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Anki – a program which makes remembering things easy (ankisrs.net)
398 points by sonabinu on Dec 13, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 210 comments

A friend and I decided to build an Anki replacement a few years ago, it's now located at https://www.memorangapp.com and has a loyal following of 10s of thousands of users. Anki is a great tool and has a wide variety of content on Ankiweb, however the ecosystem doesn't allow for any collaboration or the ability to keep content up to date (aside from manually editing decks, but where for example can you suggest a correction?).

Memorang was designed from the ground up to be the next generation adaptive learning platform. In fact many hard-core Anki users have switched over to our platform and love it! The main difference is in the ease of use of both creating and consuming content. Anki has the underpinnings of supermemo, which is designed for the ideal learner. In a couple of experiments that we've done partnered with large institutions, one still underway, we have shown that most students are not "ideal learners" in that most still cram right before big exams or deadlines. The original study focused on efficacy, you can find the slides we did for an NSF sponsored presentation here http://www.slideshare.net/gjcourt/memorang-nsf-mooc-2014. The latest study is still in the works, but will involve significantly more data.

Anki is a fantastic program and many people love and use it everyday. If you have loved and used Anki as much as we have, then give Memorang a try and see what you think! (or come help us improve the future of learning https://www.memorangapp.com/jobs)

Edit: Read about our data-model here http://blog.memorangapp.com/post/108094496626/tags-more-how-...

"A friend" reporting in...

While many people may love Anki, you can count me out. I used it extensively during my first 2 years of medical school along with trying physical cards, Quizlet, and even my own custom batch files and macros. I think that it works for a very particular use case, and you need to fully commit to it to get the intended benefits.

My personal belief is that an "adaptive" learning system doesn't just adapt to the spacing effect, but to your study habits, emotional state, learning style, and even the global activity linked to certain concepts. (e.g. If you have a centralized API, you can track which facts learners struggle with and use the algorithms weight those facts for first-time learners). Learning isn't just meant to be something you do in isolation - there is a community aspect and there are endless things you can with a big data approach.

Our goal is to take spaced repetition and this new concept of meta-adaptivity and apply it to the masses, not just the hardcore users. Yeah, it sounds like a fancy vision but we're further along than you'd think. Would love to start a discussion on this and possibly get more manpower on making this a reality. (I dropped my career as a surgeon to make this happen, so we're all-in at this point).

A few references:

1. Dyrbye LN, Thomas MR, Shanafelt TD. Systematic review of depression, anxiety, and other indicators of psychological distress among U.S. and Canadian medical students. Acad Med. 2006 Apr;81(4):354-73. Review. PubMed PMID: 16565188.

2. Beard C, Clegg S, Smith K. Acknowledging the affective in higher education. BRIT EDUC RES J. 2007; 33(2): 235–252

3. Burleson W, Picard R. Affective Agents: Sustaining Motivation to Learn Through Failure and a State of “Stuck”. Social and Emotional Intelligence in Learning Environments Workshop in conjunction with the 7th International Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems, Maceio-Alagoas, Brasil. August 31, 2004. http://affect.media.mit.edu/pdfs/04.burleson-picard.pdf

4. Durlak JA, Weissberg RP, Dymnicki AB, Taylor RD, Schellinger KB. The impact of enhancing students' social and emotional learning: a meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Dev. 2011 Jan-Feb;82(1):405-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01564.x. PubMed PMID: 21291449.

After a career of being a chef with employees, I decided to return to school to learn how to write. There is one thing that struck me with the professors in college. While in the kitchen, if a cook made a mistake, the failure and responsibility fell on me whether I was a sous-chef or executive chef.

Earlier in my career I was a chef de partie in a two Michelin star restaurant with a team of 4 cooks under me. If a cook made a mistake, the chef didn't talk to him, the chef would literally scream at me. I asked one of the cooks who worked with the chef for many years why the chef was yelling at me instead of the cook and he said that I was responsible for everything that happens on my station.

Here is the striking contrast between learning in the real world and learning in a school. In the real world, the teacher is responsible for the failure of the person learning, while in the school the student is responsible of the failure to learn.

As a chef, I can break people's spirits day and night, I have a mouth like chef Ramsey and scars on my chin where I've been punched hard, but that doesn't serve me any purpose. People breaking emotionally happens a lot especially in kitchens. There is a reason there is a lot of drug use and alcohol abuse in restaurants.

If I opened a restaurant in the town I'm in now I would never find decent cooks. I would have to train them. Unlike a college professor I wouldn't succeed by giving out F's and pushing people to drop out. I'd have to know on a case by case basis how far I can push a person to learn; to know when to give a cook a hug and to know when to scream, "where the fuck do you think you work, McDonald's?"

Some people hear things like that and they change a behavior to end a chef being annoying while others see it as a threat to their employment. The same feedback is different with people. The ability to hire or fire someone gives an employer an enormous amount of power over that person.

Absolutely, adaptive learning must address the emotional state of the student. Not only does every student have a different rate of learning and different types of intelligence, for example, some people are much better with kinesthetic reasoning while other verbal reasoning, everybody has a different stress threshold before they break emotionally or give up.

This message really resonated with me. Thank you very much for sharing. One thing that we've really thought about is how to learn in the real world for subjects outside of school. I know this is a silly example, but check out this set: http://www.memorangapp.com/flashcards/20746/How+to+cook+the+...

We're working on a version of our platform where you could define need-to-know facts for your employees and then give them an engaging, adaptive way to learn. These data would be fed back to you and you could determine how to help your employees, or who is falling behind. Maybe even aspects of your "curriculum" for employee training that are insufficient.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

I'm going to approach this from a professional chef point of view. For the home cook there isn't much you can do. The way to get good at it is following Dave Grohl's advice to get good at playing the guitar or drums, suck at it for a long time.

After a while I forget what the exact temperatures are but I have them written down on an index card in my recipes folder.

In the restaurant, there are some things that need to be memorized. First and foremost is the menu, every new employee needs to memorize it and it is hard to do. I worked 3.5 years in a restaurant that changed the menu every Thursday night. Nobody had a clue what was going on until Wednesday the next week. The second thing is the wine list and which dishes go with each wine. For the bartenders, they need to memorize 100s of different drinks. Both the cooks and the wait staff need to memorize the ingredients as many customers are allergic to nuts, dairy, and shell fish. Who doesn't know that there is lobster in the paella?

A restaurant will have 30 - 40 recipes and memorizing them greatly increases the speed of the cooks, a lot. However, many restaurants consider these trade secrets and like the fashion industry a recipe can't be copyrighted. The restaurants I worked in never really kept the recipes a secret because few people had the skill to implement them correctly. That paella recipe isn't a big deal going back to what I said earlier that the most important thing was sucking at making it for a long time.

There is nothing clever or special about how you or other chefs treat and abuse your employees.

You seem to have successfully, in your mind, justified verbal abuse ("it's OK if they can handle it and I gave them a hug last week").... let's call that "enlightened bullying" verses straight up bullying.

The ability to put up with bullies in the workplace do not make a better chef (I would prefer to see a study if you disagree, not just hear about engrained culture). It selects for psychopaths, not good cooks. It's not the military, it's a kitchen.

I train people everyday. Failure for them to learn is my failure. But I never insult or belittle them in private or public. That achieves nothing.

Fair enough. You are correct. But, your comment is attacking me! Ah, that is the secret. I'm writing code now instead of cooking. Within the new group I have entered, Hacker News, there is level of propriety that I must conform to or my behavior will be corrected by the group. For example, in the old group, aggression was a necessity of survival. Now that my behavior is falling outside of appropriate, you are reprimanding me. We are completely anonymous but your word choice still makes me feel threatened. You are challenging me. If you challenge me further I might take a moment to find a psychology study which supports what I'm saying right now, there are a few. Which means if I want to continue to be in the in group, I will be required to adopt to a certain culture and cultural norms.

Nonetheless, are you training people who have graduated college? Because there is a very big difference between training someone with enough self disciple to get through college and training someone being paid $10 an hour who was just released from jail or partied with cocaine and escorts the night before. I never used drugs which made me an outsider in the restaurant industry. I strongly believe that a lot of the people I worked with sometimes needed a hug and sometimes needed someone to yell at them. And, definitely they needed someone who knew the difference.

I also strongly believe the reason they ended up with me screaming at them was a total failure of the educational system in the United States. You train people everyday. Unlike a college professor you also have financial incentive to be effective at it. They do not.

The point I was making is that learning including memorization and behavior correction which is a type of learning is more than just linear memorization and punctuated adaptive learning, that learning must include emotional and stress assessment and consideration of the power relationship between a teacher and student which isn't inherently bad.

