The thing in this article that most reminded me about beauty-journalling posts was the todo list. In vanity journalling circles, the todo lists are full of meta-tasks "post to instagram; new journal layout; blog post about journalling" as well as pure vanity items like "yoga!; Breakfast: saffron avocado toast (yum!!)" Likewise, in this post his todo list includes items about writing about productivity, using other productivity tools, and other such "meta-productivity" items.
There's nothing wrong with this but it reveals that the "productivity" itself is the hobby, not just a means to an end.
I'm personally more skeptical of the Zettelkasten/Roam/PKB craze as being effective, but that's only because I feel like I've had yet to find a problem where it would have been the solution. I'm constantly left feeling like it may be the solution to many problems I have related to memory and remembering thoughts, but without personal experience in it, I can't say what it's worth.
I don't think it's even possible to evaluate a productivity system without using it for a long amount of time and conducting periodic reviews on it regularly to see if it's helping with anything. I don't know what the metrics to measure are, and I don't know what a review like this would look like.
On the paper journaling thing, though, I think the answer is much more clear cut: it's more about the artistic nature of it than anything else. A paper journal is almost always impossible to search, easily damaged, easily lost, and easily customized with stickers, different pens and pencils, and other decor. It's easy to find a notebook you like with a paper you like and then justify writing in it. However, I don't think there are many practical benefits that can't be applied to an electronic system that's functionally similar, save for the effect of slowing down entry so you remember it more.
Going back through old notes I've made on books I've read or movies I've watched gives a similar experience, taking me back to how I thought at the time and a window into how I've changed.
I certainly don't want to study everything to death, but I wholly see the appeal of a system to contain things I've known and done.
A counterexample as food for thought: I do all of my task tracking in a paper notebook. It looks boring -- there's no design and I only use one black and one red pen.
What I've found in over 5 years I've used more than a dozen task trackers for various organizations across different projects and teams. Each time, I have to learn the system and adapt my process to it. Every six months the productivity community goes nuts over some new app.
On the other hand, my notebook process is just the same. Paper has been around for over a thousand years and will be around a lot longer than that. I never have to keep up with the new hot productivity system or worry about the company that makes my favorite app going out of business. Paper will never release an update that makes me redo my whole process.
Paper let's me find a system that works and stick with it. Paper gets out of the way. I can focus on being productive instead of productivity.
I did go through an experimentation phase trying to do what the "official" bullet journal people and the bujo "influencers" suggested. Instead of having to restart and adapt to a new app, I could try a little bit and discard what didn't work or I didn't like.
To the point that grandparent made about:
> A paper journal is almost always impossible to search, easily damaged, easily lost, and easily customized with stickers, different pens and pencils, and other decor.
I can't run a grep on a notebook, no, but I often know about when I took a note on something to find it quickly. I usually run through a single notebook for a bullet journal per year. I started with fountain pens the same time I shifted back to analog. I have a little fun with colored ink, changing colors at most once a week. I tend towards waterproof/water-resistant inks that can weather some random wetness and still be fine. Some of them are even UV-resistant/forgery proof. I'm not taking hours upon hours to create the perfect spread.
I'm not writing outside in the rain. I've misplaced my phone more than my notebook. With the way that many are paper phobic these days, I'm not in real fear that my book would grow legs and walk off.
For the uninformed, a Zettelkasten is a searchable, unordered, labeled database. That's it.
"Zettelkasten" is more of an attitude toward note-taking than a specific technique... it can be implemented in many seeingly almost unrelated ways, from Luhman's index-card box to personal wikis, etc. The defining characteristic is more in the way you integrate note-taking and note-review into your daily workflow and thinking process.
I could spin up ElasticSearch or something similar and have it crawl all the files on my computer and get an 80% solution. Kinda like Apple's "Finder" functionality.
If you index everything together you get something that it is merely a pile of searchable things. You do not experience the "conversation" with the slip-box as Niklas Luhmann described it. Software like http://zettelkasten.danielluedecke.de/ that implements the "digital version" of the system suffers from what I like to describe as the "Hudsucker Proxy" problem: A young idealist visionary comes out and holds a big plastic loop and mutters "You know... for kids!" and nobody has a clue what that is supposed to mean. It isn't until someone shows how to use the "big plastic loop" before anyone understands what's happening. And that's really hard to do with something as abstract as a Zettlekasten despite it just "being little notes gathered together with lots of numbers and letters pointing at the other notes" or an "unordered database".
It's trivial to just write everything interesting down in whatever format, but the idea behind Zettelkasten is that by examining each piece of information before slotting it into its proper place in the grand scheme of things made you re-evaluate old notes and consider how things fit together as a whole. This aided memory and improved understanding of the topics.
My gut feeling says the concept is sound. You're not just archiving information, you're piecing together a complex web of knowledge and relating new information to what you already know, which in turn might spur original thought. That might happen with a wiki, but it's not a given.
(It also pre-dates the concept of a wiki ;P)
Here's my attempt at conciseness:
A zettelkasten is like a bunch of files in a single folder with
1. a naming schema that kinda indicates what follows what (an ordering scheme, but persnickety and optional, see https://zettelkasten.de/posts/luhmann-folgezettel-truth/), and
2. links in between the files, originally just by writing the names to be manually looked for.
Some people use 2 to be able to get rid of 1, as with an indication of PREVIOUS (link) and NEXT (link)
The point is that you have one thing on each card / file that you might want to go back to on its own.
It makes a lot of sense in academia where you want to be able to trace ideas in a referenceable way, identify your own takes on bits of other people's work, and connect different sources together when you see similarities.
In traditional note-taking systems, the category is the most obvious first-class citizen. In ZK, the little ideas take precedence, because some little idea that belongs to category A can easily end up belonging to other categories B, C, D, ... as time goes on and you study more subjects/discipline.
I'm sure the idea I'm describing is nothing new, groundbreaking, or unique to ZK - but this is the impression that I got, and I've had the pain of having very poorly managed knowledge via Evernote/OneNote/Notion/etc. before. I also dabbled with Anki and mindmapping. I believe the optimal solution is to combine all 3, since mindmaps have the "graph" structure part down; Anki only focuses on recall, but not conceptual understanding/linkage; and traditional notes, while obviously storing more information, are usually organized in hierarchical top-down structures that don't lend themselves well to reviewing or building a deliberate map of knowledge.
