting because more people interested in these outcomes use flashcard systems. Anki is especially popular among medical students, so it's a tempting idea to consider that applying spaced repetition to subjects like mathematics or physics can also be useful.
To some people studying math or physics, the software can potentially be a nice aide, but in my individual experience, I understood and remembered concepts better by spending more time practicing problems and doing sample tests, versus spending more time using spaced repetition software.
That is the thing ... I don't recall best students doing flashcards all that much in cs, math and physics. I actually associated this more with groups of students who don't understand, so they memorize without understanding. When you understand the concept, it is also much easier to remember the thing.
That's a fair observation. My personal experience has a bias because I knew a math and computer science major who was hardworking and seemed bright at academics, and he was really into Anki.
Knowing him led to my impression that a decent number of math and physics students might have studied with spaced repetition without talking much about it, as he only mentioned it after he saw me studying with the software once. But in hindsight, I agree that it's more likely that math & physics students stick to the learning habits they developed earlier on—often through lots of practice tests and exercises.
Anki seems to be more of a natural progression for people in other fields like biology, where students might develop habits of using flashcards with software like Quizlet, where using software with better study schedules like Anki can be a natural progression.
I love Anki for language learning. I export my cards from a browser extension that exports marked words from Netflix subtitles, together with the full sentence and audiotrack of the sentence. Greatly helps to build vocab.
I absolutely love Anki.
A lot of software make empty promises around productivity improvements. Especially in education. Anki is one of those rare tools that genuinely 10x's you over your peers. I used it when studying Japanese and it was a massive help.
However, having used it for over 12 years to memorise many different things I have noticed one caveat.
If you're not also using what you're memorising outside of Anki, I feel like your ability to recall gets trapped within the context of using Anki.
For example, if you're learning Japanese vocab through Anki, and also trying out your new words via conversation and reading/writing, you'll rapidly learn new vocab AND be able to recall it anywhere.
However if you're learning Japanese on your own and not really conversing/writing, no matter how good your recall with Anki is, you'll struggle to recall those same words anywhere else.
The cool thing about Anki is you can also use pictures/audio. So if you're learning music theory you could memorise chord shapes/intervals. Or human anatomy.
This is also what I'd call the classic issue with Duolingo. Or rather, one of them, considering that the app has all sorts of issues.
If you use nothing but Duolingo you'll plateau very quickly. It's probably "okay" as a casual side spaced-repetition learning tool—when you're learning languages you generally want to pull from several different resources, and learn with different tools anyway. But don't make the mistake of thinking that Duolingo alone will get you anywhere.
I think this universally applies to repetition-learning, at least when it comes to languages. You need to "cross-train".
Let's be honest, Duolingo is a joke in comparison to anything serious like Anki. I agree that Anki alone doesn't cover it. One has to immerse in the target language to make progress. Anki is only there to speed up the process.
> Or rather, one of them, considering that [Duolingo] has all sorts of issues.
Yep. I agree with measured criticisms of Anki even while feeling the app is really useful if you use it well. Whereas Duolingo isn't worth bothering with at all. It's purely optimized to maximize engagement/revenue.
As someone who didn't like the idea of learning a language at all but has to, I'm glad that Duolingo gave me a very, very easy way to get started with literally anything at all. It's simple and streamlined, meaning that it's easy to start and stick with it instead of getting hung up on how to find a good textbook, or figuring out how to use Anki "properly".
This also applies to practicing every single day: I find it easy to do a few Duolingo "lessons" as warm-up before delving into more in-depth practice.
Nowadays I would not use it for real "practice" at all. I use it to check my understanding for 5-15 minutes a day. If I make mistakes in Duolingo (eg. forming the plural, remembering the dative for a given grammatical gender) then I look these things up and study them.
I might drop Duolingo completely at some point, but for now I'm getting a non-zero amount of value out of it—I am increasingly looking into better options, though. I'm already looking Anki, and I'm sure there are some other language learning apps out there.
People could stop using it, because as opposed to Anki, Duolingo is far from real language learning. At least I tried it a couple of years ago and that was my experience.
Duolingo used to be better: people who are talking about Duolingo might be referencing how it used to be.
When you hit diminishing returns on a walled-garden language-learning app, it's time to create a continuous intake of real-world media at your level that you enjoy, plus a suite of inline understanding+memory tools to extract the maximum learning out of that media.
I have been following many of the recommendations on https://learnjapanese.moe/resources/. Most of them are language-specific, but perhaps you can still draw some inspiration from the methods and look for equivalent tools in your target language.
Read this and you'll realize why Duolingo has gone down the wayside
Shows when incentives are aligned to shareholders vs users, that is the outcome you get
I mean, I don't think this is true about duolingo. I used it for language I knew zero about and for one I used to know. And I did learned foreign languages before duolingo existed.
With nothing but duolingo and occasion "let's try to read or watch movie", my ability to read or understand went high in a way that would not happened without it at all.
The way I think of memorization is as scaffolding. Rote memorization is very different from the skill or understand you are trying to build, and for this reason, many people are skeptical about the value of it. Why practice rote memorization when what you really want is very different? But this is like trying to construct a building without using scaffolding.
If you only use Anki and don't do anything else, it's like building scaffolding on an empty lot, and then building more and more scaffolding without using it to build anything else.
I've noticed this too, I study with Anki J->E cards and it supercharges my reading skill, helps somewhat my listening skill, and basically does nothing at all for my speaking skill.
I was wondering how much adding audio cards or "reversed" E->J cards to my routine might help. Are those variations worth the trouble?
Personally I never did audio cards (though I did a lot of listening and conversation outside of Anki) or reverse cards for Japanese. My vocab decks were J->E, and my Kanji decks were Kana->Kanji. I always practised writing my answers on the screen using the whiteboard feature.
I think you should strive to keep your decks under 15 minutes total. That means you can complete them in three 5-minute blocks a day. Any longer and I found I would A) miss a deck, meaning I had to catch up the next day; or B) try to rush through them.
I highly recommend trying to engage in conversation as much as possible. In my city (in Australia) I went to "conversation classes". Basically Japanese people wanting to improve their English would meet with Australians wanting to improve their Japanese. It went for an hour, half of which was spent talking in English, and half in Japanese. And if you can only speak a little bit of Japanese, it's totally fine, you can just speak in broken Japanese mixed with English. It was really fun! You'll find opportunities to use your new vocab, and it'll stick much better.
My experience is that doing so has had a minor improvement in my J->E recall, but a major improvement in my E->J recall. If you never intend to write/speak Japanese and just want to build to watching anime or something, I guess you could give it a miss, but I think it's pretty worthwhile.
