Tag Archives: spaced repetition

Steven Jonas: Memorizing My Daybook

Memory, cognition, and learning are of high interest here at QS Labs. Ever since Gary Wolf published his seminal piece on SuperMemo, and it’s founder Piotr Wozniak, in 2008, we’ve been delighted to see how people are using space repetition software. Our friend and colleague, Steven Jonas, has been using SuperMemo since he read Gary’s article and slowly transition to daily use in 2010. Steven has been quite active in sharing how he’s used it to track his different memorization and learning projects with his local Portland QS meeup group. At the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference, Steven introduced a new project he’s working on, memorizing his daybook – a daily log he keeps of interesting things that happened during the day. Watch his fascinating talk below to hear him explain how he’s attempting to recall every day of this life. If you’re interested in learning more about spaced repetition we suggest this excellent primer by Gary.


You can also download the slides here.

What did you do?
I used a spaced repetition system to help me remember when an entry in my daybook occurred.

How did you do it?
Using Supermemo, I created a flashcard each morning. On the question side, I typed what I did the previous day. On the answer side, I typed down the date. SuperMemo would then schedule the review of these cards. I also played around with adding pictures and short videos from that day to the card, as well.

What did you learn?
First, that this seems to work. I’ve built up a mental map of my experiences, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I also learned that I hardly ever remember the actual date for a card. Instead, it’s a logic puzzle, where I can recall certain details such as, “It was on a Saturday, and it was in October, the week before Halloween. And Halloween was on a Thursday that year.” From there, I can deduce the most likely day that it occurred. I’m also learning which details are most helpful for placing a memory. Experiences involving other people and different places are very memorable. Noting that I started doing something, like “I started tracking my weight”, are not memorable.

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QSEU14 Breakout Session: Spaced Repetition

Today’s post comes to us from Steven Jonas who led the Spaced Repetition breakout session at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference.  Spaced repetition is a common topic in the Quantified Self community and we’ve seen great examples from Jeopardy champion Roger Craig and Steven. In this breakout session, conference attendees discussed reasons for using spaced repetition, past experiences, and potential pitfalls. You’re invited to read the description of the session and then join the discussion on the QS Forum

How Spaced Repetition Works (A graph)

Spaced Repetition
By Steven Jonas
The Spaced Repetition breakout was a knowledge sharing session around the use of spaced repetition tools, such as SuperMemo, Anki, and Memrise. There were two major themes during the discussion: what can spaced repetition be used for, and what is the value of it?

Many people use Spaced Repetition to memorize vocabulary while learning a foreign language. But it has other uses also. Novel uses of spaced repetition include: remembering the faces of authors of books and articles and memorizing entries from one’s own datebook to construct a mental timeline . We explored other possible uses of this powerful tool, such as remembering facts about people, or using it to keep in mind projects that one would like to do.

Why memorize information when most facts are just a web search away? We discussed a few reasons to commit facts to memory. One is that most breakthroughs come from connecting ideas together. So, by retaining what one has already learned, it makes it easier to make connections with new ideas as they are encountered.

Also, spaced repetition can be used to change your overall relationship with a subject of knowledge. One person told of how he tried to multiple times to learn Spanish with poor results. His conclusion was that he just wasn’t good at learning languages. After using spaced repetition to build his vocabulary, he changed his self-assessment. It wasn’t that he was bad at languages, he just needed a better process. Or consider the experience of memorizing poetry. Holding a poem in memory changes one’s relationship to it. Adding a poem to one’s repertoire creates a sense of ownership over the poem.

We acknowledged in our discussion that spaced repetition practice is fragile, because for it to be most effective it must be done every day. A neglected spaced repetition system leads to an overwhelming number of cards to be reviewed, which can lead to abandoning the practice  altogether. This is a problem that, so far, does not seem to have a good solution.

If you’re interested in keeping this conversation going about what should happen to our data after we’re gone you’re invited to join the discussion on the QS Forum.

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Roger Craig on Spaced Repetition and Anki

Here at QS we’re big fans of spaced repetition. We’ve seen it presented at various meetups where people have used different systems to learn languages, understand world geography, or in the case of today’s subject, become one of the biggest winners on Jeopardy. Roger Craig has the distinct honor of not only being a wonderful advocate for Quantified Self, but having staring in our most watched Show&Tell video: “Roger Craig on Knowledge Tracking.” In this insightful video, Roger tells the New York QS Meetup group how he first got into spaced repetition and how he uses Anki, his tool of choice.

If you’re interested in learning more about spaced repetition please visit this wonderful primer written by Gary Wolf.

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