Another alternative to mindmaps is something like Jerry's Brain , where irrelevant nodes are collapsed until you explore them. Jerry has given extremely compelling presentations because he's used it for something like 20 years.
I am aware of a bias as I write this: I simply might not have had enough discipline when using traditional note-taking systems before, and am going through a bit of a (pre) honeymoon phase with this new ZK stuff. Just my 2 grains of salt.
(I still read it. I love that people obsess so much about it. It's like going into an office supply store, and just lovingly gaze at organizers :)
Simple basic page with To Do Title. New Day starts after a blank line. Each task is a blank square box, task text. When done, a tick in the box & done-date in right margin.
At end of the month, all pending tasks get reviewed; no-longer-needed gets a cross X in box; needed ones get moved to Big To Do page, original entry gets a arrow in the box. Once all tasks sorted, done, cancelled, moved, the big box in front of title gets ticked with today's date.
Big To Do page has a box, task original date in dd/mm format, then task.
Some specific pages like Financial, 6-Monthly, Logs etc with templated tasks prefilled with current months data, kind of checklists. 6 Month page gets tasks required not in immediate future, but sometimes in ^ months. If available, deadline date gets mentioned in task.
All pages numbered at lower right corner, in continuous series.
An Index page with Page Title and page numbers.
I was using a A5 ring binder with two holes.
It was not pretty to see. It was readable, not chicken scratches. Occasionally some tasks get red marks, or green. All completed pages gets scanned as pdf.
It was amazingly working. 4 years 9f my daily office work, keeping up with everybody's every type of requests. I miss that now, that now I am in a job where we can't take our bags/books to desk.
1. A lot of spaced repetition apps don't optimize for fast card creation. I like to make a card as soon as I come across something interesting, but the delay to get Anki started, and to create the card, etc just makes it frustrating. I wound up building my own app for this.
2. Cloze deletion is surprisingly effective. For those who don't know, cloze deletion involves taking a sentence, blanking the interesting parts out e.g. "The moon landing happened on _______", and trying to recall the blank parts. This is effective because it's a quick way to make cards, thus solving the problem of slow card creation.
3. I fared better with lots of small, one-sentence cards. My rule of thumb is that a card should fit in a tweet.
4. Subjectively speaking, using spaced repetition didn't just help me recall stuff in my cards, it also helped me recall stuff in general.
I used Anki to study Chinese for a period of about 10 years. At some point I decided that I wanted to memorize the poker "outs" (probabilities of filling out a hand based on what had currently been dealt). Then I went through a time where I was really busy and didn't study the poker deck for a month (but I made time for Chinese). When I came back to the poker deck, the "spaced repetition" system was completely broken: I had a massive long list of cards that had expired, most of which I'd completely forgotten; but it just kept showing them to me in one giant loop, rather than focusing on a few to actually teach me. And I didn't even have a clean way of telling it, "Just pretend I haven't seen any of these cards at all". I ended up just deleting the deck; that discouraged me from doing anything else I wasn't willing to commit to doing every single day.
There's absolutely no need to "reset". Ever.
If you have only ten minutes to devote to Anki, then only spend ten minutes. If at some later point, you have more time, then spend that time.
Set the maximum reviews per day to something you can do most days -- for me, that's 250 cards. If you're behind, turn off 'new' cards. And eventually, you will catch up.
What if you don't do Anki for a month or two? You still don't need to reset. Anything you remember after that month will have a much longer time until you next see it.
Only use Anki as much as you have time for it. Let it figure out which cards to show you. Resetting messes with the algorithm for which cards to show.
Each time I've gone back to a deck, I've just slugged out the few days of heavy reviews and let Anki take care of the rest. The stuff that I've forgotten, Anki will nag me with. The stuff that I've retained for years, stays retained.
One thing that I do suggest is to limit the maximum interval to 365 days, and to remove the review limit. I also tend to use the "hard" answer on cards that I've retained in decks that I've ignored for some time.
(SRS fails in this regards)
- If you want to just push cards to the back of the queue, but remember timings and history, there's a built-in command to do that.
- If you want to change the current interval of a card, but keep your history, there's also a built-in command for that.
- If you need to do the above in bulk, the "Reset Card Scheduling" plugin can make this a lot more convenient.
- If you really do want to completely reset a card, forget all history, etc., and treat it as a new card, there's the "Remove Card History" plugin.
Finally, when returning to old decks, I found I usually get the most mileage by leaving all that stuff alone and just suspending the whole thing, and then un-suspending them at a steady pace. I neglected my Kanji deck for months, and I used that approach to get myself back up to speed by doing the catch-up review in the original (RTK) order I originally learned them rather than based on Anki's priority.
But it feels so hacky when you need them for things that seem like rather elementary functionality like resetting a deck.
Calibre feels the same way like needing a plugin just to estimate page count. I feel lucky when a plugin actually works.
For each new class, I would start a new deck, and after the course was over I would move it over to my main (huge) deck, and it's worked surprisingly well.
Typically (now that I'm out), I add small cards from time to time to my deck, but if there's a large quantity of things I am working on learning at any given time (say I'm going to add 50-100 new cards), I'll put them in their own deck for a little bit.
Ultimately, my repetition does end up being a wide array of subjects though.
If you make that number the same as the "new cards per day"-number, that might be a work around for your issue?
I just want a "dumb" flashcard application that doesn't try to apply "smart" techniques/heuristics.
I was just looking for a way to do the same paper card quizzing digitally without having to actually carry decks on my person.
Every app I've tried over the years powered under the hood by Anki had this issue.
It's been a few years since I last checked it out, but an option for a dumb mode would have had me throwing money at it just to even try it out.
One of the wonderful things about software assisting with spaced repetition is that it automatically selects and remembers efficient intervals. It's crazy how little time is spent per flashcard with this automation.
There’s a “cram seen cards” feature under custom study that’ll just give you a temporary brand new deck you can run through in random order
Clearly, millions of people are benefiting from this app.