You do understand that your comment is aggressive and you are correct which gives you the right to be aggressive? However, you would never outright challenge your boss like that. Aggression is appropriate in certain circumstances. There is something very powerful about the pigs in Angry Birds taunting the player when the player fails and when the birds cheer. The pigs taunting is very motivating pushing people to learn the spacial reasoning to get better at the game. Can you imagine how angry people would be if the Khan Academy used subtle taunts to motive kids like Angry Birds does? Critics will say we don't know if that motivates kids or not. I say let's do A/B testing. We will know in a week and I wouldn't be surprised if taunts from the pigs and, on the other side, to keep the emotions equal, supporting cheers from the birds strongly motivates children to learn. That is on topic. What is the psychology of motivation?

I think screaming at people and all sorts of other stuff (16-hour days?) is just an unfortunate reality of the restaurant business. It's not like your experience is unique. I feel like most of the problems could be resolved with more money - because the real problem is that every day there's some unpredictable crisis and you have to pull the resources to deal with it out of your ass. Service jobs are so hard because clients want cheap, high quality, fast service are there is tons of competition.

> "where the fuck do you think you work, McDonald's?"

I'm stating the obvious here, but verbal abuse is not ok in a professional setting, never ever. There's nothing to justify it, not even "success" (a better cooked meal, more revenues coming in for the company etc).

>There's nothing to justify it, not even "success" (a better cooked meal, more revenues coming in for the company etc).

Not even winning a war, saving a child from a burning building or eliminating behavior that kills surgery patients? Is nothing as important as a bruised ego?

How do you define verbal abuse? We all have different codes of morality. Is manipulating your employees verbal abuse to you? Is lying or placating things verbal abuse to you? What about going behind your back and telling another employee to talk to you instead of telling you face to face? Is that verbal abuse? Well it is to me. Whereas, I could care less if someone said "Where the fuck do you think you work, McDonald's?" I am extremely offended by the other examples. I think they are never ok in a professional setting, "never ever". Not even justified by success, revenue, or majority vote. Please realize that your morale code is not the only morale code, that your way of communicating, is not everyone's way of communicating. Trying to say that your rules, that your methods, are the ones that everyone needs to follow is childish.

I get where you're coming from, but am torn about agreeing. The problem is that your argument can be used, exactly as you made it, to defend physical abuse too -- or anything at all. Either you don't believe in any universal human rights (in which case your argument is perfectly consistent) or you do believe in some, and then your disagreement with the OP is just about where to draw the line (in which case accusing him of childishness for wanting to enforce rules of behavior seems hypocritical, since you do that too, just in different circumstances).

The argument I am supporting is that different things work for different people. So yes this applies to all human "rights". That said, if a population, say the state of Texas agrees that physical abuse in the workplace is wrong, then I think that it's perfectly reasonable for a rule to exist for that particular population.

The case that OP is making is that X is the only acceptable way to talk to people in the work place.

When it comes to violence, enough of us agree within our "populations" so to speak. When it comes to how people should communicate with their words, there is enough diversity to warrant freedom of choice. I think that it's important that OP be able to choose to not work in a place where their competency is questioned without regard to their feelings. However, it's completely unreasonable to tell everyone how their businesses should be ran, or how their bosses should talk to them. Not all of us enjoy being patronized, or are ok with being dishonest about how we really feel. Enough of us disagree on the best way to communicate in the workplace that there shouldn't be one right answer. OP presented their case without any regard for the other side, "never ever" as they put it. They didn't even consider the possibility that not all of us are so sensitive, that not all of us are helpless marshmallows squashed at the first f bomb, creamed by the first, second, or hundredth joke at our expense. That is the argument I'm making. Not that rules should not exist, but that rules need to address the fact that different things work for different people, and society cannot work if it is run under the assumption that what works for one person works for everyone.

> OP presented their case without any regard for the other side, "never ever" as they put it. They didn't even consider the possibility that not all of us are so sensitive, that not all of us are helpless marshmallows squashed at the first f bomb, creamed by the first, second, or hundredth joke at our expense. That is the argument I'm making. Not that rules should not exist, but that rules need to address the fact that different things work for different people, and society cannot work if it is run under the assumption that what works for one person works for everyone. reply

Fair enough, some people like a culture with directness, swearing, etc. Fwiw, though, you come across as equally sensitive and marshmallow-like as the OP, it's just that your point of sensitivity is the idea of people ever talking behind your back, while for example I accept (and expect) that as the natural behavior of nearly all humans. If you're cool applying your logic to that, too, and just choose to opt out of being around people who aren't direct, then that's fair.

> it's just that your point of sensitivity is the idea of people ever talking behind your back

Exactly, everyone has their own values. I value honesty. OP values dishonesty.

Though you haven't yet been called out for it, in your posts you repeatedly create a false dichotomy: either the boss is honest and must say "fuck you, you are a stupid fucking chef" or the only other choice is to be dishonest and patronise. That is not true. In this post, I am providing you direct feedback about how you are wrong, without calling you an idiot or saying something like "what the fuck do you think this is, reddit?" despite your basic errors in argumentation. Speaking these words would not be verbal abuse.

I'm pretty sure verbal abuse has a specific definition (not related to morality), and is not the same thing as "offensive to me", so you can't just redefine it as you did above.

It's a range. The exaggerations are there to make you think about things differently. One man's answer to "verbal abuse" is another man's "patronizing dishonesty". You've taken my hyperbole too literally. Statements like, "I value honesty. OP values dishonesty." are meant as a playful jest to make you question the value of honesty in modern society. There is no one going out and complaining that patronizing employees is morally wrong, because the vocal majority on the matter does not represent these people. There is no voice in defense of brutal sincerity. The point of all of this is simply to shed light on different values as was stated in my original post. My thesis does not revolve around the existence of a dichotomy, it revolves around the fact there is more than just the one set of values.

The other things you described do not fit the definition of verbal abuse. Verbal abuse is negative statements directly to a person.

Your post is defending verbal abuse, which might be a legitimate argument you could make. However, don't pretend what you do to people is not verbal abuse with some mental gymnastics to convince yourself that someone talking to HR behind your back about a problem is what real verbal abuse is.

Since when does verbal abuse need to be made directly at a person? And don't make assumptions like "someone" talking to "HR". I'm specifically referring to situations where my boss talked shit to other employees who held the same position as myself. Negative statements? What is negative to you? Because I don't feel disrespected by some curse words or jokes. I feel disrespected when people are dishonest with me. Or when they talk shit behind my back.

I think I'd prefer it over office politics, though: it doesn't happen behind your back. (Not that that's a choice anyone has to make.)

They are not exclusive, you get both verbally abused and office politics. Being open is not the same thing as being abusive.

I agree with this, but in some professions this is a very established way of doing things with a long history that's been passed down from mentor to students for a long time. If you refuse to work in these types of situations then you had better not try to still work in that profession.

The "real world" requires "learning" to be so intense and abusive that it routinely pushes people to mental health crises, drug abuse, and violence?

If a professor abused his students in this way, they would rightly be fired.

This looks great! I would totally shell out money for a premium card set - if only my professional area was represented.

Could you please create a mailing list for different professions/subject areas so potential customers could be alerted when relevant premium study sets are released?

For example, have a sign up list for people interested in accounting, one for law, one for technology exams etc. I would totally give you guys my email address so I can be alerted when relevant expert card sets are released.

As it is, I'll probably just forget about memorang.

> Could you please create a mailing list for different professions/subject areas so potential customers could be alerted when relevant premium study sets are released?

That is a fantastic idea, thank you so much! We can definitely create a few mailing lists and I'd be happy to keep you all in the loop. We currently have 10 new subjects in development and are scaling to release at a rate of (ideally) 3-4 per month by next summer. We hired a director of content specifically to recruit teams of experts and to oversee this creation process more fluidly. I'm going to set this up ASAP.

Send your email to feedback@memorangapp.com and your intended subject. It's possible one of our next releases will be appropriate for you.

> an "adaptive" learning system doesn't just adapt to the spacing effect, but to your study habits, emotional state, learning style, and even the global activity linked to certain concepts

That's interesting, how do you assess the marginal benefit of extra adaptation beyond the spacing effect? My understanding is that the spacing big is pretty big to begin with, compared to a blunt read and re-read approach. How better can it be with personal adaptation? Do you improve memorization time by 10%, 100%, more?

I can't answer with an exact number until we can do sufficient prospective studies, but I can share some data: We have done some studies where two students were already using Anki and were failing or in the danger zone of failing. After being introduced to Memorang for 6-8 weeks, they all increased their scores by a national standard deviation and had a 100% passing rate.

What does this mean? The students said that Anki didn't motivate them, and that study fatigue (Not the spacing effect) was the key differentiator. As a medical student I am very familiar with this, and so one of our main goals with Memorang is to keep people engaged in vivo, not just have an optimal algorithm should you religiously follow it to a T.

That's a very interesting point.

I love the stellar memory that Anki gives me but it's BORING. So so so BORING. It's the primary reason why I don't use it more often. I've been thinking about an alternative for some time, so it's nice to see that someone else is working on it.