The one caveat with Anki specifically for reversed cards is when you add a bunch of new cards or a new deck and it presents you the reversed card right after the basic card.
e.g. seeing the 幸せ -> shiawase (happy) card then immediately after the happy -> 幸せ card, sure you're going to be telling Anki this was an "easy" card, but that's much more about the immediacy than the level of recall you have.
For my purposes I actually have three sets of cards in my Japanese deck, one each for kana, kanji and english front card and the other two on the reverse cards (unless my textbook omits the kanji because of it being rarely used in the real world, as for some words).
> unless my textbook omits the kanji because of it being rarely used in the real world, as for some words
I have found this usually proves to be a mistake, textbooks and dictionaries pretend that you need far less kanji than you actually do. Lately I started to mine Anki words from conversations on Japanese twitter and I discovered that everyone casually throw around all kinds of kanji that are not on the Jouyou list and in words every textbook insisted were primarily kana.
I think it might be because modern IMEs have made it much easier to casually use rare-ish kanji. Technology has expanded the range of everyone's recall and writing speed, while the textbooks are still reflecting the world of 20 years ago.
I tried to use Anki a long time ago, but maintaining cards ended up being too toilsome. Now that we have ChatGPT and other AI tech to take some of the pain out of that, I might give it another try for language study.
I do however maintain that for many skills it’s better to memorize processes over facts, and develop a more nuanced embedding with natural repetition intervals, rather than overfitting via excessive Anki-fication.
try for any subject
"summarize X as Anki cards". I found a reply above particularly helpful to even summarize anything at all.
perhaps someone could design software that automatically translates the article to the Anki cards as well. I'd love to collaborate with someone on such a project (as a data scientist)
Unless you want to compete in Jeopardy or something, why bother with ""uploading"" static chunks of information to your wetware? Language learning aside.
When categorizing notes to be remembered, I think it's good to think in terms of memory retreival, not memory storage. In other words, not to become an "archiever", because you probably want to evolve your ideas by linking them together in your own unique way -- unique as dicated by your problem at hand plus your own idiosyncratic experiences.
"How to take smart notes" by Sönke Ahrens is a great book on this topic, admittedly more oriented towards a Zettelkasten/Obsidian workflow.
This kind of static information retention is good for me. I’m an electrician so it’s nice to know off the top of my head that there’s a 10’ spacing on supports for EMT without going to the code book every time. Some of that knowledge gets beaten in through repetition, but there are enough fringe cases and things I don’t touch for years that are nice to have memorized.
I had a major concussion shortly before my GCSE exams that I'm still very slowly recovering from. I was completely unable to think, let alone study. I never did an IQ test, but I couldn't even listen to a book or stay awake for more than a few hours without a headache. And for a while I couldn't look at a screen or read.
I was able to get the second highest grades in the school, with lower than expected grades in only two subjects (and dropping one, further maths), because of Anki. Because Anki does not require understanding, only sufficient repetition, and I had a lot of time on my hands, I was able to continuously do flashcards for hours on end while maths work would have me struggling to stay awake within 5 minutes. I could remember facts without understanding them.
The exams were ~3 months after it happened, which gave me time to improve, plus during the actual exam a combination of painkillers, extra time, rest breaks, exam technique, and adrenaline allowed me to put together a plausible answer with the disconnected facts I had learnt in the months preceeding that I just about got the mark. As a sidenote - it's quite incredible how adrenaline can temporarily improve brain injuries, with the downside that the moment it went I was completely exhausted.
Every subject bar maths I got the grades I wanted or just below, because Anki allowed me to memorise without learning.
(These subjects were: Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, English Lit, English Lang, History, Computer Science, Digital something, Creative Media Production (didn't do exam), Further Maths (dropped).)
Now, I would prefer not to revise using solely Anki, and I think the fact a braindead student with memorised facts (and good exam technique) was able to get good grades says a lot about the British education system. It also says a lot about Anki, and just how effective it is.
Side note, because I'm tired of hearing drivel on HN:
My life being (permanently?) ruined was entirely preventable, all it would have taken is a little less empathy, a little less second chances, for violent barbarians who damage everyone around them. When people preach empathy they forget about the human cost of allowing inherently violent, destructive people to continue their actions.
If you're one of those people who thinks grammar schools are bad, restorative "justice" is the future, and we should prioritise those who hurt and destroy over those who want to learn and build: Your actions and your ideology have ugly consequences beyond your selfish delusion of making the world better through being nice and kind and the power of love - that belongs in novels, not policy.
I sympathise: my wife was a teacher and the schools that were hardest to teach anything were the schools that were all about giving chances and "love" to bullies and disruptive elements. Mostly this comes direct from narcicists in upper management. They were very bad places to teach at, and she burned out quickly at them.
The best schools were ones that back up and support their teachers in disciplinary action (usually detention, buddy-class systems and behavior contracts which are all pretty effective if applied consistently and supported by management).
I've never had a concussion, but I wanted to recount my similar experience in school, too. Like you, 5 minutes of math lectures had me dozing off. Really, a lecture in any subject would bore me to sleep. Only when we got practical tasks to work on, like math or physics problems, did my brain wake up and engage with and understand the material. As a result, I excelled in the natural sciences and math, where working on problems took up most of the time, while I did poorly in the more memorization-oriented social sciences and language subjects. Memorization is a skill like any other, and I'm happy I get to work in a field where understanding is more important than memorization.
It's like exercise. As a software engineer, I'm very unlikely to need to lift heavy things or run long distances. But my body is (probably) healthier long-term if I'm able to do those things.
Disclaimer: going through my Anki decks is one of the 50 things on my 10-item to-do list. I don't get to it often enough. But it does work, and I now know how to memorize things I want to remember.
Hmm sure but I feel like my brain gets too much intellectual stimulation if anything from my job and relationships and reading. If I try to do a leetcode at 8pm my brain is just extremely fatigued and tells me to stop. My body on the other hand just sits in a chair for a very large amount of the day so I need to supplement there
There's an old book called The Richest Man In Babylon that has to do with personal finance. One of the key points is to pay yourself first. You have your rent, utility bills, maybe credit-card debt, etc., and even tonight you want to order in, even though it's expensive, because you're way too tired to cook. That's all fine, as long as you first set aside 10% of your paycheck for savings. Although that leaves only 90% left for all the other needs clawing at you, somehow you make it all work.
All too often people tend to their financial needs first, and find there's nothing left for themselves. No surprise most people die broke. Isn't it strange how their lifetime income just happened to almost exactly equal their lifetime expenses? Hmmm....
You might see where I'm going. Why are you giving the best of your time (rather than money) to everyone else, leaving nothing for yourself at the end of the day? Maybe start with just five minutes at the start of the day to pay yourself intellectually. If that works out, make it a habit!