I'm just finding the features and interface very bombarding. And, the sheer number of screen taps just to study the flash cards in the manner that I'd like (and even then, not fully within my perceived control) is pretty repelling.
Thank you for pointing that out that feature. It might help eventually with conversion.
Then on day 1 it will want to show you cards 1-5; day two it will show you 1-5 again and also 6-10; day three it will show you 6-10 again and also 7-15 (to simplify somewhat). So you're having some cards you know and some that are new.
If you have 50 cards you've forgotten, then on day 1 it will show you 1-10; on day 2 it will show you 11-20; day 3 it will show you 21-30, and so on -- all completely new. That makes it far more of a grind.
I would prefer to iterate over small set of cards until I know them quite well.
Exporting to Anki from Emacs is done via the anki-editor mode for Emacs.
Being able to add my slow-but-steady Lisp learning notes into Anki would be very cool.
I have this URL in my bookmarks toolbar:
It enables me to directly add new cards (just don't forget to sync)
Can someone tell me if this is a crazy good idea? Social network + spaced repetition. Why should you build all your own cards? Taking a class with classmates? Create a group & create cards during lecture, review/curate cards afterwards during study session, then rate which ones were most useful after the exam (or homework).
I think it's important that exercises are tightly linked to the source material, like to a specific paragraph of an article, etc. So these materials should probably be added to the system as well.
* With the same starting point it should be easier to have a proper discussion.
* A new person can read the source and understand cards more easily with context.
* Later if they've forgotten the topic completely they can reread it and hopefully remember faster.
I also had some ideas about being able to discuss and alter every paragraph in the source. Allow it to evolve to be more clear as people come and discuss confusing points.
but my cards are hard to read by other parties, when I optimize for my own learning
I'd recommend having its own repository with Markdown files grouped by target domain using tags for every card. It'd help to search quickly relevant cards even in the same domain.
I use a custom text file format to allow creation of cloze deletions and reversible cards as well as basic cards. I also annotate text files on export so that I can export the file again without creating duplicate cards.
The big shortcoming of my script is that it generates .tsv files and Anki only allows .tsv files to contain one note type. They also do not incorporate media.
I'd like to be able to sync edits made in Anki back to the text files and vice versa. It'd be really cool to integrate a text file parser and alternative card editing mode into Anki with a plugin.
Perhaps I'll send some PR's your way instead of duplicating effort.
A big problem I see with pre-made decks is that they contain just too much information.
Just leave the brain do it's job, don't read as it's a marathon, take breaks, think about that bits you've just read that was interesting, then promptly forget about it. You'll forget the details, but not the backbone of it.
Details don't matter in the end. Quite frankly the idea of knowing /by heart/ the name of the greek goddess blah blah blah he uses as an example would bore me solid. Worse, anyone knowing it and telling me about it would bore me solid :-)
That's basically the spaced repetition model. You need to forget a little bit, so that working memory isn't saving you, and the recall process takes effort. That's what builds long term memory. Spaced repetition systems just extend that process beyond the length of the book, in a time shorter than rereading a book.
> Quite frankly the idea of knowing /by heart/ the name of the greek goddess blah blah blah he uses as an example would bore me solid.
I agree, the names of greek gods is a bad example, unless you're a student of mythology. Spaced repetition is hard work, so probably only deploy it on things that matter. A better example might be Bayes Theorem. Incredibly powerful, but unintuitive and easily forgotten. Cards for Bayes' theorem might include the purpose: "Bayes' Theorem calculates how to adjust our prior beliefs given new evidence", as well as cards about the formula, or an intuitive visualization.
Or, maybe you want to learn more about the linux internals and spend a portion of your time memorizing the meanings of signals and errnos as a small part of a larger program of study. Sure, you can look these up in a man page, but part of the value in knowledge is knowing things exist. How many developers do you think know of SIGUSR2? Or... SIGBUS ;)
But I'm not too crazy about spaced repetition. I used it to learn all the capitals in the world, and after about a month I managed to do all of them without error. But after two years of barely using the knowledge, I only remember half.
Of course, I could keep reviewing it every few months to keep it fresh, but that's just not an efficient system, when you think of how many things I'm supposed to (and do) remember.
For me, at least, the best way to remember things is by tying them in as many associations and metaphors as I can, and that gives me a pretty reliable recall. It has some downsides: It's a bit more work than spaced repetition (requires creativity, for example), and it's not that good for unconnected data (but then, are random facts that useful anyway?). But I think that as a long-term method, it's much more solid.
> I don't see how cards would help me with mathematical ideas. You have to get them on a fundamental level, and then they're hard to forget.
I find it too easy to trick myself into believing I understand a concept on a fundamental level. But often that "understanding" slips away, and six months later when faced with an example problem out of context I struggle to solve it.
Also notice how he mentions he remembers "trickle down economics" was a "very important idea" during Reagan's presidency. But there is no mention whatsoever about the idea itself, how it's considered today, whether it was a good or bad idea, its relation to neoliberalism, whether he understands how politically divisive the idea is, etc.
Someone remembering trickle down economics was something from the Reagan era tells me nothing about their understanding of that idea and their opinions about it. Precisely the bits I want to know!
He is arguing for memorization. I'm saying memorization of this kind of "facts" seems unconvincing at best. Memorizing a "data card" about Reagan with this scribbled on it seems like something that would only be useful for a trivia quiz. "Mozart composed this or that", "Reagan's presidency had something to do with trickle down economics", "Washington had false teeth ", etc.
I know this isn't your main point, but I cannot resist to comment:
> The article not about 80's economics
It still pervades political discourse in many countries of Latin America, and many believe it's the cornerstone of neoliberalism, so...
 I wanted to write "wooden", basing my knowledge in LucasArts' Day of the Tentacle, but apparently this is false.
This in turn might allow you to enjoy the piece more, because you can relate the music to the time period and better understand what it depicts and what the composers intention was.
Now, you could also simply read a brochure about the piece/composer before the concert and you would know the same or more, but this would cost you time you may not have at that moment.