I'm not actually too sure of what you're doing that's different though, and the slides you provided have been a bit vague.

Can you elaborate more on what exactly memorang does that keeps people "engaged in vivo"?

And how exactly does it "adapt to [..] study habits, emotional state, learning style, and even the global activity linked to certain concepts"?

>Can you elaborate more on what exactly memorang does that keeps people "engaged in vivo"

Between algorithm choices, learning modes, and other customization options there are dozens of ways you can learn the same material instead of simply flashcards like Anki.

For the other components, some of these are works in progress and others are already present. I would encourage you to learn a subject towards 100% and you'll see exactly what we mean. Part of the answer is gamification via scores and leaderboards, some is advanced study stats where you can compare your progress, gain insights into how you learn, and see how you stack against the global average. Another part of the answer is targeted feedback via the "tutor" which will introduce study tips and humor depending on your progress.

We also are launching a 2.0 version very early next year which will be a fruitful step in the right direction.

Overall, we have a pretty broad vision for what we think we can accomplish and are actively working towards getting there from a tech point of view (development) and via academic research with well known universities. The ultimate goal would be that you could just sit down, select what you need to know, and then be perfectly guided towards subject mastery in whatever way is most optimized for you as an individual.

Sorry, but while the product may or may not be good, every sentence that I read from you sounds like OMG HYPE.

"The ultimate goal would be to be perfectly guided to mastery"...? Yeah, and the ultimate goal of every NLP startup is to have 100% natural language understanding by the machine... but that doesn't mean that any of them can promise that in the foreseeable future, or that I won't laugh at them if they do.

"I would encourage you to learn a subject towards 100% and you'll see exactly what we mean."

That... is already what I do with Anki, or at least as reasonably close to 100% as possible under reasonable time constraints. It's patronising of you to assume that I don't, or to claim that your product is the only way to reach that.

Good luck with your startup.

> It's patronising of you to assume that I don't, or to claim that your product is the only way to reach that.

I'm pretty sure he is saying "use our product to learn a single subject to 100% and you will see what I mean".

Often it is hard to explain the benefits of a platform with a few quick comments on hn.

Yeah, I was a bit too negative with my feedback, on second reading you are right.

I see that you're angry, but I think it's because you misread my comment.

When I wrote "I encourage you to learn a subject towards 100% mastery and you'll see exactly what we mean" it was purely meant to encourage you to learn a small subject on Memorang to help answer your questions about the methods you inquired regarding interacting with the learning system. It wasn't, as you seem to believe, a statement that you couldn't learn via alternative methodologies.

You're right, I'm sorry to have assumed the worst! Looking back I definitely came across rather negative.

I will give it a go, the screenshots look quite nice.

Could it have been that your students were just bored with what they had been using? (i.e., not "anki" vs. "memorang", but "something I've used" vs "something new" effect?)

It's an interesting thought! Boredom can definitely lead to study fatigue, but the people in this example were medical students preparing for a high-stakes board exam at a top-10 institution. Boredom might be less of an issue at this level - it's more about efficiency and a tremendous feeling of stress and pressure. Indeed, several of these students who were in danger of failing were studying as much as 10-12 hours per day... essentially spinning their wheels in the mud.

That being said, combatting boredom is a really important thing to consider.

I've played a little with Memorang after reading this yesterday, but I'm struggling to understand what the difference in studying was before and after of Anki.

What was the reason Memorang changed for the students that Anki didn't provide? Better default flash cards? Gamification? Or multi-factors?

I've been using Anki for about a year, and I've read a lot about Anki burnout (missing a few days means I'm going to dedicate 2-3 hours on the weekend to catch up). I don't procrastinate this as much so this becomes less of a fear.

Thank you for the questions. I think it's likely multi-factorial and to be honest there are many features we haven't yet built that Anki has and are in our backlog... there's still much work to be done. It's likely some combination of expert content, multiple learning modes, gamification, friendly UI, and collaborative features. Give or take the importance of one or the other depending on the person. Some struggle with time management, others study fatigue, and others just don't like or trust user-generated content. For my own studying, I'm not a big fan of pure flashcards and prefer other methods of active recall.

This looks really interesting. How can I get in touch with you? (you can find contact details on my profile).

We're developing a learning platform for Anatomy, called Kenhub[0] and we've built our own quizzes with some aspects of spaced repetition already. We're looking at ways of taking it to the next level in terms of adaptability. We're also considering ways of re-purposing our original content to reach wider audience (we have thousands of our own anatomy illustrations and meta-data). Perhaps there's a way to collaborate with you?

[0] https://www.kenhub.com

Kenhub looks great. I recently completed the surgical primary exams in Australia, and before that knocked over a whole body dissection course.

I have some very different ideas about how anatomy could be ideally taught in some scenarios (which I am in the process of developing!) but certainly wish I had of had access to what looks to be an excellent resource you have developed.

It must have taken an age and a small fortune to get your own illustrations! would you ever consider a licensing deal?

It was/still is our largest investment so far, and probably our biggest asset. Not just illustrations, but we also produce our own videos, write articles and more... We do license our illustrations to institutions, individual instructors etc. And we're always looking for ways to collaborate with others in this space. Medical education is an interesting niche. Shoot me an email and let's chat and see? (email on my profile)

I've actually been following you guys for at least a year and think what you're doing is pretty cool. Memorang started out as a pure anatomy tool and we've been actively building our own curriculum, but as you know - producing the images takes a lot of time and having them NOW is a very attractive option.

You can email us at founders@memorangapp.com and it would be great to pick up the conversation!

Specifically for Medical vocabulary, I heard that MosaLingua recently released an app: http://www.mosalingua.com/applications-apprendre/medical-eng...

Is it open source? Can I store and access the data locally?

I have a very large Anki deck that I've spent years building and curating, I'm not interested in surrendering all that labor to a closed ecosystem that may or may not be around in the future....

We're not an open source tool so unfortunately no. I should say that we reached profitability only a few months after launch and our team has experience in 4 other startups before this one (if that helps in gaining your vote of confidence).

I would love to have you be a member, email me and we can work something out.

Do you offer data export? I have similar concerns as cle, and am currently satisfied with anki, but am always interested in doing better.

On a different note, from reading through these comments it sounds kind of like you guys are specifically focused on full time students and the unique problems they face trying implement anki. Does your service offer benefits to people who aren't and don't have the resulting new card review burden or need for cramming?

>Do you offer data export?

We have this at the admin level and plan on making this a user-accessible feature as soon as we can.

>Does your service offer benefits to people who aren't and don't have the resulting new card review burden or need for cramming?

It depends on your goal. In its current iteration, Memorang functions very well for mastering new concepts on a shorter-term scale (e.g. hours, days, or a semester). However, long-term retention on the order of years is something that we are working on a different implementation of. That will be a huge focus in the next semester after we finish shipping this 2.0 launch in January.

Cool, it's much easier to build a system into your routine when you can rely on having your data.

What kind of approach will you be taking to long term retention? Do you expect it will differ substantially from the existing srs approach?

We're starting with the assumption that learners will not be able to religiously follow a schedule. That means that whether you're cramming, checking in sporadically, or completing a daily queue - the algorithms should ideally adapt accordingly without making your "to do" list untenable. One component of this is determining whether your long-term retention is bounded to a specific timeframe (e.g. learn content X by future date Y) or unbounded (lifelong learning).

What we're borrowing is the concept of memory decay, but I don't think there are many similarities beyond that. Imagine learning spanish in college: you could set a goal for your final exam but also have a lifelong learning goal. Whether you're following your schedule or cramming, your answer events will communicate with the intersecting algorithms so that you're being optimized for several different use cases simultaneously. When we launch the "goal setting" feature, gjcourt may write a blog post about it and post it to HN...

One of the things I realized after using Anki for a while is that school education isn't really even designed for retention - it seems built for cramming and forgetting.

I'm just concluding that off of basic scale. After using Anki for a couple of coursera courses and being overwhelmed with cards for months until it calmed down, I realized there was no way I would have been able to keep up with retaining all learned knowledge in college, several classes per semester. The Anki review burden just would have been too great.

What you're describing is exactly in line with what I've experienced anecdotally and what we've seen in our studies and retrospective analysis of tens of millions of questions answered.

I think the problem with Anki can be distilled down to root assumptions it makes about how people should ideally learn and how to model what is forgotten over time. In studying for a course there are basically three strategies: (1) cram at the end (2) study reasonably throughout the whole course (3) try to keep re-learning the course indefinitely.

We've thought long and hard about how we can cater to these different styles and think we've done a good job with a hybrid of #1 and 2. What would make more sense is something coming early next year as an option feature, which is inputting the date of the final exam of your course and then periodically adding in flashcards to a growing playlist that optimizes retention for the day of your exam. After you finish, you don't necessarily have to continue, but you could set a longer-retention date. An example of this would be that you have weekly quizzes and a final exam, and the algorithm could adjust the date for each quiz while balancing the overall arc towards the final.