I find a good way to link together ideas is to have them easily at hand i.e. memorized. Having a motivating problem is probably a better way to do this, but I've found that motivating problems which require concepts I would like to learn are not as readily available as I'd want.
In my experience trying to follow Zettelkasten was an order of magnitude now work than spaced repetition.
We wrote pretty much the same comment. That's funny.
I also had a similar thought process regarding understanding vs memorizing facts while transitioning from studying CS (where I emphasized understanding the underlying concepts rather than trying to memorize atomic facts that I could derive) to medicine (where having facts memorized is also a key component). Interestingly, I found that committing to memorizing facts actually helped me gain a deeper understanding of the topics themselves, which was not what I originally expected! (I wrote a little bit about the above a few months ago -- https://samrawal.substack.com/p/on-the-relationship-between-...)
> Interestingly, I found that committing to memorizing facts actually helped me gain a deeper understanding of the topics themselves, which was not what I originally expected
Be careful with this, perceived self understanding doesn't reflect real understanding.
There is only one real way to test, and the subject being CS, it is even more real: building things using those concepts.
For other subjects (and CS, too): demonstrate mastery with teaching others, producing something with the concepts learned and get feedback.
This way one can test true learning. And, even when tested this way, Spaced Repeatition really helps. I am speaking from experience.
When you are in a place where you can immerse yourself in a proper environment, like a college or work- where you hear terms and their usage regularly, learning becomes easier.
But when your environment is cut-off from the buzzing world, or everyone is doing ML and you want to do Cybersecurity, you can fake immersion using Anki. A good part of physical immersion can be replaced with using Anki.
While reading the post and comments I also was raising the same question. What I'm going to try - add separate facts from technical books.
I like reading tech books which are not directly related to my job as SWE. E.g. I'm not working with Bitcoin or ML, but found those books very interesting. However after a year pass - I barely can remember little bits which I've found very interesting when read the books.
I think adding some facts to Anki cards would help me to remember those certain things. I guess difficult part would be to detect the fact which is worth to be added as a card. Since while reading the book - these things seems obvious. Going to try anyways.
> I guess difficult part would be to detect the fact which is worth to be added as a card.
The time to memorize something is supposed to outweight the time you'd need to look it up. Say the target is five minutes - in that case, it's important to follow the Pareto rule as well, and to discard any cards that take you more than that to memorize in total, including the time you recall them. In practice, it means discarding over 20% of cards if possible, to learn 80% that are easy to remember.
Allow me to mention my project Ankivalenz, which turns structured HTML files into Anki decks. I use it with Quarto to generate my Anki decks. Instead of having an unorganized "pool" of Anki cards, I can create hierarchical, well-organized notes and turn them into an Anki deck. This makes it easier to create Anki decks, but more importantly, it makes it easier to keep Anki decks up to date.
I’ve experimented with Anki over the years and currently have a somewhat custom setup that I do every day / nearly every day. I’ll explain below for anyone that might find it useful.
At one point I realized that my capacity for learning new items for a particular topic is limited to a few items per day. Any more than 2 or 3 and I struggle to retain the information. So, for example, trying to learn 20 words in Chinese per day is impossible without spending multiple hours on it.
The trick, however, is that I get around this by having many items from multiple topics, instead of many items from a single topic. Instead of 20 words in Chinese, I learn 1 word each in 20 different languages. Surprisingly, I have a much easier time with this and don’t need to spend much time on it in order to retain the information. I don’t know why this psychologically works, but it does. And while learning 2 or 3 words a day won’t make you fluent anytime soon, it does add up over time, especially for topics that you aren’t in a hurry to learn but would like to know on a slow timeline, in a year or two. For example, learning the Japanese hiragana/katakana or the numbers of all the US presidents.
However, this proved to be somewhat unwieldy logistically as I had to open 20 different PDFs, download audio for each word, then stitch it all together daily. So I created a little web app (stitched together from some WordPress plugins, actually) that allows me to import learning materials and then display 2-3 of them per topic on a single page, each time the page is loaded. I just visit the page once a day and add the items to Anki.
This was all a bit complex to set up, but if you enjoy learning new things and want an efficient system for adding stuff into your brain, I recommend making something similar.
Is that a real example? Are you learning 20 languages in parallel? Two is already more than enough for me.
Yes I am currently learning one word/phrase (it depends on the language) daily in about twenty different languages. Again, I wouldn’t claim it to be equivalent to serious study and conversational practice, but I have absolutely learned various phrases in all of the languages.
I think most people make “language learning” a heavy task that seems insurmountable. In reality, once you understand the basic sounds of a language, it can be as simple as learning a new phrase everyday. Just think of it as learning the names of capital cities or elements on the periodic table: a lot of information that is organized into patterns.
No, you won’t be fluent quickly, but it is absolutely beneficial to know “hello”, “thank you”, “where is?” and 100 other phrases in a language. Or in the case of Russian or Hebrew or Greek, it’s awesome to just be able to read the alphabet, even if you don’t know many of the words.
Anki (or a Leitner box) is the recommended method from the book "Fluent Forever"
After learning one language in school and a few others ad hoc on my own I gave this method a try.
I quickly gave up, though, once I discovered Dr Krashen's work on comprehensible input, and how boring and time consuming creating and studying Anki is.
Dr Krashen's work says that we learn language when we understand it. I.e. when we receive input at our level. There are quite a number of Youtube channels that claim to teach through this method, but many of them still resort to drills, themed vocabulary, grammar etc that are all pointless in the CI method.
The best one I've seen so far is Dreaming Spanish.
What's so cool about the CI method is that the spaced repetition is built in, implicit - if you're getting input at your level you will be getting repetition.
Children's shows are a great way to get input. Many countries have TV apps on iPad and can be viewed free with a VPN.
As an experiment I had my daughter only consume German media (living in Sweden) för a few years and she can now speak better German than I can, and I have never corrected her. She has broader and more modern vocabulary, naturally.
I find Anki essential for language learning. Did it for French, starting from 0 and finishing at B2 (except for writing) in two years (also taking a 3h / week course).
Especially at the very beginning, I find learning the first 500 words as described in "Fluent Forever" very helpful. Going through that before starting with the course makes the experience much easier.
I totally agree with Krashen's theories, but using Anki is a secret weapon here that puts the process on overdrive (e.g. reading on Kindle and then later going through words that I checked in the Kindle dictionary and adding them into Anki).
Also, it's essential to retain the knowledge, e.g. if it's a language that you don't use daily.
5 years and 30'000+ cards later, I find Anki indispensable in learning anything which requires memorisation. Thinks I have to learn for work, for hobbies, certificates, improving my vocabulary in languages I care about. Basically, every fact I care about strongly enough, goes into Anki. If not enough, goes into Obsidian.