Anyways, I don't think he is arguing for memorization, rather, he argues that you should first learn something (by reading) and then use some tools to remind you of what you have learned in order to not forget it. It turns out that the tool he chose for this is one that reminds him of some facts once in a while. The intention is not necessarily to know these facts, but to be reminded of the learned concept through these. Whether this is an effective method or not I do not know. One could end up becoming very focued on the facts, forgetting the deeper knowledge behind them (as happens in eductation, but for different reasons).
Maybe I went a bit too in depth with this :p
I dont understand your point about my point (the article not being about 80's economics). Are you saying that because it is important, the article should have elaborated on it?
Not the person you're replying to, but my feeling is that if you're writing an article about a system to use to usefully remember things, if you're going to then cite an example of something you've remembered, you should focus on what is actually important to remember about that fact. Saying "I remembered that 'trickle-down economics' was 'important in the Reagan administration'" does not do that, and could demonstrate that this memorization method is actually teaching you to remember the wrong things.
It doesn't matter if the post is or is not about 80s economics, but if you're going to use an example out of 80s economics to prove that your method is good, then show that your method actually helped you remember something important about 80s economics, not a piece of trivia that not only isn't useful, but is counter-productive to learn about if you don't remember the meat of the idea, and things like whether or not it was a good idea.
It's possible that the author did actually know and remember the useful parts of those facts, but did not actually demonstrate that his method helped him remember actual useful facts... which is kinda the point of his article.
As for my nitpick, it was a tangential point I couldn't resist making: that trickle down economics is not exclusively an 80s thing, but (sadly, in my opinion) remains very relevant today.
With that said, I can't imagine using such a powerful, and honestly demanding, tool for everyday knowledge and tangential facts (e.g. Greek mythology as a software engineer). It strikes me as far too much tool for the job.
It seems to me that, if you struggle with retaining things you read, some simple, lightweight note taking strategies, especially handwritten, would be sufficient. I believe that's actually a recommendation that his book recommendation, Where Good Ideas Come From, makes.
It's also important to make useful cards, and the most useful cards are almost always very simple and can be answered relatively quickly. So, for example, a complex, multi-step DNA repair mechanism (of which we needed to know quite a few, and they differ for eukaryotes and prokaryotes) for a molecular biology class becomes quite a few individual cards. In the end, there is just a lot of stuff that either just has to be memorized, or that benefits from improving recall speed for taking a 60-90 minute exam.
I mostly read for pleasure (and occasionally for work). Even for work, I don't tabulate what I read. I read a lot of paper books too, where uploading stuff is not practical without a lot of fuss (OCR?).
I love reading. And yes, I forget a lot of stuff. But if I had to go through all this whenever I pick up a book, I'd simply stop reading.
To me, this article is just more white noise.
The opposite would be never writing anything down, never knowing what you're going to be doing on any given day, never estimating how long a task is going to take, reading books while making no effort to retain any information, etc.
We all dedicate energy toward transforming the natural chaos of life into order, even if it's just forcing ourselves to work a certain amount of hours per day, or re-reading paragraphs in books because we weren't paying enough attention the first time, or making grocery lists before we go to the store. These are things most of us do deliberately because we believe they make our lives better.
It's likely that there are certain things that he could be doing better, but I have no reason to believe that the structure he's set up isn't better than what he was doing before, and I think it's probably far more effective than the structure (or lack thereof) of most people's lives.
"At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel"
This is basically how I approach reading as well. I think it's fairly hopeless to have a huge organizing system that assists in trying to keep information sort of floating around in the conscious mind.
Human minds aren't really fact gathering machines so I think this is largely futile and the number of things to remember is too large anyway.
I think there is more sense in trying to absorb what you read, hope that it leaves an impression of some sort or gives you a cue when it becomes relevant and just go with it and using active time for creative things.
But in terms of making cards on books I read for pleasure, I agree in that it seems like overkill. One of my favorite biographies is "Peter the Great" by Robert Massie, and as much as I love reading it attempting to memorize names and details and jam pack my brain with facts would fry my brain.
Edit: I tried it a month ago - before installation was more than just (load)'ing the file. Now there are nicely documented use-package instructions and a layer for spacemacs
I've modified a template for single-subject documents called "tags" so they're stored in ~/Org/tags/. I've also configured org-journal to store files in ~/Org/Journal/
One thing I'll be interested to discover, in the future, is how I archive or age out information. Most work stuff right now is related to a single project, so what happens when that project ends? Will I need to move things outside of ~/Org/ to remove clutter, or will I just get used to it?
I think flashcards are hugely underrated for software developers. Memorization is commonly dismissed as unnecesary when we have searchable documentation and Stack Overflow, but the same argument could be had over touch typing. There is enormous value in moving data from disk to L1 cache.
If nothing else, having solid, open source, premade decks for the core web technologies would ease the path into web development for boot campers and other newcomers.
The first step in that direction is creating a text file format similar to Markdown or TOML for creating, editing and sharing flashcards. I created a hacky solution for myself , and another project was also shared in these comments .
Incidentally it also supports Zettelkasten like note taking like described in the article.
- I have a huge Zettelkasten note archive (I manage it through Sublime-Zk, which is getting a bit slow to operate it). Can I somehow directly import all my Zettel notes?
- I tried to import my Anki cards, but it seems like while I could go through them, I couldn't assign them to any particular deck/reclassify them. They show up as part of a "Not Found" deck and I don't see any option/drag-and-drop method to move them anywhere else.
I'll definitely be giving Mochi a try. Thanks a lot for creating it!
You can import the markdown files as notes, but it won’t maintain the linking. If you send me a sample I can look into adding a Zettelkasten specific importer.
> I tried to import my Anki cards, but it seems like while I could go through them, I couldn't assign them to any particular deck/reclassify them. They show up as part of a "Not Found" deck and I don't see any option/drag-and-drop method to move them anywhere else.
Sounds like the importer derped a bit and couldn’t find the deck associated with those cards. If you send me the .apkg file I can take a look. Anki’s data model is a little weird and there’s probably some edge cases I haven’t accounted for.
I created something similar which I no longer work on (but keep running on a maintenance-type basis). Feel free to be inspired/take features or just compare with another approach.
Good luck dude!