That's interesting... my original comment wasn't actually meant as a criticism against Anki itself, more a criticism against college schedules. And that's because I was taking as gospel that the Anki/SuperMemo style of algorithm is basically what you need for long-term retention.

It sounds like you're not so much challenging that as you are offering more flexibility and control over what and when you'd like to retain?

(I wonder what college degree programs would look like if they actually were structured in a way to better reinforce long-term retention.)

It probably depends on what you study, but I feel most professors realize this. It's why open book exams and take home exams exist, and why you're graded not just on exams but also on assignments.

Nothing wrong with just using Anki for things that you, personally, feel you'd like to remember.

This was never my experience using Anki. I wrote a markup language that compiled to Anki cards in college because manually making cards was too tedious, and it was never "overwhelming." The exponential backoff means you rarely see cards after you first learn them.

You also learn to be smarter about what you actually Ankify -- this isn't something you think about, because the best way to succeed in a cram model is to spend a few extra minutes that one time on something that might not be on the test, but it might be. With Anki, you can focus on actually learning the core material and cultivating a deep understanding.

Another thing I would do is just delete cards that weren't interesting to me after the course was over. There are some things I want to remember forever, and there are some things that aren't worth it.

It also helps to use the mobile app to review a few cards whenever you get the chance throughout the day rather than batching them all up. This is better for remembering them as well. This also fits very nicely with pomodoro-style working.

Do you have some API or in-app functionality to import/export data e.g. to upload, backup or analyze card decks I create?

You do really address the issues that prevent me from using Anki, and I'd be happy to pay for it once you do have that API.

We do have a fully-featured API, in fact our mobile apps are built on top of the same API as the website. At the present it's not documented, this will be happening as fast as we can work on it. We're a small 3 person company so things like documentation take a back seat sometimes. If you're handy with a browser console you should be able to poke around, pm me if you want an API key :-)

The site itself is free, and you can print material that you create. We only charge for premium content which is material that we've specifically created for exams and is guaranteed to be high quality and accurate.

We allow for imports from top flashcard programs including Anki, however Anki files tend to be large so for the time being there is a 10MB (I think) cap on the size of an Anki deck you can upload. I can do it manually for larger decks if you pm me. Export is something we don't support at the present, but will probably get built at some point in the future.

Thanks for the reply. Added "try memorang" to my to-do.

I imagine three use cases for myself in the nearest future:

* Learn some new foreign language,

* Upload and study a bunch of book quotes that I'd like to always keep in memory, and

* Create a card deck for the course I'm teaching.

Hope to get to it soon.

Awesome! I personally use our platform for things like expanding my multiplication table chops (out to 20) or learning about cooking temperatures http://www.memorangapp.com/flashcards/16309/Roast+-+Steak+Co...

Happy to help you design something for your coursework, we are actively looking to build an educator service allowing you to share course materials with students. Stay tuned for updates on this in the near future.

When you guys have some api documentation I'd love to hear about it. I find myself relying more and more on 'life automation', dashboards and reminders that help to measure, as well as encourage productivity from work, to exercise, to independent study. The ability to tie in personal metrics as well as random samples of card sets would make the difference between binge using an app like memorang or light continuous use; integrated in day to day life.

Sounds good. We'll probably make a post in our blog (http://blog.memorangapp.com) so stay tuned. To that note, each individual study set has some decent metrics on where you stand in relation to everyone studying the same thing as well as general performance/improvement, it's not perfect but it's a start. Check it out for one of our most popular sets https://www.memorangapp.com/flashcards/117/Exotic+Cats+%28ex... click on the "Study stats" tab and you'll see. This is all data we want to make available over the API.

That sounds interesting, what sort of dashboards do you use? I've been toying with the idea of building something like that.

How can I browse the different sorts of things I can learn? The different flash card packs available.

I don't see it on your site or on Anki's.

You have a few quick options for content:

1. When you sign up, the dashboard guides you through picking subjects.

2. You can search for what others have made: https://www.memorangapp.com/find

3. You can create your own decks, or import from Quizlet, Excel, Anki, Cram, and StudyBlue with one click: https://www.memorangapp.com/create

4. You can purchase expert-authored content on our premium marketplace: https://www.memorangapp.com/premium

Anki's shared decks can be browsed here: https://ankiweb.net/shared/decks/

But I have to share all of my flashcards with you? Not gonna happen.

We allow for private content, but that's a premium feature since it's against the ethos of our platform.

Privacy is against the ethos of your platform? I think that's about all that needs to be said.

It's not that we don't support or respect privacy, but that everything we do is to foster a positive environment of collaboration to minimize content creation redundancy and build morale.

You can choose to remove yourself from that community ecosystem, but it's not exactly our ethos or why we started on this endeavor.

You're attempting to own the user's learning experience. Rather than attempting to build something which puts the user first, your product puts you, the owners, first. And when you say words that don't mean anything like, "it's not that we don't support or respect privacy" when you just made it very clear that you do not, it just insults the people who were listening and trying to give you the benefit of the doubt in the first place. You should have just owned up to the fact that you do not believe in user privacy rather than try to patronize those who are taking the time to read your posts.

> Rather than attempting to build something which puts the user first, your product puts you, the owners, first.

Actually, it sounds like he is trying to put the community and the product first.

A collaborative learning system works so much better with forced sharing.

The hardest and most time consuming part of using standard SRS software is building your deck.

A collaborative system helps share this load across all users.

If you want privacy choose a different product. For example I don't use GitHub for my projects because I don't want to share them.

>The hardest and most time consuming part of using standard SRS software is building your deck.

This is because that's the initial learning phase. You can't just download a spaced repetition deck and run it though any program and learn it in any meaningful sense. The cards I need to create to learn a concept will be totally different than the cards you create and so on.

Connecting your cards to the relevant nodes in your personal semantic network isn't just the most effective way to learn, it's the only way human brains encode information. If you're not doing this purposefully, you're just trying to glue someone else's relevant retrieval cues into your own semantic network.

There are other ways the comment parent's site could avoid this, but inevitably in my experience this leads to FALSE learning, where you have very sparse retrieval cues, basically limited to what you see on the screen in the learning app. This gives you a feeling of progress, because you really can recall the information in the app, but very little practical use.

> This is because that's the initial learning phase.

> The cards I need to create to learn a concept will be totally different than the cards you create and so on.

I don't use SRS software to learn a concept. I use it to remember concepts I already know. As such creating the cards is just tedium.

For example, I used to do a lot of 3-6 month contracts, and one contract might be all backend Java, and then the next might be all Javascript, and then the third might be in Rails + Javascript.

SRS software allowed me to stay "fresh", at an advanced level, on around 6-8 languages and platforms despite not using them for long periods of time.

Ugh. s/learn/remember/ for your use case then. The cards you need to remember a concept will be totally different than the cards I need to remember a concept and so on. Creating the cards isn't "tedium", it's reinforcing the concepts you decide you need to be reinforced while presumably not things that you definitely know and will never forget because you initially overlearned (this is a technical term) them.

> Ugh. s/learn/remember/ for your use case then.

Learning and remembering are very different processes.

I've had great success sharing cards and decks and haven't found my own cards any more valuable than the cards I've gotten from friends.

I think it's disingenuous because my point is the same.

If you haven't found your own cards more valuable than cards other people made, you're making cards wrong, and could be remembering them MUCH easier.

How do I learn to create cards the right way?

The way you remember is you take your recall context, extract all the recall cues, and associate out from those concepts until you hit the target memory. Obviously this is a gross oversimplification, but it's basically a graph breadth first search. To make things easy to remember, you have to link them to as many other nodes as possible, and you have to link them to nodes that are strongly linked to the rest of your semantic network.

So, the best cards you can make are cards that refer to concepts, internal to you, that are highly associated. What I try to do is encapsulate the statement that originally made me understand the idea, which is usually a metaphor or analogy for another concept I've deeply overlearned. Then I make a few other cards that elaborate on the concept to get away from the metaphorical link and into the specifics.

See also: https://www.supermemo.com/articles/20rules.htm . The rules that are related to what I describe here are 11-14. This is written by the godfather of spaced repetition.

Thank you for sharing this before. I had seen it before but rather ironically forgotten what it was called and where to find it! :) This time I remembered to bookmark it.

I'm also going to lend my opinion: I agree entirely. If you don't find your own flashcards better than other people's flashcards, you aren't making the right connections or you aren't using mnemonics to aid learning. Personal ones work better a supermajority of the time (unless someone has a particularly clever mnemonic that resonates well with you)

How do you feel about github charging money for private code hosting but not charging for hosting open-source code?

What is your opinion on FOSS?

