Caught in a trap...

Neverfox's Avatar


25 Feb, 2014 11:37 PM

Here's my situation:

I'm currently using Anki to study Japanese. I began by grabbing a good shared deck for the hiragana and pretty much mastered those. Once I did that, I obtained three much larger decks covering kanji, grammar, and practice sentences respectively. At first, I was studying them as separate decks using the default 20/100 setting. In the last few weeks, a crazy work schedule caused me to get behind on the kanji deck to the point where to filled up to the max 100 reviews and stayed there for a few days. When I finally returned to Anki in a more dedicated way, I decided that it made sense to group all these decks under "Japanese::" and study the combined collection deck.

My problem is that after almost a week of this, I'm still maxed out at 100 reviews and I'm beginning to wonder if I'm ever going to get out of this hole I've dug for myself. I'm missing enough in the reviews that a lot of cards are getting pushed out only one day, and since the combined deck is so far focusing on the kanji deck, the other decks that weren't so bad off are now piling up in the background.

Any suggestions about what I can do differently to get back in control? Am I really in a trap or do I just need to be patient?

  1. 1 Posted by Soren Bjornstad on 26 Feb, 2014 02:11 AM

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    If you don't add any new cards, eventually the value will drop below 100 again. But as Xiao says, the easiest way is just to raise the limit for a bit and go through the cards that have built up.

  2. 2 Posted by Heather on 26 Feb, 2014 04:58 AM

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    Also creating a filtered deck and sorting by relative overdueness can help you get the ones you need to study in a priority of urgency - it helps it go through faster....

  3. 3 Posted by Neverfox on 26 Feb, 2014 05:45 AM

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    @Heather: Thanks. That's what I eventually figured out. It seems to be working well. @Soren: Thanks also. I've turned of new cards until I've cleared the backlog.

    @Xiao Sun: I'm fully aware that I could clear the backlog if I just sat down and did more each day, but increasing the limit beyond what I can do in a day is nothing but a superficial, psychological trick. Oh look, my limit is 9999 but I only have 9998 to review. No backlogs here! Give me a break. My reason for asking the question was to see if I was missing something about how to optimize the 100 cards I am shown (and no, my choice of 100, while the default, also works out just right for the time I have each evening). Heather and Soren pointed me in a useful direction; you, however, provided nothing but snark. In the future, I'd appreciate it if you didn't reply to my questions.

  4. 4 Posted by Paul B on 26 Feb, 2014 04:12 PM

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    I posted some advice in post 8 of this thread:
    about how to manage a large backlog.

    Basically, it is all about decided how much time per day you want to invest in Anki, and gradually adjusting the new cards per day to reach this target. (But you have to adjust the new card limit slowly, because it will affect the cards-per-day for the next couple of weeks.)

  5. 5 Posted by Paul B on 26 Feb, 2014 04:21 PM

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    In reply to Xiao Sun's post, I do believe that there is a "theoretically optimum" way to order your reviews, in order to minimize your review time as follows:

    1) Imagine you can calculate the "probability of remembering" each card.
    2) For each due card, compute the "probability of remembering" if you answered immediately, as compared with the "probability of remembering" if you don't answer today, but answer it tomorrow instead
    3) The difference between these numbers is the "current forgetting rate" for each card
    4) You should review cards in order from the highest "current forgetting rate" to the lowest

    For someone that has a large backlog, this is equivalent to saying:
    A) Some due cards I have already forgotten, so there is no harm delaying re-learning them until later B) Some of the due cards are at 90% probability of remembering, so I don't need to review them immediately C) For the cards in between, the probability of remembering them is rapidly decreasing. I should therefore review these cards first, so that I can "rescue" as many of them as possible.


  6. 6 Posted by Neverfox on 26 Feb, 2014 05:38 PM

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    @Paul: That's exactly the kind of intuition that led me to ask something in the first place (one might call it "common sense") and you managed to put it explicitly in a very clear manner. If one is faced with a large backlog, but a limited time (i.e. a low maximum per day), but is fed those cards off the top that they are more likely to miss (pushing them out only a day), then it's quite possible to end up in a vicious circle or at least drag things out.

  7. 7 Posted by Heather on 27 Feb, 2014 03:34 AM

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    Xiao, as you have indicated that you don't allow backlogs to occur, you haven't dealt with getting rid of one. Even deciding to plow through a huge number in one day will still mean that in a few days you will have a huge number again.

    I say that if a method of getting through the backlog has only a perceived or psycological benefit... I maintain that is still a benefit. Especially for something that could cause someone to quit.