Personally, as an intermediate Japanese learner, I have been careful to choose the right input just as Krashen advocates, but I also find Anki indispensable. I found to my surprise that I have been improving about equally quickly using Anki+Animebook+Yomichan for 1-2 hours a day while living the US as I did during an earlier period when I was living in Japan (but without access to computerized methods beyond a basic pocket e-dict).
As a beginner, appropriate input was enough to care of "spaced repetition" on its own, since children's media constantly rotates over the same small set of vocabulary. But after I improved past the ~2000 most common words or so, it happened more and more that a word I recently learned didn't appear again in my input until it had already been flushed. The probability that I would actually learn a new word for good progressively decreased as I picked the lower-hanging fruit, which is the cause of the dreaded "intermediate plateau".
I gather Anki pushes out the plateau much further: I have heard that it starts to feel Sisyphean to learn new words with it around the 15000-20000 word mark instead.
Learning languages is a statistical problem.
You have to learn the high frequency words/phrases in context (forget 500 most common vocabulary lists -- those don't work). As a child, you do this naturally.
However, there are certain situations where Anki helps. I find it's with words that are useful but don't occur frequently enough to pattern match. For instance, the word "ad hoc" in English -- it occurs in professional speech, but not quite often enough for you to remember what it means in context. This is where Ankifying can really help.
Ankifying commonly confused words/phrases can also help. For instance, in English the word "put" can be used in so many contexts, and many of those contexts don't occur frequently, but can be the source of funny mistakes.
"Put up (with)" and "put out" and "put in" all mean different things in different contexts. Embedding context in your Anki cards will help you recall these contexts.
You have used so much jargon in your comment, that as someone who is interested in learning languages but hasn't gone into the rabbit hole for years (90% of HN?), it was tough. Perhaps says what you preach about "receive input at our level".
It'd be cool to have a system like chatgpt (maybe converted to audio) that you could use to practice conversations in a different language.
FYI gpt4 is being packaged by duolingo to do just this in their $$ tier.
Question aside. Does anyone know straightforward ways to create anki decks?
Last time I checked on this it was like a lot of effort to put on and got discouraged to build my own decks to improve my italian. I was expecting anki decks to be constructed easily, in its most basic form from plain text files (html, markdown, etc) with references to maybe resources (audio, images, etc) just from a filesystem directory but is not that simple.
I can't recall the name of a Python tool that allowed you to create decks programmatically but I found it way too much effort to use it and I couldn't find other good alternatives (maybe this has changed recently, don't know).
Does anyone recommend a good, simple and straightforward tool to create decks/cards? (I'm using FreeBSD).
There's a Python library called genanki that has a minor learning curve but isn't terrible to figure out. My process is to maintain a gsheet with data I use to generate my flashcards, then manually download the CSV data, and run a Python script to convert everything into the Anki format.
If I'm not mistaken it's also possible to import CSV data directly into anki without the intermediate Python script
Yes, this is the one I previously found (thanks for sharing). Found it ridiculously complex for what an anki card seems to be... I mean from the docs I found this:
> "...You need to pass a model_id so that Anki can keep track of your model."
At that time I wondered myself: "Why on earth do I need to keep track of a model id for an anki card?" then quickly move forward on the docs without paying too much attention and finally put it aside...
Anki can import csv files.
That said, making decks is extremely tedious. It’s better than a premade deck for learning language vocabulary, but it’s time consuming.
You shouldn’t make vocabulary cards programmatically. If you’re going to invest time into learning a card, you need to be absolutely sure that it’s correct. Otherwise you’ve wasted your own time.
When I was using Anki daily, I’d reserve about 20 mins or so in the evening to input new words.
I heard this many times before... If there's an easy way to create the cards I'm willing to put some effort on it. Italian and spanish are not that far away languages so most of the time I really know the meaning of the words (with of course the help of translation and a dictionary sometimes) I learn but I need to remember them.
Well if you have a source of vocab you can do it.
Honestly CSV import is the way to go. That leaves you with how to get cards in. That depends largely on how you are working with stuff.
Some bespoke options include:
- The Kindle dictionary lookup history is an SQLite file on the kindle. Scrape that and pull it out
- Write a CLI command to lookup words in some dictionary website and stick that somewhere
- Just have a text file open somewhere where you paste words, and then you do the lookup later.
I think there's a lot of ways to make things easier, especially if you're working with another language with an open source dictionary. You need to do some one-time elbow grease to get it in, cuz what people want is different.
Another thing you can do if you like just going wild: just download somebody else's card deck. You can set things up to show you (for example) 10 or 5 or even 2 new cards a day. You will end up being shown a bunch of new words. You can just absorb those over time and see how that helps.
Seems like this could come from GPT? At least partly:
- Text is rather verbose
- No thoughts on the topic I haven’t seen already
Is there a measure, anywhere, of the bollocks to content ratio on HN on Saturdays? It seems to peak that day. But, this one is so bad, it's not even wrong. Who on earth knows what the future will bring? Who on earth knows, ahead of time, what's worth 10 minutes, or 2 minutes, or no time at all. That's intuition, and that's a gift. All the rest is bollocks, and it seems to turn up on Saturdays too much; that is, the pieces that claim to have identified a "system".
I'm surprised no one mentioned Memoet (https://github.com/memoetapp/memoet). It is a much more modern version of Anki - much more open algorithm, REST APIs and universal interfaces and self-hosted control over one's data.
But does it have as many addons and decks? https://ankiweb.net/shared/addons/ https://ankiweb.net/shared/decks/german
There's a number of Anki alternatives such as https://mnemosyne-proj.org/, but Anki has an active collaborative community, as opposed to most of alternatives, as far as I know.
Anki, imo, already has an open algorithm (that the user can change via plugins), universal interfaces, and is "self-hosted". My eyes perked up at REST api, but it doesn't look like there's a centralized server that hosts shared cards, which is where my mind went.
I'm building https://github.com/AlexErrant/Pentive/ which is basically Anki + Github + Reddit; people can optionally upload their cards for others to download/fork, and the most popular cards rise to the top. It's FLOSS, offline-first, supports plugins and p2p syncing, and is very much a WIP. My proof of concept is almost done though, which demos the critical technologies in a secure way.
I agree that Anki is likely less developer friendly but its popularity does make up for that I feel, with ostensibly state of the art SRS algorithms being published with Anki implementations (https://github.com/open-spaced-repetition/fsrs4anki) out of the box. Though as someone that's solely used Anki for language learning, I do value the ability to remember more words in less time more than ease of development so it's not unlikely Memoet is a better choice for other usecases.
In what way is Anki less developer friendly? They participated in Google Summer of Code last year!
Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t think of anything in my job as a software engineer that I’d benefit from memorizing through flash cards. What are people memorizing exactly?
Coworkers' names and the reason for meeting with them.