My concern is systems (software or otherwise) that do not treat the user as an equal or a superior. Systems that do not follow the goldern rule: "treat others how you want to be treated." Being able to read the source code is great, but that doesn't have anything to do with whether the system is going to resepect and serve its users.

> Systems that do not follow the goldern rule: "treat others how you want to be treated"

This is a good first-approximation to an ethical system, but ultimately fails in many areas of the real world. I would prefer that the systems that provide me with food do so without demanding that I pay them money, but that is in direct conflict with the need to pay people to do the work to create and maintain that system.

I would prefer that there exists a system where I can store flashcards for studying various things and that that system not charge me money. That is in conflict with the need to pay people to create and maintain that system. One way to resolve that conflict is to only require payment for some features of the system.

You are misrepresenting my thesis by saying that respect and equality would mean that the user expects charity. It's about how you would expect and want to be treated if you were a user of the system. A company that provides you with food isn't necessarily trying to own your eating experience. A company that provides you with physical flash cards isn't trying to own your learning experience. It's very clear from their business model that they are not trying to sell a product that enables and empowers people to learn better and easier, but instead are seeking to own the learning experience of the user by giving away the tools for free. These are completely different models, so comparing their model to giving away free food is an unfair representation.

Additionally, do not give them credit for providing a paid privacy system. Their paid privacy system is not private. The admins still have access. Other companies have shown that they are able to share and sell this information with impunity. The past has also proven that these companies have no responsibility to adequately protect this data from attackers.

The owner presented their product as a better Anki. Anki is a product that you download. You are the only person who has access to the flash cards you create. You own and control your own creations. This is not a better version of Anki if you are forced to give away control of your own content so that others may profit off of it.

The business model here is not to sell you a better wrench, but to give you a better wrench in exchange for everything you create with it.

I could be ok with this, if the author was just honest about it. But instead the author is adamant that they are just selling you a better wrench. So because the creators are clearly not interested in being straight forward, because they use double-talk to try to placate people and hide their true business model, fuck them. And fuck anyone who's going to treat their users in ways they would never treat themselves.

Sorry that was so long. I appreciate you taking the time to read my previous rant and type up a response. I would love to continue this discussion.

edit: you are the same person who brought up the github argument. My argument there is that git can be used completely independently of github. In this case, github completely owns and controls the use of git. "They own the wrench".

Ah. Now I see the distinction you are drawing.

Sounds great, got a link to the repo?

It's a private codebase at this time. If you'd like to contribute, we're hiring full-time software engineers. (Python back-end).


I just wanted to see a demo of the app...spent about 3 minutes browsing around. Couldn't find a way to just see a demo without signing up.

You don't need to be logged in to use the website. Here is an example of something simple: http://www.memorangapp.com/flashcards/44604/Exotic+cats/Anim...

You can also click the search bar in the top left and go through the user-generated database. I believe there are about 5 million flashcards there currently.

What anki offers that memorang doesn't is a number of things:

* Thousands of free decks

* An open ecosystem

* Source code

* Doesn't spam your email

* Isn't just a straightforward monetisation of anki's general premise

I could see some value being produced from this, but it just isn't there right now.

I'm not sure what you are angry about, but please let me try and clarify a few things:

>A better app that doesn't crash as much

Working on it. Worth noting that it's free to download.

>Thousands of free decks

Memorang has about 5 million free flashcards currently as part of the crowdsourced ecosystem. You can get content in 4 ways: creating, importing, searching, and purchasing. You can import from Quizlet, Excel, Anki, StudyBlue, and Cram, or collaborate in groups on common topics.

>An open ecosystem

While I think we could do a better job with content discovery, the collaboration tools on Memorang do not exist on Anki. If you wanted to work together on an Anki deck, it would have to be with some combination of dropbox or git. My opinion is that Anki is pretty antisocial.

>Source code

I think HN readers know more than anyone that there's nothing wrong with not open sourcing your company's code. Developers need to eat too. That being said, we are open to making our API publicly available to build learning applications on top of.

>Doesn't spam your email

I welcome your suggestions regarding email and onboarding. Currently we send a welcome email and account verification. Over the course of 1-2 weeks we give short snippets of how to use certain learning modes on the platform. You can unsubscribe from emails at any time via the unsubscribe link or via your account settings.

>Isn't an obvious monetisation of anki's general premise

It's worth pointing out that the creator of Anki has made tens of millions of dollars off of charging for downloads. I'm not sure what "premise" you are referring to - but ours is that the core learning application should be free and not a paid download.

>How anyone thinks that paywalling a bunch of flashcards is a good idea (when anki offers them free) is beyond me

Crowdsourced content is free on both Anki and Memorang, so I think you may have missed that the "paywalled" flashcards are actually an optional upgrade. As a bit of background, we've spent thousands of dollars on content creation and are committed to continuously upgrading and maintaining that content. For example, our USMLE Step 1 and MCAT content are one-time purchases for lifetime access and we maintain updates to stay current with the latest medical information at no extra charge. Users are happy to pay for that level of trust and security.

I hope the above information helps you better understand what we are doing.

What do you guys think of Knewton (The gorilla in adaptive learning)? They claim to be super adaptive but it is hard to tell. I used their product and was not super impressed with the adaptivity.

Don't have strong opinions one way or the other on Knewton. That being said, I generally feel that enterprise software where you sell to institutions and publishers is fundamentally disconnected from software that's targeted at the users directly.

I would greatly prefer to hear students raving about a learning product rather than their instructors. In your case you seem to be a bit underwhelmed by what they offer.

Very good work. I am extremely happy for you! I have no clue why some people expect this all to be either open source or free. I have personally invested a lot of money on building an adaptive learning tool (and two years of salary losses). We are not yet live, but when we are, I hope to have some revenue model as well.

Thank you, it really means a lot since we've been working on this for over 3 years now (finally hiring employees this past month!). I wish the best of success to you too.

In reference to people wanting freebies - that's just human behavior. If they see sufficient value in a product (e.g. iPhones), then they will happily pay for it.

Totally agree, spaced repetion has its role but has huge limitations. The limit of most programs is that it has you learn in a unidirectional manner, so very few memory pathways are formed and they are easily lost/degraded with time. As an post states, the flashcards didn't stay, but the characters you learned while in Japan stuck. I submit that part of that is that this material was presented to you in several ways (signs, books, TV, etc), rather than just flipping a card over and over. I've started using Memorang instead of anki, as it allows me to retain information in the long term, as it has multiple ways to approach/learn the same info. Add the fact that it's free to generate your own content which is perfect for me (speaking as a medical stuff with thousands of facts to not only memorize but apply)

"The limit of most programs is that it has you learn in a unidirectional manner" What does that even MEAN!?

"I've started using Memorang instead of anki, as it allows me to retain information in the long term as it has multiple ways to approach/learn the same info." Anki allows you to memorise things in the long term too.

"Add the fact that it's free to generate your own content which is perfect for me" ... what? Any SRS method allows you to generate your own content.

No offence, but seeing as you registered just to say all of that, you sound like a shill.

Awesome! Love to hear positive feedback :-)

I used Anki for 30 minutes to an hour each day for about a year to memorise around 1500 Japanese characters and their readings, with the aid of a mnemonic technique. So long as you have an hour a day to dedicate to the flashcards without fail, you will retain the memorised information.

My problem was that a job and location change altered my daily routine entirely, so I stopped reviewing the cards. One year later, I have forgotten most of the characters I knew. However, the characters I learned while living in Japan, in context, are still fresh in my mind.

I think that spaced repetition isn't the memory panacea it's always touted to be. It's a great tool for cramming, but soon becomes a pain when you have hundreds of cards to review every day. I've heard good things about the goldlist method, a much more low-tech pen and paper approach. Does anyone have any experience with this technique? It claims to be better for long-term memory: http://huliganov.tv/goldlist-eu/

SRS is best used to reinforce things you learned outside the flashcard environment. So put things into Anki that you have some real-world context to anchor that memory to, and use Anki to reinforce that memory, not to create new memories that lack any vivid context in your mind outside of the drab flashcard app window where you first discovered the term in isolation. Ideally you're consuming native media, talking with natives, etc. and drawing from that to create your flashcards, since you'll come across a lot of terms that you learn once and then have otherwise forgotten by the time you see them again in the wild; this is where SRS helps.

I make software to help language learners generate flashcards for SRS while reading or watching videos: http://readlang.com

It works as a browser extension for reading web-pages or you can upload texts and whole novels to read via the web-app. You can then click-to-translate words and phrases that you don't understand, and it generates cloze flashcards for use in it's own flashcards, or for export to apps like Anki.

Would love to hear feedback from anyone who tries it!

I glanced over the site, and was really taken by the simplicity of the approach! I've used Aki in the past, but resorted to scraping the sites I was learning from to create flash cards. This looks like it really takes the pain out of putting material in.