Would love to see sample decks for languages. Like learning basic 1000 words & sentences in different languages.
I'm a regular user, though I'm terrible at consistent, daily reviews. I somehow manage to keep on top of it, even after skipping weekends or entire weeks. You can tweak the settings to make it easier for less-than-perfect users.
Lifehack: Anki + exercise. Combining Anki with an elliptical or stationary bike improves both my review and exercise frequency and duration.
I've made my peace with the terrible UI/UX. Like many folks here I tried to roll my own SRS app at one point. But my review sessions would always get derailed with brainstorming new features or dealing with bugs. Personally, I'm not sure that the productivity gains from improving the UI/UX are worth the development time (especially when the whole point of using Anki is efficiency).
Increase intensity beyond that point and your brain's information processing ability drops below baseline.
I've found this consistently true. At lower intensity cardio for example, I can watch educational youtube videos or follow along a movie. At high intensity, I can't even watch an action movie and follow the plot. I have to switch to music and/or a sports action video (no meaningful dialog).
- Memrise - https://www.memrise.com/ - Has a very extensive selection of decks for language learning
- Supermemo - https://www.supermemo.com/en - Has a (disputed) claim that its algorithm beats Anki, various pre-made decks
- Drops - https://languagedrops.com/ - Mobile-only, has a higher reliance on pictures and audio over written translations.
If you use SM and you use anki both for a significant amount of time it's not hard to see that SM leaves you with way less reps. Anki is based on the very first version of the SuperMemo algorithm (from ~1990 or so which was the first SRS algorithm ever) known as SM2. Current version of SM uses SM18.
To add to this, there's a set of Winetricks recipes for running SM on Linux. (Disclaimer: I haven't tried them, though I've been planning to, for a while.)
>You’re an 18 year old with just a high school degree. You immigrate to a new country that speaks a different language, and start work with some of the brightest engineers in the world.
>Soon after, you’re thrust into management. Now, you’re leading teams of people who are 10 or 20 years older than you, working on one of the fastest growing internet companies of the last decade.
I can't bring myself to. It's too sweet a daydream, a fantasy that not a soul on this planet would have deigned to make reality for a black boy like myself, credentials be damned.
>>> It’s nothing crazy. Here’s an example from a very real non-work day:
Followed by a pretty long list.
How does he do ? There are 23 items on the list. None of which include daily tasks such as : dishes, sport, talking to family, to friends, eating, cooking, washing clothes, having a social life. All of these tasks take a lot of time, esp. if I consider the time to switch between them (which can be quite long since, hey, it's a non work day, so I'm slower...).
We're not equals.
Not needing 9 hours of sleep is the only real way to add time to your day.
Manabi  is a flashcard app with the same algorithm as Anki but nicer UI.
Manabi Reader  collects a bunch of short-form reading materials, lets you tap words to look them up, and tap to add a flashcard. It tracks the individual words you read and charts your progress word by word and kanji by kanji. This app has gotten pretty popular so I have been improving it substantially.
The app is a (very heavily) dressed-up RSS reader. I maintain a list of reading sources and add them so long as they're not going to have overly sensitive material (eg someone suggested an anonymous blog with short and colorful posts from contributors reflecting on their lives, but some of the posts talk about self-harm) or be too niche. I'm most interested in feeds that get regularly updated with new content, or where they have a trove of existing content. Also always looking out for content that's good for absolute beginners.
Some RSS feeds require additional work in the app to transform their content to make them work nicely with the reader mode, so I also take that into account.
I'll note that this is a big pain point for me: although Android users don't pay as much for apps, they help boost word-of-mouth marketing substantially. I see some similar but (tbh) subpar apps get more word-of-mouth online even in recommendations to iOS users just because of the huge signal boost from Android users.
This is similar to how there are many rituals in every religion that people might follow without understanding the underlying concepts. The rituals are not the religion but we still see people mindlessly doing things that their ancestors did.
I would much prefer that we build systems that automatically create that knowledge graph objectively (like the wikipedia) and layer an AI system on top that will create new connections, even with brute force, that our minds in a lifetime cannot. This will not stop us from having opinions. People will still come to different conclusions based on the same underlying data but atleast the data and the surrounding context will be available to all.
1. Memorizing Japanese vocabulary, pitch-accent, and basic grammar rules. It would probably be useful, at least to some degree, for any language like this.
2. Any certification which required strict memorization. All the basic ComptTIA certs were like this, and the CCNA:R&S cert (unfortunately) required memorizing commands and their syntax.
3. Verses in the Bible (though this is pretty basic in comparison, just Address <-> Text).
In all honestly I think one of the best things you can do if you need to memorize something is make the flash cards yourself, whether with Anki, another app, or even just index cards. This forces you to think about what it is that you're trying to memorize and phrase the text of the cards in a way that you understand. After that, reviewing is just kind of "maintenance" in my opinion. There was definitely a marked difference in my retention when I was using pre-made Anki decks vs. creating them myself. It is also easier to create cards using the desktop app.
It's a side note, but I also don't agree with Anki's pricing model. The app is free on Android but $25 on iOS. I think I heard (I don't have a source) that the developer's justification was that they needed to make money from the all the time and effort they spent creating Anki, plus hosting costs, etc - so why not do a cheaper price on both Android/iOS, or do a free-to-download app with a subscription model? For what it's worth you can use the web version on iOS but the app is a better experience IMO.
People with money overwhelmingly buy iPhones. $25 is a pittance for anyone who can afford an iPhone. Anybody who uses Anki seriously gets far, far more value than $25 out of it. I used it for well over 200 hours before I stopped and I know I’ll go back to it again.
The Android version is not maintained by the developer of Anki. The iPhone app is. He chooses to charge for the iPhone app, which enables him to make a living making tens of thousands of people’s lives better.
If you don’t want to spend the price of two pizzas on an app that the modal user will use for over a hundred hours don’t.
I used Anki's web interface from my phone for about 6 months before I bought the iOS app. Then about 4 years after using the app almost every day, I sent them another $25 donation. I got way more than $50 worth of value out of it over the 10 years that I used it.
