Anki vs. SuperMemo

Here I am again. So this blog wasn’t dead after all…. Have I been procrastinating maybe? Yes and not.

As I once said, some time ago I was a great procrastinator. For me it was a  very serious issue. Even my self-esteem was affected because of that situation.  As many other people I decided to read some books about procrastination in order to help myself. And believe me, if you choose the right ones, they can help you to change for better (of course reading isn’t enough, a combination of daily work, will, motivation  and routine is a must). For me, this book was one of the most helpful because of it’s main point: to postpone our main pending big task doing smaller tasks. Yeah, it sounds quite simple, but it’s deeper than it sounds. Did you ever noticed back at high school that during the week of finals each semester we always thought we had a lot of things we would like to do but we couldn’t because of exams, and when we we had finished all of them we didn’t  think like that anymore? Well, this is something similar. Here you can read the essay where this idea was explained for the first time (it’s also the first chapter of the book which I pointed out). I believe that it gives enough insight about the idea altogether so I am not going to develop it more in this entry.

Maybe for me updating this blog is not the biggest task in my plate right now. Nevertheless, I consider it very important because it’s the only activity which I do in my personal time with a -very small- public impact. So, what have I been doing instead of updating this blog? Mainly modifying and improving the system which I use for studying and starting a new project based in the incremental reading technique. I pretend to write about these activities in a short-term future and a medium-term future respectively. But first I need to obtain more data and results. So today I would like to speak about my user’s experience while using two of the most well know SRS nowadays: Anki and SuperMemo.

If we look around the Internet we will find a lot of reviews about each of them, and sometimes even direct comparisons between them. But as I see it, nearly always there is a big issue in all of them: most of those reviews are just superficial and limited analysis of the main features of Anki, SuperMemo or both of them. In other words, usually those reviews are made by people who never used either of them, or if they did, usually it was for a relative short period of  time. So, in the end, the decision about which one it’s the most efficient is left to the reader.

I am not going to analyze the main features of each of them, mainly, because as I said, there are a lot of reviews like that, and because I don’t fully know all of them (mostly, Anki’s apparently infinite plugins list). What I want to speak about it’s my user’s experience after using Anki for a whole year in a regular way and SuperMemo  for half year (still doing it) also in a regular way.

Anki was the first SRS I ever used and thus I had a lot of problems because of it. Anyways, it’s interface it’s really intuitive so it in the end it was really easy to learn how to run it. The main problem which I faced was to understand it’s true nature (here I explained what is a SRS and what I believe it’s its true purpose). In the end that situation made me to do many mistakes while using it. The most significant one was to believe that I could introduce any kind of information and in some way or another I would be able to learn and remember it solely with Anki’s help. I wasn’t follow The 20 rules of formulating knowledge in learning even if I was already aware of them. Now I truly understand their importance. Another big handicap I had back then was that I wasn’t aware yet of the big importance of active recall in our learning process, so most of my Anki cards were ‘passive review focused’.

SuperMemo on the other hand has a very complex interface which most of the times makes potential users to think twice before buying it. Yes, while Anki it’s free, SuperMemo isn’t (we are speaking about the Desktop versions). At SuperMemo’s web we can consult the prices. Anyhow, after one week or two of using it I got used to it’s interface. In fact, I realized It was quite intuitive. SuperMemo gives to us more possibilities while creating our cards. Also, it has the explendid Incremental Reading feature. Yes, Anki has a new plugging for it too, but it’s not the same, believe me. While Anki offers to us the Incremental Reading feature as a new incorporation still in process of development, SuperMemo’s last version is especially focused on it. The only feature which I consider better implemented in Anki is the ‘picture clozing’ function. With Anki the ‘picture clozing process’ it’s almost automatic, while with SuperMemo it’s more manually and thus slower (= a pain in the ass).

So, what was the reason to change Anki for SuperMemo (= the reason which makes me think SuperMemo is best suited for me)? After some time using Anki I realized while doing my daily revisions that the older cards (the ones programmed for two or more months ahead) were gone from my long-term memory. That became a common issue rewarding a lot of cards. After evaluating my options I decided to start using SuperMemo hoping to solve that issue. And, in the end, it did. It seems that SuperMemo 15 algorithm is much more solid than the one used by Anki. Here is a brief explanation about the reasons for this. Don’t worry if you don’t understand any of it. I don’t either. I am not a computer programmer nor I have the kind of knowledge which would let me to understand the technical stuff. The only thing I know for sure is that SuperMemo helps me to memorize almost any kind of information in a stable way, while Anki doesn’t. Also, it seems that SuperMemo it’s able to help us to deal with a broader spectrum of topics, while Anki specializes in language learning.

Maybe it’s true that my comparison it’s useless because now, while using SuperMemo, I have much more experience than when I started to use Anki. Maybe, if back then I had the knowledge I have now about certain aspects of my learning process and such, it would have been a total different experience altogether. It’s obvious that my poor results using Anki wasn’t due to it’s own limitations but because my inability to use it in a correct way. Following this reasoning, I would like to point out that both of them have an immense potential. But, in order to benefit from them, and as I said, first we need to understand the true nature of SRS and give to them the credit they deserve; no more, no less.

ps. Yes, the title of this entry is just a trick to get some attention… kind of.

1 comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: