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Show HN: MemStash - Commit things to memory (memstash.co)
170 points by sinak on Sept 9, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments

In a similar vein, try out the space repetition software, Mnenmosyne: http://www.mnemosyne-proj.org/

I'll add to that a good article spaced repetition: http://www.gwern.net/Spaced%20repetition

Also, Anki: http://ankisrs.net/

I just skimmed Anki & mnemosyne as well as MemStash. Early constructive criticism: I think all of these tools would benefit from a web-based demo that doesn't require a download & install or a signup / login.

As an example, I watched the Anki intro video http://youtu.be/c0dI2VyLDWw and I found myself wanting to try my hand at state capitals immediately, but not enough to download and install the software.

Building a quick web playground that lets the user try quick quizzes may capture people and hook them in -- at least it would for me.

I'm trying to start a startup to make spaced repetition easier to use, without logins or downloads. My prototype is http://mrflashcard.com/ . Would something like this be more useful to you?

As a long time SRS user, I couldn't understand the flow of the US capitals example at all. Using Chrome/Linux, I only had one answer to begin with, and that was really confusing. The gradual multiple choice didn't make much sense for me, and it won't make much sense for language. With language, I just want to click on it and see if I was correct with my verbal guess.

I don't like the waiting for ten seconds for a new flashcard at all. Why am I staring at your screen for ten seconds? or a minute! I'm just going to leave and not return.

I personally have no interest in SMS, but others may. What I care about is push notifications and mobile software. (I paid the $$$ for anki, but it doesn't have a way to remind me to go through my cards daily.

Honestly, I think for this kind of startup, you'd be well served to read more of the research of learning, because what I see doesn't match up with what I've personally learned on my journey.

Thank you for your feedback.

You're right, the one card at the beginning is confusing; I plan on showing more at the onset to counter that.

I was hoping users would click the "show more cards" button when they got to the waiting screen, not actually wait 10 seconds. I should probably add some help text to encourage clicking this button.

The reason I'm experimenting with multiple choice over just asking "Did you get it right or wrong" is to make for a more casual learning experience. After a few days a card turns into typed answer so the user can prove to themselves that they still know it. I am considering adding a traditional flip and self score mode to accommodate users who want that.

My plan is to make a native app with Notifications; the SMS thing is just a temporary way to get the deck onto the phone since there's no login system yet.

If you have time, I'd love to pick your brain as to how you learn. If you do, shoot me an email: c@mrflashcard.com . Thanks again!

Anki has a web app for repeatitions, but it doesn't mimic all the features of its Desktop/Mobile apps.


Anki's biggest goal seems to aim for cross-platform in use (even stretched to the NDS at one point).

I wrote an article on SRS as well, with some reference to using it for geeky coding things:


As someone who is intensely interested in memory and mnemonics, I always welcome new tools. The site looks great for being build in 24 hrs and I like the idea of a web-based tool for memorization. However, I do think the offer could use some work. As some other people have pointed out, SMS, email and Push notifications might get out of hand very quickly.

I think you have to consider that most people are using tools like Anki to memorize larger sets of data rather than the names of a few people or a nice quote. Tools like push notifications and text messages are just not an efficient way to digest that much information. I wouldn't mind getting a quote pushed out to me a few times in a day, but compound that by 100 or more items to memorize and suddenly your phone is blowing up every 3 seconds. No bueno.

If I were in your shoes, I would do away with the push, email and SMS notifications altogether. I like the idea of clipping items from around the web, because that actually solves one of the biggest pains of using Anki, which is organizing and typing all your items into the program (assuming there isn't already a stack available). You could even allow users to "clip" to a specific notebook to better organize their items.

Instead of sending notifications, I'd create a spaced-repetition mobile app and/or web app that allowed users to access their clipped items. That way, users can access your tool at their own discretion, but still get the benefit of having a tool to gather their information.

Anyhow, that's my 2 cents. Great job and good luck!

Yeah, really our main constraint was the 24 hours, and getting this to MVP stage. Really interested in getting more feedback though. If you take a look at the comments under http://lesswrong.com/lw/e26/who_wants_to_start_an_important_... with my username and you can read a little about how this kinda developed. We're still trying to figure out whether there's a compelling and sticky feature set that we can build a meaningful, mainstream service around.

I think there is potential here. As I mentioned above, Anki has a few quirks that make it cumbersome to use on occasion. My top three complaints, accompanied by potential solutions, would be as follows:

01. Getting information into Anki. You've already got this covered pretty well. The ability to clip notes from around the web or add them via other methods is wonderful. Think of a tool like Evernote or Clip.to

02. Poor Quality Decks. Let's face it, finding a good pre-made deck in Anki can be a challenge. You can easily solve this, simply offer your users a variety of high quality decks. The better the quality of the decks, the more value. It can take a REALLY long time to make a good deck, I'd gladly pay a modest fee for a well made deck that saves me hours of prep time.