(I've now written my own study tool for Chinese which fixes some of the issues with using flashcards for language learning. Maybe at some point it will show up on "Show HackerNews"; but it's slow going when you've only got a few hours a week.)
* Basic information about countries e.g. population
* Ingredients and dishes from restaurant menus I didn't know
* Important people and places
* History facts (typically from Kindle highlights)
* Conversions between units (e.g. lbs to kg)
* Season for various vegetables and fruits
* Keyboard shortcuts for vim, readline, etc.
* Learning words and terms I don't know from Kindle/Instapaper highlights
* Useful statistics
I bought the iOS app, was happy to do so, and got a lot more than $25 of value from it. In my opinion, the developer might be better off with a subscription model rather than a one-time purchase.
A partition method would be part of a larger implementation you still have to reason through and talk through. You just remember that the quicksort of the top half starts at pivot+1 instead of pivot, etc. Essentially you eliminate the little mistakes people tend to make when they are nervous
A bit of a self-post, but I've compiled a list of Anki tips I've learned and found. My deck is about 14,000 cards over the last few years - so I've learned a bit from my own mistakes :)
If it's anything longer, then it's probably not a subject you should be using anki to learn or you're trying to remember too large a bloc of information at once.
I have absolutely no idea how this could be a form of procrastination, or how I could more efficiently memorize information that must be memorized.
Outside of a schooling/testing context, memorization alone is rarely beneficial. You need to be able to practically apply the knowledge, which happens through experience; looking details up when you need them forms a natural kind of spaced repetition anyway that’s tuned to what you actually need to know.
Sometimes the thing holding you back from improvement is a lack of facts, and sometimes it’s poor understanding of theory. In my experience, however, the fastest way to get better at doing something is almost always to practice doing that thing; most of the time a sufficient collection of facts and theoretical understanding will come along as a side-effect of that work.
How much of their prior training was memorizing specific facts, and how much of it was drilling the mechanics of solving typical problems? The former is what most people use spaced repetition for and what I believe is of limited utility; the latter is incredibly valuable and I never meant to imply otherwise.
Regularly looking things up is ok, but actively re-experiencing the thing you're trying to learn is a better way to make it stick.
On this we agree, but to me this means practical application in various contexts, rather than call-and-response memory drills.
Language learning is an obvious use case.
Also: law and medicine. Having knowledge mentally 'to hand' is pretty important if you've got a patient under general anaesthetic, or a judge asking you a very difficult question.
Memorizing word pairs can certainly be done with spaced repetition, but it’s unclear how much that translates to actual language ability. Second-language acquisition appears to be primarily dependent on reading (or listening to) the target language for content, and most words are learned via seeing them in context instead of being looked up in a dictionary.
I have no experience with law or medicine, but I expect the story is similar: practical knowledge is what you need to hand, and not book knowledge. Book knowledge is what gets you through the exams and into the practical part of your training.
Word pair is the easiest way to do it in anki, but it's not the only way to implement it.
My time isn't so optimised that 15 minutes each day on Anki is otherwise going to be spent on deep work.
This writeup estimates his usage of Anki is 4-7 minutes of review time for each card over 20 years. So, if it's worth taking 10 minutes to remember a fact, it's worth putting in Anki.
(This writeup also explains it's not worth putting things you don't care about into Anki).
Anki seems well suited for domains where you need to quickly access facts from a wide domain, e.g. vocabulary for language learning.
It's harder to see as important for programming. If you're programming you'll be able to recall the things you have experience using.
What method do you use to format a datetime object in python:
How do you create a new virtual env using python 3
python3 -m venv <NAME>
Those may seem stupid to you, but I was looking them up and now i do not need to. I also use them for other concepts when I want to know a language better. For example
What are the three prototypical methods of a js promise?
then, catch, finally
What does the constructor of a promise take?
and executor function
How many parameters does a executor take?
What are the two parameter of the executor function (constructor of a js promise)
resolve() and reject()
Things like this just help me as a programmer. I agree it's not for everyone, but I have the time an enjoying doing it.
Why not just `new Promise((res, rej) => ..)` instead of intermediate facts like "an executor takes 2 arguments"? I don't think I'd be able to recall what's meant by 'an executor' without first recalling that snippet.
What happen to slaves in Africa after the slave trade was abolished by the America/UK in the early + mid 1800s?
simply led to a redeployment of the slaves, who were now used within Africa rather than in the Americas
“So the abolition of the slave trade, rather than making slavery in Africa wither away, simply led to a redeployment of the slaves, who were now used within Africa rather than in the Americas. Moreover, many of the political institutions the slave trade had wrought in the previous two centuries were unaltered and patterns of behavior persisted. For example, in Nigeria in the 1820s and ’30s the once-great Oyo Kingdom collapsed. It was undermined by civil wars and the rise of the Yoruba city-states, such as Illorin and Ibadan, that were directly involved in the slave trade, to its south. In the 1830s, the capital of Oyo was sacked, and after that the Yoruba cities contested power with Dahomey for regional dominance. They fought an almost continuous series of wars in the first half of the century, which generated a massive supply of slaves. Along with this went the normal rounds of kidnapping and condemnation by oracles and smaller-scale raiding. Kidnapping was such a problem in some parts of Nigeria that parents would not let their children play outside for fear they would be taken and sold into slavery.”
Excerpt From: Daron Acemoglu. “Why Nations Fail.” iBooks.
What are two reasons why large scale wars no longer occur ?
1. Price of war has gone up because of Atomic weapons.
2. Weath is no longer is physical goods (gold,etc) but in the minds of the citizen (Silicon Valley).
Scholars have sought to explain this happy development in more books and articles than you would ever want to read yourself, and they have identified several contributing factors. First and foremost, the price of war has gone up dramatically. The Nobel Peace Prize to end all peace prizes should have been given to Robert Oppenheimer and his fellow architects of the atomic bomb. Nuclear weapons have turned war between superpowers into collective suicide, and made it impossible to seek world domination by force of arms.
Secondly, while the price of war soared, its profits declined. For most of history, polities could enrich themselves by looting or annexing enemy territories. Most wealth consisted of material things like fields, cattle, slaves and gold, so it was easy to loot it or occupy it. Today, wealth consists mainly of human capital and organizational know-how. Consequently it is difficult to carry it off or conquer it by military force.
Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens (p. 372). Harper. Kindle Edition.
Basically, I create cards with short answers but provide the context (usually the paragraph I found it in). This method works extremely well for remember everything you read. I could write a more technical blog post on this if people actually care and find this interesting.
Did you use spaced rep?
In the end, I got a lot more out of doing the research to create the cards than I did from the actually looking at the cards. I might even go so far as to say that after creating the cards, they were practically worthless.
This would be less true if the exam was further from the creation of the cards, though. It was within a month.
Someone else's cards might have helped a little, but not nearly as much.
Anki is basically meant for longer term studying. The criteria for when a card matures in Anki is when the interval becomes 21+ days.
Is becoming more knowledgable just "procrastination?" Is reading non-fiction outside your specialty procrastination?
I feel like for much of human history we've held people who have read an entire library's-worth of books in high esteem. Were they just procrastinating?
I still see where you're coming from. I used to think that people who meditated, or hiked the Appalachian Trail were "selfish," because they were doing something that benefitted only them. And I still find it hard to understand someone who decides to learn Mandarin at the age of 93. But people should be allowed to enlighten and actualize themselves however they wish, and it seems absurd to think that a planet full of more knowledgable people would be a bad thing.
I'm learning German and Anki is nothing short of amazing. I'm easily able to learn ~20 words a day primarily just practicing on my phone during bathroom breaks.
On the other hand I'm also learning Russian and Anki just doesn't work. Words won't stick in my head the way they do with German.
I've heard very numerous accounts of it being great for Japanese.
Because (for English speakers) Russian is harder than German. You need to reduce the number of words learned per day. Japanese is even harder to learn, but you have to be persistent. I spent more than an hour every single day for several years straight to learn the vocabulary.
Also there's a unique challenge with Russian is that nouns, verbs and adjectives are all conjugated, and the rules are quite complex. The noun cases would be completely foreign to non-Slavic language speaker. Even if you learn the vocabulary, using it in sentences is not trivial at all.
> The noun cases would be completely foreign to non-Slavic language speaker.
Picking those up was actually fairly straightforward. Cases may be completely foreign but the grammatical concepts behind them aren't. For example Russian has nominative, accusative and dative but English has subjects, direct objects and indirect objects and I learned all those in school.
I think somewhat ironically, the biggest grammatical problem I had with Russian was the tenses. English has 12 and Russian has ~5 so it was hard to figure out how to express a given English sentence in Russian.
But I think the biggest problem is phoenetics. On the surface it looks simple (unstressed o -> a) but there are so many extra rules if you want to speak properly (e.g. voiced consonant before a voiceless consonant becomes voiceless).
Modern Russian has 6 cases (with a couple more that pop up very rarely) with 3 genders and singular/plural endings. It's a total of 36 possible combinations, which is not that bad. Masculine and neuter also share most endings so there aren't actually 36 unique ones
Probably the most difficult thing about cases when I was learning Russian was remembering which verbs took a different case than I would expect, e.g. dative instead of accusative for what seems like a direct object.
Another incredibly tricky one for Slavic languages is imperfective vs perfective aspects. In most other languages, perfect vs imperfect is just a standard construction. In Polish (and Russian, though my examples here are Polish), you change the verb itself. How? Well, sometimes you put "po" in front of it, like rozmawiać / porozmawiać. Sometimes it's "z" (jeść / zjeść), sometimes "u", "na" or "wy". And sometimes you just give up, like oglądać (but obejrzeć in the perfective), widzieć (zobaczyć), mowić (powiedzieć).
(For this reason I have found it very hard to progress in Polish without conversation with native speakers who aren't too polite to correct me.)
36 isn't that bad but Russian also has 253 irregular verbs , each of which adds another set of combinations. A lot of them are just small tweaks and there are some that follow a set of patterns (e.g. идти with its various prefixes) but it still adds a lot of overhead.
There's at least great pre-made Japanese vocab decks. I'm about two months into one. Maybe less so for kanji (I at least don't have one), so that's probably something you need to do outside.
I'm still refining the workflows and discovering how it interacts with my own idiosyncrasies. The basic setup is:
1) Take daily notes in a hardback A4 sized square dotted journal. Mark shorter tasks/notes as completed when done.
2) Sweep "stuff that needs to be remembered" into org-journal daily entries, once or twice a day. Also add interesting web page links with a short description. And "nice to have" ideas, things like that.
3) Link from those daily notes to other planning or project org-mode notes using org-roam. Write quick outlines of documents.
4) At the beginning of the doc, those planning/project org docs have links to various single-subject docs. Those links are considered "tags" so a taxonomy is slowly being built up.
Org-roam shows you backlinks from docs, daily notes, etc, so you can begin to see what is connected. There's also a graphviz output you can generate to get a more graphical view of the links.
Things I'd like to be able to do, but haven't yet coded or learned the Lisp to do so:
1) Sync/Import bookmarks and their tags from Firefox. I've got a lot of bookmarks that I've tagged, it would be nice to be able to link those 2 sets of tags.
2) Figure out some sort of end-of-week-review process or multi-doc view. Something for me to look at all the stuff I added that week, and a way for me to push stuff into next week.
- Most of what I learned is not useful knowledge in anki. I made many variations of different decks, some for programming and some for other concepts
- Space repetition - the concept itself is built in many different places. For instance, google will remind me of photos that I took last year on my phone. I can check up instagram and facebook to see things my friends are doing and be reminded of things we've done. I can message people and be reminded of things too, or throw parties and likewise be hit with space-repetition if done frequently enough.
don't get me wrong though, space repetition is useful especially for learning a topic that requires a lot of vocabulary. The best way to learn something is just to be fully immersed into it, if you practice it daily you basically are applying the space-repetition algorithm in practice.
If you want to learn a new language, move to the country that speaks said language.
There's a lot of wasted time and effort in making cards and determining what is "Fringe value" - cards that expire and offer no values long term
If you want to remember things about people you care about, just message them pictures of things you;ve done together. No need to make a rolodex CRM like some of my friends do, its a waste of effort and time imo.