I used Anki for this when I was in a management position that involved meeting with many people, often just once or twice each, across my very large company. It was nice to be able to greet someone by name in the cafeteria six months after our meeting, and ask how such-and-such project was going. I'm sure some people already remember names, faces, and context effortlessly. I'm not one of those people. But I always appreciate when someone remembers me, so I was willing to work to do the same for them.
I stopped doing it once my work universe got a little more stable, and life's daily encounters were themselves the spaced repetition I needed to remember everyone.
Mine’s a grab bag. If I had to look something up, and value knowing it cold the next time it comes up, it goes in. I could see some engineers having nothing that fits that criteria.
I've also never used anki for anything related to my work / programming.
What I have used it for:
Memorising how to identify plants and their latin names Memorising the technical terms for different morphological features of plants so that I could efficiently use a vegetative identification key without constantly flicking to the glossary Memorising foreign language vocabulary
One of these days I need to make flash cards of those makefile automatic variables…
you can use it to memorize some console commands, library calls, anything you would like to be able to remember without checking the source material.
Anki is a huge part of my routines having ADHD. https://www.adamgrant.info/Being+Human/ADHD/Strategies/Flash...
It's like slowly uploading information to my brain for permanent storage.
I'm sure taking 10 minutes out of their day to reflect and write a diary entry would increase most peoples wellbeing a lot more than trying to neurotically remember everything you come across.
I'm sure spending those ten minutes doing some cardio will have more benefit both physically and mentally than writing a diary.
We could do this all day. The fact that there's something better one can do doesn't negate the benefits of the former.
I like to use spaced repetition for everything.
I used it so much it has become sort of a "Corgnitive Primitive" where I put everything there: Questions, Facts, Interesting Things, Calendar Events, Prompts, Writing Tips, Mutate-this-idea, Mood Controls, Historical Events and Dates, Todos(Spaced Repetition Productivity?) etc.
One example would be: I've grown from a (...) to a (...). I complete the (...) with something from my current mood. This is good because I'm accumulating "Writings" from myself to publish a novel, manga or story later on. When I need to write something then I just consult my notes for everything I have written at that moment.
I'm currently working on a tool that has built-in Spaced Repetition(I made my own algorithm and don't use SM-2[Anki's Algorithm])
I wish the author gave examples...I've used it for language, and currently using it for my daughter to learn the alphabet...but how to you "Anki-fy your life?" His only example is an Alpha-Go research paper, which he didn't read, but Nielsen? Why does he write about Anki-fying your life but uses someone else's example. Confused...
I really like https://readwise.io/ for this purpose regarding all the books I've read and the quotes I like to re-visit here and there. It uses a SRS technique.
While this type of article is almost cliche at this point regarding someone coming across the memory limitations and the power of anki for the first time, I really think the case for anki is exaggerated with "important ideas".
Anki is great for preparing to go on jeopardy or being in say med school. It is not really needed for lifelong learning.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zettelkasten might be a better approach but even then it is debatable how often you'll ever actually use it once the novelty wears off.
Anki is a tool to be used, not something that needs to be applied to everything.
Zettelkasten is for facts you want to be easy to look up. Anki is for things you want to remember instantly without looking them up. I use both.
I'm trying to get into Anki, but it's difficult to get started.
Here's what I'd like: while I'm reading a (PDF) book, I want to highlight some text (and maybe manually tweak it a little) and have it converted into some "Anki card" format so when I want to review the contents of the book later, I can use Anki for it.
Highlight the text in your dedicated PDF reading program and then after each lesson/chapter, when you sit down to review the lesson (you should be doing this even if you don't use Anki!) you can create the Anki cards manually. Creating Anki cards is really helpful for learning. I used to study at a langauge school and whenever I came across a word I didn't know, I'd quickly write it down in a notebook in the middle of class and then later in the day go back and create Anki cards for the words I had written down.
Maybe you could use some app to pull out highlights but you still need to think carefully about how to make each text chunk into a card or multiple cards (otherwise you'll waste more time than you save)
You also don't normally use an srs flashcard program like anki just when you want to review a book, you use it every day.
This is a common use case and many reader / annotation apps either support it natively (polarized and marginnote 3 are two that I have first hand experience with) or have third party tools available to copy annotations into anki.
Check out AnkiConnect for getting things into Anki. Not sure about reader software that will call out after a highlight though.
So sounds like more of what you are interested in is incremental reading. In the case the way you'd want to do things is copy the text to another document for the entire article then go back through determine which facts you want to keep.
Then turn it into an Anki card, preferably with clozes.
Half the benefit of Anki is making the Anki cards in the first place.
I actually really strugle to retain anything I learned with anki and I was wondering if this affects anyone else.
A prominent example is when I was working through a deck of japanese hiragana and katakana, I was doing my cards at a moderate pace every day, and I just kept mixing them up, even when I was repeating them in short succession. After a few very frustrating weeks of this i ditched anki and started trying to write out the whole table from memory and checking for mistakes after, this strategy proved so successful I only needed three sessions for perfect recall.
I used anki a few other times with similar results. I know the idea of learning styles is disputed, but this app just doesn't appear to work for me.
As the other responder said, don't use Anki for memorization, only for reviewing what you already remember. I recommend using mnemonics for memorizing words. For katakana hiragana, refer to https://www.tofugu.com/japanese/learn-hiragana/
It sounds like you didn’t learn the information sufficiently enough before making them into cards. Anki isn’t good for teaching you new things, it’s good for remembering stuff that you already know - or are at least familiar with.
I started out using anki to improve my Spanish vocabulary. Eventually discovered Mochi  here on HN. Far better designed and executed, well worth a look if you're interested in Anki.
I use anki with my young son on sight words. Works great but wish it was a little easier to do what I want instead of following protocol exactly. I know the whole point of anki but sometimes I just want to test him on older stuff or stuff he hasn’t seen for various reasons. Can never quite figure it out on the phone.
Every time I see something about Anki, I think it's about toy robots.
Etymology of Anki is the Japanese word which means memorization :)
This might be a good idea to refresh memory every so often. As an IT guy , sometimes I’ll mentally go blank when I trying to recall some linux command option/switch or some sql query operation. Especially when I’ve used that linux commend or wrote that specific type of query 1000s of times throughout my career. This has become more apparent as I’ve gotten older. (I’m 50 now). So now I’m increasingly relying on search engines to quickly find that info when I face those mental blocks. So I probably should try anki style flash cards.
I am trying this approach right now. It is difficult to do it for big concepts because they take time to recall in their entirety and can't be reduced to one key idea to be recalled quickly. It may also be hard to estimate what interval to use, and bloated repetition sessions are killing the whole idea of spending some 10s of minutes a day, causing a sort of fatigue if not outright burnout.