03. Bad Design & UI. I love Anki, but she isn't the prettiest girl in the room and she isn't always easy to get along with. A little bit of elegant design and thoughtful UI would go a looong way in boosting the perceived value of your product.

01. Totally agree with this. I hate the inertia to adding new info.

02. The best decks are always the ones you create, since they have personal value.

03. Ankidroid is the OSS android version and it's awesome. I bought the paid iOS app to support the author/service, but IMO it's really ugly and unusable (but then I think most iOS apps are unintuitive and crippled so take it with a grain of salt)

I've been interested in this for a long while especially in memory models for forgetting patterns beyond simplistic SR expanding schedules.

We developed http://membean.com that utilizes some of this technology and we've been able to make this a successful business albeit in a restricted domain. But as others have pointed out .. it's hard to sell this. We've managed it because of stellar content built around our engine: http://membean.com/exemplars. Without excellent content it would have been hard to get this off the ground despite us able to show that we outperform existing SRS tools.

Most recently Smart.fm tried this and failed.

You bring up a good point. Perhaps targeting a specific demographic would make the sell a bit easier?

I don't think it occurs to many people to seek out and use memory tools. However, there are groups of people who do have a very specific need for these tools and actively seek them out. I'm thinking of people like medical students, language enthusiasts, etc... Anyone who has an immediate need to learn and recall large amounts of information.

By intentionally limiting the scope of what you offer, you can better target prospects and tailor your offer to fit their needs like a glove.

As you pointed out, the quality of decks is important. Limiting scope allows for creation of quality decks. At the end of the day spacing is just one aspect of forgetting - strong encoding is the other and for that you need rich varied content. Creating quality content is hard work. We started off with a focus on algorithms and engines and then realized that even if we slap the very best Memory engine if you have crappy content - no one cares (and retention is marginal over simplistic flash cards). We invested a lot of work on content and varied encoding and it's paid off and we are now branching into different verticals.

This is marvelous idea! I forget everything.

But, I have to ask, how do you stop yourselves from becoming annoying? Also, the fact that 90% of the time these aren't reminders, but distractions.

Also, I don't have a phone plan. Just an iphone that's used as a wifi device. Now what?

> Also, I don't have a phone plan. Just an iphone that's used as a wifi device. Now what?


I think that this relies on specific timing for receiving the messages though, so if the phone is not constantly on wifi you miss a part of it.

the timing isn't precise to more than perhaps +-1 day, missing that particular couple minutes when the text would arrive doesn't matter

Yeah it's a tricky balance - it's 3 notifications per item you "stash," so it isn't too bad. But our plan is to make a mobile app with push notifications so we can control the notifications and make them intelligently timed.

Is that actually common in any part of the world?

Phone is now optional - you can get just emails instead

I love seeing things built in 24 hours. Great job on that.

The idea is so-so. There is probably a low upper-limit to the number of things you want to remember this way. More than 5 text messages like this a day will get a bit annoying I think.

Take a look at memrise.com. They see to have the learning things through repetition thing down.

Great job though, and keep working on it.

Yep, Memrise is awesome. We think that spaced repetition has the potential to be more mainstream ... it's quite an empowering use of technology, and there are lots of similar cognitive enhancing tricks that are in the same vein. You're right - more than 5 text messages isn't great, but down the line we're hoping to create mobile apps to make the reminder process much more streamlined.

If you want to commit something to memory, read it, try reciting it in your head, try writing out, and as long as you can't, refer back to the original thing.

If you want to record a passing thing to later commit to memory, write it in a notebook.

Following tactics can also aid the learning process:

1. Associate new ideas to existing ideas (metaphors, problem solve, story)

2. Make it less abstract (story, diagrams, touch, smell, etc)

3. Express it (restate, teach, share, tweet, blog, etc)

very much agree with this. writing things down help a lot. as another way, keep associate things with other thing in a funny way (even if it doesn't make sense, actually that even help more). I've done those two methods and found it very effective.

Whether your learning a foreign language

In the front page, it's "you're"

I'm going to blame that on 24 hours of no sleep too. We'll get it fixed write away ;)

I see what you did there

Feedback in the form of questions: Why not build this as a local app? Isn't this effectively the same thing as setting a few calendar reminders? Once I've identified something I'd like to remember, how is this faster, cheaper, or more effective than using, say, Evernote?