What anki really shines though again is language learning, or learning something with a lot of barrier-to-entry vocab. This is especically true for medical industry based applications
I practice what I use everyday and immerse myself in many programming communities and I've found that I've learned and retained information far more effectively when it's shared b/w many different perspectices and contextes
If you'd ask me it's a perfect example of how not to structure a database. It's not even in the first normal form.
I'd love to create an Anki clone that has better UI/UX and a better database format and I think that would remedy some of the biggest pain points about Anki. But since most Anki users (me included) use several plugins that are quite essential to their Anki experience, an Anki clone would have to support those plugins, too.
You don’t want to get it wrong because you may corrupt people’s data
Luhmann started out by doing these things:
* He had sequ. numbered cards, that were written on until they were full and therefore could contain multiple topics - and one topic could therefore also be on multiple cards (no. 1,7,15), if he later added to it
* He had a topic index to map card numbers to topics
* Most important: he used this system with slight variations continuously over years and it was a one person system
The benefit (that you can get with a personal wiki too, if you follow the system with Plugins) is, that when you get all cards on a topic, you also get the information on the topic you wrote down right before and after thinking about the topic you are researching...
As information organisation and knowledge is a personal thing, retrieving info from the cards with the other topics you thought of right before and after, might lead to subconscious connections that
- and here is the "conversation" -
then lead to your brain making connections that go beyond what you wrote down on the cards... at least that is how Luhmann described it... could anyone follow my little mental jump session?
I would be keen to know about the experience of setting it up and maintaining it. The github project doesn't seem active, which I always find fishy for server applications.
Of course, You still need to decide what is worth remembering.
What I want is something that could catch me opening dictionary by double-tapping in CoolReader and add the shown entry to my Anki. Doing it manually breaks the flow and immersion so I can't really do it while reading.
I have a ton of things I need to learn for my job, and I already have a text document full of notes and definitions. I'd like to assemble everything on my PC and then have flashcards on my phone. I also need to control the syncing because I'd be making cards with the company secret sauce and can't sync to anything but our corporate google drive/docs account.
Having an app that pulls the cards from a google sheets doc would be awesome.
It's not clear that managing and drilling on so much information offers a significant improvement over what is likely the most important intervention mentioned: reading widely and with purpose.
Sure flashcards can help you remember things you need to memorize. But it's not clear they should become a way of life and an end in their own.
I think you're in agreement with the original article. The individual is reading widely and with purpose. He uses Anki to assist in remembering. And that's the general guidance with Anki (or spaced repetition generally): learn first, recall later. You read, develop an understanding (at least partial), build your deck, and study with the deck while continuing to read the later material and building the deck up further.
And you don't try to remember everything, again from the article:
> When I come across something in a book that seems useful to understand and remember, I will highlight it on my Kindle and add a note to it with the text: “.flash”.
He doesn't highlight everything, just things that seem important. The importance is that many things are outside your particular field of work. But you have to interface with people who work in those domains (or want to), or you just want to have more knowledge to draw on. If you aren't using the information frequently, it won't come to mind when you need it. So with Anki you can have a relatively lightweight way to keep the jargon of another field re-callable, or to have the history of a place or people at hand.
The unanswered question here is why and how to make these methods of training automatic, as in that you do not need a tool or a calendar or a papet database to run them. There are some other mnemonic methods available but efficacy is unproven.
Maybe one of you can come up with a piece of service and make me tear up a little.
If you have Latex installed on your machine and have used it before, the process of getting starting should be pretty straightforward.
Is it possible I’m just not compatible with the way this works? Any tips on alternatives?
You want to memorise the entire alphabet as a sequence not just as individual letters. So you need cards of little overlapping sequences, like ABC, BCD, etc. The supermemo essays cover this scenario. With that work in place you’d learn it quickly.
As just separate letters divorced of any meaning, not hooked up with any other neurons in your brain, you’d struggle to ever recall it quickly.
This is a detail that people overlook and then wonder why it’s not working. (Not picking on you for doing that: I did the same before eventually reading way too much about it)
...by the creator of supermemo who basically formulated the whole idea.
In Point 1 he explains you shouldn’t use spaced repetition to learn. Use it to remember.
In Point 10 he covers how to remember “enumerations” (with an alphabet example)
You have to go back to the classics when you want to do something properly.
For more involved facts, Anki seems great in principle, but in practice I've found it hard to create and maintain the habit of doing the cards.
Anki is "just" a tool to prompt you with flash cards. Designing them is up to you and extremely flexible. You're free to add text, images, audio, whatever you want.
Some ideas of how you could use Anki to learn the Greek alphabet:
- Front of the card has the upper- and lower-case glyphs and the back has their sounds, either English, IPA or an actual recording (Wikipedia has them for everything in IPA and the Greek Alphabet page has a mapping from letter to IPA). You should also do this in reverse.
- Front of the card has a Greek word with a missing space, back of the card has the complete word. You can use audio recordings here as well if it helps you (e.g. have the front read the entire word).
There are also a few pre-made decks that people have shared: https://ankiweb.net/shared/decks/greek%20alphabet
I don't understand how anki users are able to make cards for non-language things,I personally absolutely hate making cards while reading anything. It's hard to explain the exact process but incremental reading by contrast makes it much easier to take what's really important from an article and make cards from it.
How does Supermemo help you keep keep context?
> keeping organized notes that may or may not be used for active recall
I use a separate notes app (Bear) for this. Is there much advantage in your experience to integrating active recall notes with Evernote-style reference notes?
For the record, Anki actually works really well for me. But interest in the subject should come first.
Anki is better for inputting vocabulary with definitions and example sentences. That also puts the letters that you spent time writing into practice.
The thing in this article that most reminded me about beauty-journalling posts was the todo list. In vanity journalling circles, the todo lists are full of meta-tasks "post to instagram; new journal layout; blog post about journalling" as well as pure vanity items like "yoga!; Breakfast: saffron avocado toast (yum!!)" Likewise, in this post his todo list includes items about writing about productivity, using other productivity tools, and other such "meta-productivity" items.
There's nothing wrong with this but it reveals that the "productivity" itself is the hobby, not just a means to an end.