I find there's a sweet spot for Anki when the daily review of already-existing cards takes 20 minutes. If the daily review takes more than 25 minutes, I try not to add any cards that day.
I have mine set to 20 new cards/day and 200 remember cards/day. This seems to steady out at about 20 mins day. That said, I wish Anki had a time-boxed mode, where it measured my speeds and then just chose the right balance of new cards.
(Cards added above the new card limit go into a queue for future days automatically.)
Shameless plug if you want flashcards in your terminal: https://github.com/JaDogg/sbx
I wish I could generate a personal memex by training GTP-4 solely on bookmarked content, in a way that minimizes hallucinations and unrelated content. Then that memex could generate quiz prompts or anki decks for me.
Using the pigeon hole principle on these systems tells me that if I don't eventually drop all cards completely I will reach a point where the only thing I'm doing is reviewing old material. None of the algorithms I've looked into seem to acknowledge this. Is there one which throws out a card after you get it right n times?
As an example, if you're learning a langauge and studying vocab, you could discard any cards that have over 90 days interval. After all, you're going to meet that word while reading a book or watching something in the target language in the next 90 days, and if not - you shouldn't have memorized that word anyway.
Not sure how. I have flashcards that are due a decade from now. Everyday you'll have cards that are due after you die.
“Don’t memorize ideas. And don’t take us too seriously when we turn up our noses at rote learning. Rote helps build the man."
> The challenges of using Anki to store facts about friends and family: I've experimented with using Anki to store (non-sensitive!) questions about friends and family. It works well for things like “Is [my friend] a vegan?” But my use has run somewhat aground on thornier questions. For instance, suppose I talk with a new friend about their kids, but have never met those kids. I could put in questions like “What is the name of [my friend's] eldest child?” Or, if we'd chatted about music, I might put in: “What is a musician [my friend] likes?”
I was on a boat and learned someone's name, and said to her "I'll try to remember it, but-" she cut me off and said "stop telling yourself you're bad at remembering names, everyone does that, then they can't remember names!" I'm aware of the self helpy concept of self actualization and all that and couldn't help but internally roll my eyes a bit, but it did make me think: damn, I really am bad at remembering names, seriously bad, worse than anyone I've ever met in fact. Someone will approach me at s grocery store, call me by name, and start reminiscing with me about things we did together that clearly were fond memories for them, and throughout the whole conversation I'll have no memory of the person's name or any of the things they're talking about. This has happened greater than 20 times in my life, so I was worried I maybe had early onset Alzheimer's or something, but two psychologists have told me It's probably just a symptom of my severe ADHD.
So I put my foot down, fuck it, I'm not forgetting people anymore. I made an anki deck on my phone with three fields: picture of their face, name, and basic info about them, maybe times we've hung out etc. The "question" side is their face, answer is name and description.
I started throwing in people immediately after I met them and backfilling people from Facebook events and Line chat groups. I'd lift their profile pics or whatever else.
It's pretty fuckin creepy to be honest and if I ever get caught reviewing the deck I'll be really embarrassed, but it's working extraordinarily well, and I haven't had the far more embarrassing moment of forgetting that the person I'm talking to went to a baseball game with me once or whatever. Some might say "well clearly that person and event just didn't matter to you if you don't naturally remember them," to which I say I will genuinely forget entirely what I did yesterday sometimes. Something's messed up with my memory and anki is able to fix it, just like daily outline journaling every night has fixed the thing where I'll just forget an entire day.
What kinds of things are useful to learn in this rote way? Except maybe foreign language vocabulary?
Pretty much anything. I use it to learn foreign alphabets and languages, historical people and events, philosophical terms, computer networking concepts, outdoor survival tips, and a bunch of other things. The best sources of information are encyclopedias (traditional ones, not Wikipedia) and dictionaries, as they are written to summarize a concept in a few hundred words.
Spaced repetition systems are not used to learn things. They’re used to remember things you’ve already learned.
I'll just throw out I've used Anki ever since I started it and haven't failed a knowledge test since I started doing it. Including passing my HAM test with only using Anki and the questions for 72 hours.
Word of caution to other readers: Don't use Anki for cramming. Especially not if you didn't learn and understand the material before cramming.
Could you explain why that might not be a good thing to do, siva7?
Using Anki for a 72-hour cram session is kind of missing the point though. For me, the main benefit of Anki is to escape the cram->forget cycle and learn things low-stress and for good.
I 100% agree that is the optimal way. But it can be useful to memorize 300 questions and answers in 72 hours if you have to.
I literally just typed in Anki on Google and the first link to their homepage very obviously explains that it's free to use even with synchronization across multiple devices. The only cost I can think of is that they charge a one time fee for the mobile app for iOS, but the clients for android and desktop apps for computers are completely free. I have no idea where you got your information from but perhaps next time do a basic cursory search on the internet instead of querying ChatGPT.
To be fair, Anki is trademark-squatted in many flash card apps on the net. Even on the iOS App Store, there are multiple squatters for "Anki" that outrank the real one.
Not sure where you found a subscription to Anki, but it's free and open source: https://github.com/ankitects/anki
The iOS app is a one-time payment though.
This article is definitely not written with an unfamiliar reader in mind though, that's for sure.
Anki is free. And the concept of SRS is free. There are apps that are clearly very good at capitalizing on the success of Anki and charging. If you found the paid iPad app, that's a one time fee to help the developers maintain it in the app store. I think it's pretty steep but otherwise Anki is free on other platforms. I actually don't like Anki but don't want it to be mischaracterized
Anki is an open source app: https://github.com/ankitects/anki
Only the iOS version costs money, which is probably their only revenue stream.
Hey I don't fault them for that, at all, I just get annoyed when I am dumb enough to click on ads disguised as blog posts.
Do you also get annoyed when you're dumb enough to think Anki isn't free?
Uh, I'm on Windows and Android and never once paid for it. Not at what you're seeing. iOS pricing?
The Anki dev sells the app on iOS and iPadOS (his only revenue stream for Anki other than donations), but it's a one time cost, not a subscription. GP just failed to read or comprehend what they read. Or possibly they found one of the other apps also called Anki which try to capitalize on the name and confusion.
Anki is free on anything but iOS. Don't know why the iOS app is the only one with a fee.
Here's the FAQ entry for why it costs as much as it does for iOS/iPadOS with some explanation for why he only charges on those platforms.
Since there's a mobile-optimized web version, it's also free-ish on iOS.
I know people who have used it on iOS for years for free by just using the web version and never buying the app, and they seem quite happy with that setup.
IIRC the Android app is free because it wasn't started by Anki's original author. It was created by some other folks, using the source for Anki desktop.
I imagine people with iphones have more disposable income and wouldn't be as affected by a cost compared to charging android users.