I want to just have it email and I'd like to remove my phone #, can't seem to figure out how.

Also a similar type thing but without the push that I've been using to learn languages (and is very slick) is http://www.memrise.com

So, is this based around a Spaced Repetition system, or just some standardly spaced reminders? Would this be an alternative to Anki? Or is it just meant to solidify some small set of facts using reminders?

You know, our plan is to eventually make this Anki-as-a-service. It's dumbed-down spaced repetition as it stands, but the long-term vision is to try and make a more mass-market friendly Anki. It's all pretty basic since we built this thing in 24 hours ... but hopefully more to come soon.

Sounds like a good plan, SRS is definitely under-used for how powerful it can be as a memory tool, so it's good to see some more development in the space.

Hey everybody, we just built this webapp at the techcrunch disrupt hackathon. It's a little rough around the edges but we're just looking to get some feedback from the HN community. Thanks!

Wonderful idea. Thank you.

I love it. Instead of MMS though, reminders via instant message (gchat/aim/whatever) would be nice.

Great idea! on the list now

This is a great example of the concept that ideas are worthless and it's execution that is everything. I've been thinking of doing _exactly_ the same service for some.. 2 years now, mostly for myself by potentially also for the benefit of others. And voila :)


Sounds very useful and I want to try this but the sign up requires the use of a cell phone. I'm afraid this will not work here in the Netherlands, is this correct?

If this is so, could you make an app or use WhatsApp or e-mail or whatever so I can try?

Try entering 999-999-9999. At the moment SMS is disabled while we're waiting for Twilio API approval, but email should work!

Edit: We'll also try and make phone optional in the next hour or so ...

Happy to help here! Please email me.

Edit: Found an account for you and for BC, approved both. Let us know if we can do anything else to help.

Bootvis - Phone is now optional on signup. Check it out!

Save for SMS and email reminders, this looks remarkably similar to a site I built a while ago called FlashcardStash (http://flashcardstash.com) (used to be WordStash).

Very cool job getting this to number 1 in real-time for your demo presentation.

Yeah, that was ridiculously awesome! Just in time :).

This website doesn't do well on high resolutions.

Good: http://wsld.me/JK0p

Bad: http://wsld.me/JJsc

Do people actually browse the web like that? Why get a massive resolution and waste it displaying websites full screen in a way that's unlikely to have been tested, and even less likely to present the information in a digestible manner?

yeah, sorry. we've only had my 13' macbook air and we made this over the last 24 hours. I'll be fixing the responsive design once I get some sleep, heh.

No worries! Sorry if my comment sounded super negative, I wrote it real fast while running off to make dinner so it was short and blunt.


I live in canada and can't seem to get sms. I tried my area code with 438 with both 438 and 1438 and they both don't seem to work. I don't receive sms notifications

A neat idea, but three times is definitely not going to be enough reminders in many cases, especially if you are using the service often.

Thank you to everyone pointing out the spelling mistakes - and i mean that seriously - HN is the best QA team we could ask for!

Sounds like Git hehe. Stash, Commit etc.

The service is not for me, but just wanted to say it's a beautifully executed responsive homepage.

What is the timing scheme for the notifications? Do you have any information about its efficacy?

Right now its 10 min after book marking it, then 24 hours after that. We had some different schemes in mind that we'll be optimizing in the next day or so. It's a hackathon, build what you need now.

Love the concept and that page shrinks beautifully.

Small typo: Every forgotten somebody's name? should be Ever.

Thanks! Still a few issues with the site responsiveness that I'll need to sort out - at least once I get some sleep!

And I'll get that typo sorted out, heh.

I feel I should point out that the header in the mast container has white text and on my browser, with a window size width greater than 1600 px, it overlaps with the white in the image making part of it hard to read. Other than that, job well done :)

One more: "Whether your learning a foreign language..." should be you're.

Typos fixed.

Well done guys, great achievement for a 24hr project! Even has Evernote integration, neat.

Any tips on making a bookmarklet work this well? I mean code-wise and ease of testing

Am I the only one that thought this was another Redis from reading the title?

Looks like the bookmarklet code was copied from Instapaper.

Every forgotten? Embarrassing is misspelled, too.

fixed, thanks

Stash this: "Remember to sign up to Memstash" :)

not a criticism, just noticed this looks like rdio's landing page. glad to see someone else liked theirs as much as i do

Yep we totally "drew inspiration" from Rdio. Good catch.

Really? Are we still using bookmarks for app executions? I personally find terrible UX to mix real bookmarks with your extensions/apps

any suggestions for better implementation? we're for sure looking for ways to improve.

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