As a memory researcher, I'd love to see a good example of how you (or someone else) implemented readlang to learn a language. The site seems good at conveying how readlang can get flashcards cooking, but it would be interesting to hear how it was used as part of someone's language learning process (the big picture). I saw on the about page that you used it to learn Spanish, and there are a bunch of posts on the site, so it may be there and I missed it.

I'll definitely look more into it later this evening, but a few questions/thoughts I had were..

1. is there a good way to programmatically pull out flash card information (as say a JSON object)? Is the export to Anki as a csv/tsv?

2. How fleshed out is support for Chinese? What should I expect from it being in beta?

3. I was intrigued by the video player functionality, clicked the "Find something to watch now" on the features page. Clicked blindly. Arrived on a page of text in Spanish. Backed up. Realized that it was a mix of text articles and video articles. Scrolled down to a video article. Was very impressed with the player, but thought with a little less patience I may have missed it. This seems like an incredible feature (similar to fluentU's approach), and one that the link should take people to with as little friction as possible!

Sorry if any of this should have been clear from a more thorough read. I didn't have a lot of time to look, and was really impressed, so thought I would fire off my impressions before giving it a more thorough look :).

Thanks for the feedback!

I agree it would be nice to include examples of how Readlang fits into a different people's language learning process. Here are a couple of articles I found online:

- http://www.languagesurfer.com/2015/01/14/readlang-review-six...

- http://www.alexstrick.com/blog/2015/9/surviving-middlebury-h...

To answer your questions...

| 1. is there a good way to programmatically pull out flash card information (as say a JSON object)? Is the export to Anki as a csv/tsv?

Export is by CSV (or you can specify your chosen delimiter) and you can choose from a number of different fields. You can't export data from the spaced repetition algorithm since I felt it would make the UI confusing. But you can access this data via the API: https://github.com/SteveRidout/readlang-api

| 2. How fleshed out is support for Chinese? What should I expect from it being in beta?

Chinese, Japanese, and Thai aren't that well supported at the moment. The main omissions are:

- Lack of "word" boundary detection (these languages don't use spaces to separate words) - Lack of Pinyin translations - Lack of word frequency lists to prioritize flashcards by usefulness.

| 3. I was intrigued by the video player functionality, clicked the "Find something to watch now" on the features page. Clicked blindly. Arrived on a page of text in Spanish. Backed up. Realized that it was a mix of text articles and video articles. Scrolled down to a video article. Was very impressed with the player, but thought with a little less patience I may have missed it. This seems like an incredible feature (similar to fluentU's approach), and one that the link should take people to with as little friction as possible!

Thanks, glad you like it! I agree these should be more discoverable. BTW: These videos are all added, sync'd, and shared by Readlang users using the web-app, here's a short guide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szcvArpfxWI

Word boundary detection in Thai is indeed a thorny problem.

With Chinese, though, it should be simple. Just allow users to make flashcards of any number of contiguous characters. Unbound morphemes aren't something you need to worry about and even a single character part of a larger word could reasonably be a vocabulary item.

That is exactly how it works now - users drag to select a sequence of contiguous characters. I haven't tried learning Chinese myself so I don't have a good handle on how pleasant this is to use.

Chinese traditionally had no bound morphemes and even now tends not to. I think dragging a sequence of contiguous characters should be good. Most words are two characters, but some are one, three or four. Many four word characters contain words within them.

This system should work.

I love it! I was looking for something exactly like this a while ago but I didn't find your site.

I'm especially impressed by the accuracy of contextual translations. I've just done a few simple texts, but it always provided the correct translation in context even for words with several meanings. How does this work?

It's simpler than you think. It uses Google Translate to translate the word or phrase you select and the context isn't used. This works surprisingly well most of the time. Of course it does fall down, and can be confusing beginners who don't have a good grasp of the basic grammar. For intermediate and advanced users who just need the occasional gap filled it it's great, and they can usually tell when the translation isn't correct and either expand the phrase to add more context, or make use of the additional sidebar dictionary: https://readlang.uservoice.com/knowledgebase/articles/279539...

Asks for premium before I really tried.

True, this can appear very quickly for users who translate a lot of phrases.

You get unlimited single word translations and flashcards for free, so the free plan is actually very usable. But if you want to translate more than 10 multi-word phrases / day, you need to upgrade to premium.

I think you're absolutely right there: constant immersion is needed to provide the context for learning. My mistake was that I wasn't reading enough Japanese to make use of the memorised characters from Anki, so they were quickly forgotten.

There still remains the problem of review card creep, though. After adding about 5 new cards a day for a year and reviewing them every day, I ended up having to review hundreds of cards a day. Your suggestion might fix this too, though, now I think about it. If I'm using the memorised information outside of Anki (by reading Japanese articles, etc), I'll remember them better, leading to less reviews of those cards in the future.

For me SRS worked splendid inside the flashcard environment so far. I'm pretty solid on 500 japanese characters now, but I also learn related words of the characters simultaneously.

> soon becomes a pain when you have hundreds of cards to review every day

If you have hundreds to review each day then you've gone nuts adding new items too fast. I know, because I've done exactly that and have seen tons of other people make the same mistake. Adding something like 5-10 new items per day (max) keeps things manageable in the long run. I would suggest that if you're spending more than 10-15 minutes in review that you stop adding new items until your review is under control.

Another problem I've had that seems in common with others is that using SRS is somewhat addictive, feels productive, and gives you nice concrete numbers to gauge your "progress". Many people, like me, fall into the trap of spending more and more time doing SRS, displacing other parts of the curriculum.

> However, the characters I learned while living in Japan, in context, are still fresh in my mind.

So much this. I haven't lived abroad, but I listen to podcasts and other media in my target languages. Things that I've heard and looked up and then heard again multiple times are pretty much permanent now. However memory works, this seems to trigger "this is important and useful, don't lose it!"

For learning foreign languages, I found TPR (Total Physical Response)[1][2] to be very effective.

A great intro to it is an article called "Leave me alone! Can't you see I'm learning your language?"[3]

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_physical_response

[2] - http://www.tpr-world.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Catego...

[3] - http://wolofresources.org/language/letmealonech1ch2.htm

Thanks for the heads up, these look really interesting.

I'm learning Russian in my spare time, and have used the goldlist method to build vocabulary. The goldlist method is great, because 1) There's no cramming. Nothing is worse than cramming, and 2) you can have breaks as long as you want. I reached 2200 words the first year, while having many week long breaks. I kinda stopped the regular vocabulary building around 2014, but even after months of inactivity, I can easily pick up the goldlist and continue where I stopped.

If you're trying to figure out Goldlist and having a hard time, this video helped me understand the actual method much faster than reading the 22 step list.


I think you aren't supposed to start with hundreds of cards. Start with 10, once their frequency drops to once/week or less, add 10 more, repeat ad nauseum. Since the frequency of cards drops integrably, you'll always have a constant and manageable number of cards to review.

I was adding 5 new cards a day, which seems to be quite common amongst language learners. I figured the SRS algorithm would take care of giving me a manageable frequency.

I think part of the trick that's commonly overlooked is mixing the two approaches. Use SRS so that you remember the cards tomorrow and can use them in Japan.

I think this could also be partially solved by making better cards.

Interesting. Have you ever tried Heisig's remembering the Kanji method? I'm using that for the characters + skritter, and they're sticking fairly well. Though it's only the writing + keyword so far, no drawing.

I think Heisig says you will forget eventually though, and need to read some Japanese daily for life to retain them, ultimately.

I'm only using Anki to reinforce a Pimsleur course I'm doing, orally. I'm not sure that I'll use it for anything else, depends on the use case. I'm finding reviews pretty tedious.

Anki is still a great system, there are just limits to keep in mind.

Edit: The RTK method for Kanji involves making a story with the component elements of the character. So you use the power of imaginative memory to retain the characters.

I used the KanjiDamage method, which is similar to Heisig but available online: http://www.kanjidamage.com/. The advantage is that the mnemonics also help you remember the on-yomi for each character. It's not for everyone, though: the author has a filthy sense of humour! Personally, I found that made the mnemonics even more effective.

I've found that mnemonics really only help at the very beginning of learning. But once you even get to 100 things you need remember, a completely unrelated extra thing you have to remember on top of what you actually need to learn becomes too much.

For kanji, just remember the radical readings, and memorize vocabulary with the different readings of the kanji you're trying to learn. Knowing that 貢献 sort of kind of sounds like cocaine does nothing to help me remember that it means contribution. But knowing 献血 and 献金 help me memorize that けん is a reading of 献

That looks like a very clever method. With mine I'll have to learn the readings separately. But to be clear....that's what did not stick?

I think my failure was more due to me using Anki, then abandoning it rather than anything else. It's a really good system. I tried Heisig for a bit, but KanjiDamage worked a lot better for me. Perhaps if I'd have combined it with something like the goldlist method it would have worked better for me.