I am completely self taught (started programming at 14 and dropped out of high school) yet I have never user Anki and spaced repetition once.
I am curious to know how it can make my life better, and I'm not being sarcastic, but yours is a tall claim and I am very used to learn everything I do by myself.
What can Anki do for me in 10-20 minutes a day? Finding or preparing good flash cards is a lot of effort for someone used to ADHD-fueled information skimming to learn something breadth-first.
Why is it useful? My job at least isn’t bottlenecked by me not memorizing enough things. Or maybe it is! But I’m not convinced
People have this weird disdain for memorization. Memorization is the same as knowing.
Can you imagine that there have been points in your job that would have gone smoother if you'd known more?
> Memorization is the same as knowing.
They are not the same which is why they are two different words. For example, memorising first 1000 prime numbers is not same as knowing prime numbers. The former person will not be able to figure out 1001st prime number because it's not in their memory bank but the later can calculate it. Sure it takes time to calculate but it's not impossible.
Now, I'm not belittling memorisation. A baseline memory is needed otherwise one'll be wasting time and energy figuring out everything from first principles all the time. This is akin to rainbow tables saving time. But as with all things in life finding right balance is key. As you pointed out, it's useful to memorise things at work to save time and energy.
You can memorize things like "Definition of prime number" or "Main application of prime numbers". I think memorizing concepts is much more important than memorizing raw data
Knowing is not the same as understanding though. For example, I do not see any value of winning the spelling bee in real life applications. This is actually widely accepted as the downrisk in Asian education systems - the emphasis on rote learning vs practical application.
You are completely correct. It is very rarely worth memorising information you do not understand, doubly so if it's information divorced from the rest of your knowledge (e.g. memorising the first ten digits of pi is useful perhaps in extreme niche cases, but is vastly more useless if you've done it without even knowing what pi actually is). The creator of Supermemo notes this: https://supermemo.guru/wiki/Do_not_memorize_before_you_under...
On the other hand, memorising things you do understand is a time saving measure at the point of memory access as well as something that allows you to play with concepts/ideas/facts in your head while doing anything else, which I've found to be quite useful. You do have to be selective about it, and software like Anki shouldn't be used to build memories for everything (for one, it can be so boring that you'll be turned off of SRS entirely if you overuse it).
> “I guess most of us can understand a sentence like "a string is an immutable sequence of characters," quickly read it, and move on.”
Can we? In the context of learning a new unfamiliar programming language… is it saying there is a string type or is it telling you that there isn’t a string type but only a sequence of characters? Like APL a string is an array of characters not its own type but in C# [string] is a thing and if you iterate it you get [char] type. In Prolog a string is traditionally a linked list of ASCII code numbers, there isn’t a string type or a char type … but there is still a string to chars conversion function. So is the sentence telling you that there is a char type? In Python a string is iterable but you get strings of length one for the characters rather than chars. But wait what about Unicode and surrogate pairs and glyphs, where does “sequence of characters” fit on those things in this language?
What does ‘sequence’ mean in this unfamiliar language - is it saying strings are an array or a list, or that sequence is a trait or behaviour which generalises over many types? What is immutable specifically, sequences or strings or characters or all data? What are the consequences of that? In APL you can assign into an array even though they are immutable (it will be copied behind the scenes) so it seems like it is an implementation detail you can ignore but wait that means dropping one character from the front copies the rest of the string in memory (slow) whereas in other languages trying to change a string at all is an error - compile time or runtime? You might think Prolog can do it if strings are linked lists but surprise, Prolog lists are immutable.
So if you read that sentence and move on, what have you really learned about the new language? In the context of this thread how would you Anki-fy the concepts immutable or sequence or string?
I live in Taiwan and this is a constant presumption by other immigrants here - oh, the taiwanese aren't good at critical thinking, their schools just have them memorize everything, there's no imagination, they have no ability to self start or self direct.
There's some grains of truth to aspects of the culture resisting individualism (which isn't inherently negative I don't think, as distasteful as that may sound to Americans), but not only is this a mischaracterization, it's also missing the upsides of having a population that all has stashed in their heads a whole shitload of math and science that enables them in all sorts of interesting ways.
For example, on a construction team, any single member is capable of more geometric reasoning than the same team in the usa (in my limited experience working with construction in both countries), making for faster, more accurate, and cheaper builds. Or, when bringing a software engineer up to speed with a new framework or whatever, I find they retain mundane details remarkably quickly, probably by having a well honed memorization method. That's really nice for when you're trying to think of how to implement something and basically the entire library documentation is just at hand in the noggin.
Completely agree here. Memorization is actually quite important.
Try learning Spanish from scratch with a "bad memory" and let me know how it goes.
I don’t believe them to be the same. I have friends who repeat words to me GPT style, that I know them to be imprecise in the spirit of the discussion.
Then they didn't really memorize them properly, did they?
Understanding is the structure of knowing. Memorization is the paint on top. It ain't gonna hold your house up.
Memorisation is adding nodes to your existing network of knowledge
Understanding is efficiently arranging and coordinating those nodes in an efficient path for most situations
Wisdom is knowing in which contexts to actually apply that path of nodes
Tacit knowledge is similar to wisdom just it generally lacks memorisation
There's not a perfect mapping in English between Memorisation, Understanding and Wisdom and their most pragmatic corresponding analogues in nature, but I have found this distinction between terms useful in the whole memorisation v understanding debate
Memorization is actually the foundation whether you do it with intention or not. Everything in your working knowledge is something you memorized.
You can memorize every note of a difficult piano piece, but that doesn't mean you know how to play it well.
Yes, memory is a necessary but not sufficient component of learning. "Piano playing" seems like a really poor example to argue against the value of memorization.
Learning to play a song or to play from sheet music is, itself, a task that is well suited for rote learning. There's really no way out of repetitive practice if your goal is to learn to play a musical instrument.
Don't think in terms of bottlenecks but rather in terms of missed opportunities.
Although already a power Emacs user, it was a significant step up when I started memorizing keystone for various modes via spaced repetition.
This could give you some clues: http://augmentingcognition.com/ltm.html#:~:text=How%20import... (see part II)
In problem solving there can be a balance between creativity and knowledge. Creativity can help you link different domains to create novel solutions, and knowledge can help with avoiding blind spots. Knowledge can also be a blunt force for problem solving, it is most likely the case that someone has already encountered your problem, and knowing even a bit about that solution is very helpful.
This is where I've found ChatGPT sooooo effective in searching.
I ask it a question much more naturally vs google - meaning less cognitive load and the answer it spits back is usually a result of multiple sources distilled down to the smallest amount of information - basically all the "fluff" removed. This means less time spent reading, filtering, finding the answer.