I've been working on an iOS app that tries to make learning vocabulary a little more fun (ie. feel less repetitive). At the moment, I only have simple games like Match, Concentration and Hangman, for example. The goal is create more complicated, and enjoyable games, so it's possible to fire up an app and play games that'll help you practice the most common words. You can see pics on my site: http://h4labs.com

DuoLingo is probably the best thing if you're starting from scratch but I feel like something is really missing to help people maintain what they've learned.

Well, the characters are useless by themselves. I made myself a deck that contains both kanji and the words made from these kanji [1]. This way I can learn how to read the characters within various words, although it would take much longer to learn all the kanji. I'm currently only up to the 4th grade level or so after many months of learning, but the ones I did learn, I feel like I know them pretty well and can easily read them in various contexts.

[1] https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/831167744

Not a brag, just a point: I learnt that many characters in a year too, without Anki. I also devoted an hour a day to learning.

My point is: devote an hour a day to any endeavor and you'll go far.

I find that link very frustrating. The writer just babbles on about this "method" but I can't find anywhere he concisely defines it. Well, spells it out clearly at any length -- I don't think "concise" is in his vocabulary.

It certainly isn't the solution to all problems. But it's good for getting a lot of words in a short time. Then you use and apply that knowledge and that is much easier after having a few hundreds words more in your repertoire.

That goldlist method is fantastic! Thank you for the link. Low tech is much closer to our bio than electronic flashcards.

>It's highly recommended that you install Anki from this package instead of relying on the version distributed with your OS, as the packages in the official repo are often very out of date.

Why is this still a problem in Linux-land? Why can't we just make some but not all packages rolling-release? Making Anki rolling-release won't make the distro unstable by any sensible meaning of the word.

>Why can't we just make some but not all packages rolling-release?

Does that include Anki's dependencies? And if it does, does it include all other packages that depend upon Anki's dependencies?

Also, does it include thousands of other packages similar to Anki that also "won't make the distro unstable by any sensible meaning of the word"?

Don't think you'll have a "just some rolling-release packages" distro by the end of that. Unless you think this specific package is somehow deserving of special treatment by Linux distributions (why?).

I think the trick for this is to embrace distros that allow for more aggressive installation and removal of packages, plus different versions of the same package to co-exist. Like NixOS or GuixSD. Then, one doesn't need to keep the whole package tree in sync.

If the new version of Anki needs a new version of a dependency, just install the new version alongside the old one. Whatever happened when I installed this deb may also be an option.

If handling this is a huge problem, why not have all the rolling-release programs include their own dependencies. Most of us have so much storage space that, without films/games/music, we couldn't fill it even if we tried. It's cool to use minimal amounts of storage when you're on a virtualized machine on Azure/AWS, but those machines aren't used to run Anki anyway. Storage for executable usage is effectively infinite nowadays on consumer devices.

>If the new version of Anki needs a new version of a dependency, just install the new version alongside the old one.

Yes, and do that with every other package as well.

Are you even considering the implications of what you're saying? The next-to-latest version of Anki is for example in the repos of the most popular distribution. The latest version of Anki is not in the repos, and its dependencies break something in that distro.

You're free to install Anki's latest version, but there are reasons why stable distributions will not just jump on the latest version of a fairly unknown package.

Why does Anki have dependencies? Why is there software that uses Anki as a dependency?

Frankly, "very out of date" when it is version 2.0.32 in debian testing and ubuntu current while the new, one month old version is 2.0.33 is overstated. What are the features that are not in the debian stable package (2.0.31) or in 2.0.32 but are in the cutting edge 2.0.33 version? None of the bugs reported in the debian bug tracker seem to have been fixed by later versions!

With that said, you can make some but not all packages rolling-release with apt-pinning and using stable and sid or testing which are rolling.

> None of the bugs reported in the debian bug tracker seem to have been fixed by later versions!

Bingo. That is the #1 reason (the only reason?) that a package doesn't get promoted to Testing from Unstable, because it has known bugs and they haven't been fixed. This is Debian policy manual 101.

Fix the bugs, release a new version, if no more bugs are reported on the new version for two weeks, then it gets promoted to Testing (as long as it's not a freeze?) and it will be in next Stable after the freeze is completed.

To be fair, this is only really a problem if you're using one of the big waterfall distros like Debian or Ubuntu.

I'm on Arch and I get fresh Anki same day or week.

Yeah for home usage I will probably be using an Arch derivative until something like bedrock linux comes out.

Installing the latest software has never been easier, especially with the AUR.

I'm wondering why it's an app instead of a webapp.

Anki is great - the original Supermemo algorithm on which Anki is based[2], makes for fascinating reading [1]

However, I daresay that this is a usecase that is tailormade for the mobile rather than the desktop in any which way.

I wonder why the core team is spending effort behind a desktop app, rather than go full mobile.

[1] https://archive.wired.com/medtech/health/magazine/16-05/ff_w...

[2] https://www.supermemo.com/help/smalg.htm#Anki_will_work_grea...

It is much easier to create large numbers of cards on desktop than mobile. There are also a large number of third party add-ons available for desktop https://ankiweb.net/shared/addons/

It is actually much easier to use a desktop browser as well. Yet, most traffic now is mobile. Flashcards are a mobile usecase, I actually think a desktop version is actually limiting for them...maybe that's why Supermemo never became a roaring success.

Anki is great. I've used it to learn the 100 most common Clojure expressions. You can get the Anki file by signing up for the newsletter at http://www.lispcast.com/100-most-used-clojure-expressions

There's also a great org-mode extension that implements most SRS algorithms, including Anki's:


I second org-drill. Org-mode is my whole personal information manager including information learning w/ org-drill.

Any tips for how to implement that? I've tried org-mode for personal-information-management and I just get lost in all of the subtrees.

I was in that kind of situation too.

The problem is that org-mode is too flexible. I use it as a flattened kanban board.

oOoh thanks. I love Clojure. This'll be useful.

I would like to recommend Memrise [1] as alternative to Anki.

[1] http://www.memrise.com/

Memrise is fun, and certainly much better designed than Anki, but at the end of the day it's just another startup that will either fail or get acquired and shut down. All your content will be destroyed, or maybe, if they're generous, given to you in some crappy export format that won't be interoperable with anything else.

I use Memrise, but Anki is my extended memory. Anything I want to actually remember is there.

Anki is great. I have been using it to prepare for my exams. Creating flashcards on my laptop and learning with them on my Android phone / tablet works like a charm. Also, the Android app just got updated. The only limitation I've found is that there is currently no way to self-host flashcards which can be accessed by the mobile app. If you're only using the desktop version you might want to look at https://github.com/dsnopek/anki-sync-server in order to self-host your flashcards.

I use Anki as a part of my college strategy (http://markbao.com/notes/college-strategies) by using the Cornell notetaking method to write up questions and answers for my notes and piping those 'cues' into Anki. Turns out self-testing is one of the best ways to learn, so this combination is surprisingly effective.

It's no replacement for actually learning the concepts, but they help in drilling down the foundational knowledge that helps me understand the bigger-picture concepts better.

I've been using Anki on my iPhone for the past 3 years and it's been quite effective. Highly recommend it for anybody who has a lot of content to learn. It's really useful if you can make time for it on a daily basis.

Remember that you read it here first, there will be a unicorn built on the concept of SRS. I use Anki daily and love the application but there's a learning curve and you have to build your own workflow to make it work. Someone is going to take the concept and make it accessible to the masses.

First thing that comes to mind when I read your comment is Memrise. Or is even that missing something?

Kind of on the right track but I don't think that is it though... But if you had shown me facebook in 2005, I would have said the same thing.

I completely agree. I've been trying to figure out what's been missing in Anki for a while in order to improve my workflow. What do you think it is?

I'm surprised there's no mention of Super Memo and P. Woźniak's studies on spaced repetition in this thread:



I've used AnkiSRS and recommended them, but I still don't have a good solution to catch up on decks that you're behind on. It's very good for keeping memory in tact with lots of info.

Gwern has an excellent overview of spatial repetition software too: http://www.gwern.net/Spaced%20repetition

Someone please create a browser extension that automatically adds every word you "Look Up" to an Anki stack. My vocabulary would be vastly improved if I had this, I always find myself looking up the definition of the same complex words over and over again that are for whatever reason slippery for me to remember.

I always wanted a dictionary app that would make flashcards based on words I looked up.

I love Anki, been using it for the last year. What has been most powerful for me, is that I no longer take standard notes when trying to learn a new topic. Instead, all of my notes are in "question" form, so that I can keep on top of it over time. The spaced repetition keeps my learning efforts efficient and keeps things from leaking out of my wetware memory.

The synchronization feature between devices has also proven to be very useful, as I use my laptop usually to put in new questions, but use the iPhone app to quiz myself whenever I have a few spare minutes during the day (waiting in line, walking to work, etc).

UI is a little wonky at times, but its features and flexibility more than makes up for it for a dedicated student.

We've been working on a product more oriented towards "everyday" remembering instead of hardcore educational learning called Remembered.io (https://remembered.io)

It's meant for use cases like reminding yourself about lessons you've learned in books, to keep yourself inspired, or for encoding tidbits from short term to long term memory.

Here's a recent Lifehacker post about us: http://lifehacker.com/remembered-io-offers-smart-reminders-t...

I'm loving learning Arabic with http://orangeorapple.com/Flashcards/

The website looks underwhelming, but the app is amazing. The more I use it, the more it's flexibility impresses me. There are lots of options to review the cards, and it'll use card data to make quizzes, etc for you.

Yep, I've used Anki for years and moved over to Flashcards deluxe because after a few months on both noticed little difference in its algorithm compared to Anki. I find the mobile interface of Flashcards deluxe to be a whole lot less kludgy than Anki and the developer to be a whole lot more responsive.

http://mnemosyne-proj.org/ is pretty good too.

Anki has many features but I found it too complicated and I didn't like the UI, nor having to sync across devices. So I decided to develop a basic, simpler alternative, a web app that can also be installed in the home screen of an iOS or Android device, https://omnimemory.com

http://mnemosyne-proj.org/ is also a simpler alternative

Ask HN: What's the coolest thing you've used Anki for?

It's not "cool", but I'm a professor who's always struggled to learn my students' names. A few years ago, I started to populate an Anki deck with their photos from the college lookbook paired with their names and a few other details. Now I usually recognize most people on the first day of class and just about everyone within the first couple of weeks. (I had trouble that year when I had identical twins in the class.) Anki has transformed a point of shame to a point of pride, and I'm grateful.

That's a great idea. It makes a massive difference too when the prof remembers your name, I bet your students appreciate it.

There's also a web interface


I would like to recommend Mnemosyne [1] as an alternative to Anki. It uses a very similar algorithm for spaced repetition (based on SM2), but has a simpler and cleaner UI.

[1] http://mnemosyne-proj.org/

Anki is an great tool. I used to read javascript Coercion algorithm from JS Specs using this little tool. It have immensely helped me to remember almost everything!

The problem with every app like this is the lack of good quality material. For language learning, I prefer learning whole sentences as examples of an appropriate context. But creating good lists of sentences & translations is cumbersome and just throwing a tool at the "crowd" doesn't automatically get you quality content.

That said from all these tools I prefer anki since it has a web-based UI and an android app.

"lack of good quality material"

You definitely are correct and I agree with you 100%. The problem is that you can't just throw a tool at people and expect it to stick - ultimately people need good content to study. For us at https://www.memorangapp.com it comes down to two things: (1) Better collaboration and (2) Pre-made expert content. The latter takes a lot of money and time as we've effectively split the tool into a publishing platform and technology platform in parallel. (You can see an example of the expert marketplace of content at https://www.memorangapp.com/premium).

You can check it out at the website and there's another discussion in this thread. We have a web-based UI and Android/iOS apps currently. Brand new versions of these are being released next month as part of a 2.0 launch.

I would happily buy pre-made decks, but for decks I spend hours crafting myself, I want to know I have access them forever and not lose them if you get bought out or go bust.

Do you have export functionality?

Currently you can export the HTML and also as printed sheets. In the next few months we'll enable exporting to formats such as csv/tsv. (This is currently supported in the admin interface, but we haven't made it a user-facing tool yet).

If it's any consolation, we already prepaid the next 2 years for AWS and are cash-flow positive. (i.e. not going bust anytime soon).

There is a lot of decent free material on quizlet, you just have to dig. I prefer to import it into Flashcards deluxe http://orangeorapple.com/Flashcards/ because it's easy and even after years of using Anki, I still can't stand it's interface.

I agree content is a problem however when learning French I find I benefit most from content I create. The act of creating it makes it more memorable.

I'm using anki now to learn French and it's a central pillar of my learning experience for vocab.

I used this for foreign language vocabulary when I was in school. Did it work? I honestly don't remember...

I've been working on a similar concept after using Anki for a year. http://www.looprecall.com/

I wanted to have a more modern UI and plan on adding the ability to share decks between users. I would welcome any feed back! :-)

I spent using Anki, and all I have to say is that my graphs actually dovetail neatly.

Space repetition just works.

This is really great! I'm building a SaaS that is similar to this, but I was feeling bummed about not releasing it as open source; but now I can just point people to this if they want to run their own. awesome!

I'm also planning and building on a flashcard app; and am facing a similar dilemma on whether to monetize (make it SaaS) or go all out open-source. At the moment my barometer seems to be leaning towards open source. I already have REST API backend done, and am working on UI.


The only novelty on my app is that it uses an algorithm based on upvotes/downvotes (e.g. HN, Reddit, etc) to measure card performance rather than a variant based on SuperMemo and friends.

I already wrote a spec on it (feel free to steal =P): https://github.com/grokdb/spec

Is it in a ready enough state to share?

That depends on how you look at it. I'm using it, but is it ready for normal humans? I'm not sure. It's equally or more complicated than anki, and serves a larger usecase of doing the remembering for you and collaboration; and is not nearly as well documented as anki at the moment.

That said, if you're up for beta access, shoot me an email at r.letmein [a] ruru.name and i'll see about access

I've been using the Anki iOS application for a while now. I'm considering moving my stack over to org-drill.el to minimze context switching. Anyone made a similar switch or can compare the two at all?

Very tempted to do so as well.

Anki is a very impressive project if for no other reason than its constant development. It basically got me a degree in Japanese seven years ago and it's still being polished.

I remember trying to use this for school stuff, but I didn't find it all that useful. There is after all very little you have to remember that isn't about schedules


I found this sort of thing, can't remember if I used Anki specifically, incredibly useful for remembering dates and percentages and so on when taking my A Levels. There were something like a hundred different studies that you had to learn for a good grade in Psychology - at least the way we were taught it - you could't derive them or anything, you just had to memorise them over the term.

It was similar for wanting to remember specific quotes from books for English Lit.

The vast majority of the work I put in for those exams was just trying to eat a textbook so I could vomit it back up. :/ For which this worked great.


The iPhone app came years after the free and open source desktop one; the boat had long since sailed on charging on the desktop. The Android one is unofficial.

I recall reading that because they didn't make the app friendly to casual newcomers, they didn't pick too low a price-point that would attract them and their support load.

That said, complaining about an app's price on HN is pretty disappointing. Though they might have found more success with a recurring/IAP approach that makes payments more palatable.

Seems development has largely stalled on the iPhone app though.

> Maybe they feel like all Apple users are stupid & rich and will pay whatever they are asked for.

That's one way to couch it; another is charge what the market will bear. IOS devs routinely tout all the polls/studies that show Apple customers pay more and more often for software than Android customers.

There's another problem: there's no way to easily make cards from the mobile app! You have to do it on the desktop and then switch to mobile. Really kills the incentive for the mobile app

I only make cards on the android mobile app - have never used Anki any other way.

It's possible from the Android mobile app (though I believe that's unofficial), though it's more fiddly than on the desktop.

Apple charges a ridiculous amount in order to be allowed to develop software for their platforms. It is no surprise that developers might feel the need to pass this cost on to the customer.

$100 is such a hurdle that commercial app developers need to center their pricing model around it? I think you're overplaying its influence.

Anki is a commerical app developer? Last I checked it's non-commercial/open source except for the iOS app.

The iOS app, which we're talking about re: the Apple developer fee, is most certainly a commercial endeavor. The FOSS desktop app doesn't change that.

Right, but I assume it went something like this:

1. Users nag developers about not having an iOS app

2. Developers start considering creating the iOS app. Finds out they have to pay $100 a year, on top of spending time to develop the app.

3. Developer decides to charge the users that wanted this app at a price where they can be fairly sure to at least regain monetary expenses.

This seems fair to me.

The author didn't just make it out of the good will of his heart, he wanted to turn a profit and set out to make money off the iPhone version from the outset. The $100 fee is a triviality in the face of the hundreds and hundreds (thousand, even) of hours it takes to create and maintain Anki on iOS. You don't have to look far to see the development of the native version of the iOS app was even contracted out, for pay. It was taken very seriously.

Not all FOSS software developers are against making money. Often FOSS projects can be a starting point to launching a commercial product or service, whether it was originally intended to be one or if a long-time hobby project happened to grow to the point that making a business around it becomes a viable new option.

I couldn't get past the awful UI, written using a generic portable UI toolkit which makes it uniformly terribly looking on all platforms.

Anki is what's getting me through med school

Also see the mentat wiki:


Anki has a nice android app too by the way

A simple screenshot on the landing page would make this a lot easier to immediately understand.

That's what everyone needs in a busy schedule

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