It's been wrong a number of times which costs me 5-30 minutes at a time, but I've severely benefited in time overall by orders of magnitude.
Could you share some examples of the type of stuff you’ve added to this system that’s had that kind of professional pay off? I’m familiar with the approach, but I suspect part of the reason I’ve not been able to maintain a long term habit is I’ve always used it for things like learning a language. Which is great, but doesn’t have the kind of process re-enforcing payoff given I rarely get to apply it.
And I’m drawn a blank on the kind of professional stuff I’d put in here.
Here's an example: statistical methods. I'm a software engineer and was going to start helping with analysis tooling. Having characteristics and example use cases for many statistical methods helped me work faster and make better choices than needing to look things up.
Generalized, cases where you can choose from one of a few options/technique and this choice is an expression of your professional opinion are good. What you memorize are the attributes of the options that you tend to make the choices on. It's hard to get across (and impossible if people don't want to believe it) the difference in speed/quality/accuracy that comes from having 3 attributes of 10 options at instant recall versus a few that come to mind right away and then more if you remember to try.
I have the exact opposite opinion. My wife is a doctor.
Anki was insanely popular in med school. It was certainly helpful for passing exams, but it's all stuff that can be easily looked up. It's all simple, basic facts.
It's far better to learn the theory, then fill in the details with easy reference.
In theory. But in practice having a lot of facts memorized not only saves you from having to look things up but actually makes you get more out of the things you do look up! See: https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/LookItUpSpring2000.p...
Besides that, the original task Anki was designed for was language learning, and you can't have much of a conversation if every sentence requires multiple dictionary lookups.
Ha! I used it in law school. Actually wrote my “cards” down on a palm pilot during classes using the funny stylus it had. Professor later told me he had wondered what I was doing with this odd device. Until it dawned on him that I was taking notes! Other people paid hundreds for exam prep courses. For me, SuperMemo (the “app” as it was called back then, before “apps” were a thing) was all I needed.
The other high ROI activity is writing/re-writing and writing these prompts yourself will make it more effective.
Do you have a TLDR for that article? It's pretty long and wordy.
I have found out that I was bad at card making when reviewing the first cards I made after a lapse of time of not using Anki. My then self got frustrated and irritated by how vague and non-specific the cards I made myself were. I certainly learned something about my memory and cognition. The article is long, but it has some insights that resonated with me. I think the quality of the cards one makes is as important, if not more so, than spaced repetition.
I have made a few runs at adopting spaced repetition learning via Anki into my life. The failure point each time so far has been making cards that are worth anything.
I asked ChatGPT to summarize the article as Anki cards:
What memory type is virtually limitless? Long-term memory
What's the bottleneck between working and long-term memory? Speed of transferring memories
What is a "schema" in long-term memory? A pattern of knowledge for understanding
What happens when long-term memories return to working memory? Memory evolves, updates schema
What is Anki commonly used for? Rote learning and memorization
Time daily to maintain 10,000 Anki cards? 15-20 minutes
Michael Nielsen's rules for Anki-fying? Worth 10 mins future time, striking facts
Can Anki be used for complex concepts? Yes, by breaking down concepts and building knowledge
> summarize the article as Anki cards
that's a very clever prompt mechanism you used there
This is from Kagi's summarizer:
The article discusses how to create effective prompts that aid in long-term learning using spaced repetition. Matuschak suggests that good prompts should be specific, clear, and concise, and should be designed to encourage active recall rather than passive recognition.
He also emphasizes the importance of interleaving, which involves mixing up different types of problems or questions to enhance retention and facilitate transfer of knowledge. Additionally, he suggests that prompts should be personalized and contextualized to increase engagement and motivation.
Okay, so was this written by chatgpt
It seems to me that pretty much anything has better ROI then 10-20 minutes of pure rote memorization a day. Plus, keeping in 10-20 minutes a day requires separate skill on itself. Anki has a way of taking over and expanding the time it requires.
Strong disagree. The pivot completely away from rote memorization in public schools is a mistake. Being able to immediately conjure math facts for example without having to use higher level concentration makes the next level of thought easier to access. Rote memorization is currently undervalued.
Oh man I could not disagree more. “Math facts” don’t require any sort of conjuring, in fact cease to seem mystical at all, once you have a deep understanding of the material. Take your favorite math textbook—do you seriously think the author wrote all that down by rote memorization? Of course not: it came naturally as a byproduct of study. Memorization for the sake of memorizing is the worst possible way to learn mathematics.
Is what you are measuring actually meaningful?
Also you dont need to write them out, you can still calculate it in your head "manually".
I think second student may have easier time to apply knowledge on things like 4 * 2,75.
If the test is purely about multiplying small numbers and the other kid don't know multiply, maybe.
If the test is designed to test understanding, then the kid with deep understanding will win.
By your definition, multiplying kid is faster at multiplying, but don't really know what he is doing outside of memorized situation. And at other is better at everything else.
How do you have a "deep understanding of the material" without committing any of it to memory?
Would it be better if memorisation could be achieved through distributed practice, vocabulary learned through reading and listening, spaced repetition achieved through well written textbooks, curriculum, mentorship, etc? Absolutely, but these factors aren't always a given and often are often outside of one's own control. If failing to keep good Anki hygiene is considered in the ROI calculations, these issues should be included to.
Maybe your textbooks just don't distribute problems well enough, the curriculum changes drastically such that what you've just learned isn't touched on again before you forget it, or maybe you just don't have the time or material to consistently practice foreign languages for 1-2 hours a day. In these cases, the 10-20 minutes spent reviewing cards serves as a useful crutch in preventing that information being forgotten entirely, which undoes all the time spent trying to learn it in the first place.
I find that Anki, by showing up the cards at certain (optimised) intervals, delivers distributed practice. Out of the efficient learning methods as evaluated by this paper: "Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology"  (scroll to Table 4 for results) Anki delivers both distributed practice and practice testing in a very natural way.
If you have 20 minutes a day to use anki for memorization in foreign language, then you have 20 minutes a day to consume foreign language media. You just swap activity. You do not need perfectly designed media for that, you need any media slightly harder than your level. Internet has them.
That is exactly setup where anki makes less sense.
Anki makes great sense when you have a lot of time for that foreign language activity and are spending portion of it in anki vocabulary.You do it in addition to other activities.
> of pure rote memorization
I wouldn't describe my use of Anki as "rote memorization". Though certainly some people use it that way. There is a big difference between blindly putting raw and unfamiliar facts into an SRS, and using an SRS to remember things you have learned and understand. It's the second case that pays large dividends over time.
There is uh, a reason the program's name is almost literally "blind memorization". The connotations are not quite as negative as the phrasing sounds in English, buut the meaning is not a coincidence.
Anki certainly is rote memorization. SRS is just the most efficient way to successfully do it.