    There have been many people that have attested to the benefit in using 'relative overdueness' to break a backlog - or the similar homemade methods before that sorting method existed. Even if it is a perceived thing, it makes a difference to the person doing it.

    By sorting by relative overdueness, you get the cards first that you are most likely to forget if you don't review them. A card that is overdue by 2 days that has an interval of a day is more urgent than one 2 days overdue that has a 1 year interval. By resorting each day, the ones you forgot that are set to do the next day are now seen as not-urgent and won't be shown until you have dealt with the main backlog and you can attend to relearning them.

    Leave the questions about backlogs to those of us that have/do deal with them.

  8. 8 Posted by Elsa on 27 Feb, 2014 12:42 PM

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    I recently discovered a huge backlog (5000+ mature cards) after a few months off one of my decks. I maxed my reviews to 100 for about a week but wasn't making any significant progress, so I ended up rescheduling those cards over a 4 months period, and the number of daily reviews is now stable at around 130 a day. I also have enough time every day to work on the items I fail, and it doesn't feel like a backlog anymore, but more like standard reviews. The only drawback is that rescheduling resets ease to 150%. So, rescheduling is another option.

    Whichever way you choose to get rid of your backlog, good luck, and don't give up! :)

  9. 9 Posted by Aleksej on 27 Feb, 2014 01:18 PM

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    The only drawback is that rescheduling resets ease to 150%.

    I guess you mean 250%, but does rescheduling actually reset ease? I thought only creating new cards did.

  10. 10 Posted by Elsa on 27 Feb, 2014 01:53 PM

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    The only drawback is that rescheduling resets ease to 150%.

    I guess you mean 250%, but does rescheduling actually reset ease? I thought only creating new cards did.

    Sorry, yes, I meant 250%. Thanks for the correction. (150%, now that would have been puzzling!)
    It definitely reset it for my cards. I assume this is to avoid any interference with the standard calculation of ease, although I am not sure how that would happen.

    By the way, the manual says this:

    Resetting the deck is an even worse solution. When returning to a deck after a long absence, you may have forgotten many of your cards, but chances are you haven’t forgotten them all. Resetting the entire deck means you have to waste time studying material you already know.

    As I said, that has not been my experience. I believe I have saved myself a lot of time in the long term, ease notwithstanding.
    Maybe the ease issue is meant to be a deterrent? ;)

  11. 11 Posted by mnhende2 on 27 Feb, 2014 09:46 PM

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    Okay, I mostly agree with what Xiao is saying in principle about sunk
    cost fallacies, perception, and psychological benefits. It is good

    However, if you are going to fall behind, there is some advantage to
    falling behind on your more mature cards than on your newer cards. And
    that is because the forgetting curves of your more mature cards are
    much flatter than the forgetting curves of your newer cards.

    So, if I have 100 cards that have a steep forgetting curve (i.e. newer
    cards), then falling a few days or even a couple of weeks behind on
    them could have serious consequences, potentially missing a high
    percentage of them. However, if I fall a few days or even a couple of
    weeks behind on a 100 cards that have a really flat forgetting curve,
    then it has practically no impact. I might drop from 90% recall of
    them to 89% recall. (This assumes that I am targeting equal recall
    accuracy (say 90%) for all cards). (If you aren't familiar with this
    concept, do a search on the term "forgetting curve.")

    Now, I'm hesitant to have just written that, because I don't want it to
    take away from the good point that Xiao makes, nor do I want to endorse
    people falling behind. Having been using Anki for many years, as well
    as all of my children, and my wife, and my students at the university.
    My best advice is to figure out a life pattern that allows you to not
    fall behind. Might seem difficult at first, but is certainly the best
    goal to aim for in the long-run.

    All the Best!

  12. 12 Posted by Heather on 27 Feb, 2014 10:10 PM

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    I still say that even a only psychological benefit is still a benefit, especially if it is the difference between continuing with a program or quitting it.

    And yes, over the long term, maybe there isn't an actual time benefit - I'm still not convinced of that - depending on the size of backlog, the mixture of overdueness, etc. In the short term I do see a benefit personally, and others have agreed.

    Some of us do need to deal with backlogs. I work with students that take a break over Christmas, over Spring Break, and most of all over the Summer. That is a fact of life for me. There are people with health issues too. Telling them to adjust their life so they don't have backlogs isn't always a viable option.

  13. 13 Posted by Aleksej on 02 Mar, 2014 06:32 PM

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    Sorry, yes, I meant 250%. Thanks for the correction. (150%, now that would have been puzzling!) It definitely reset it for my cards.

    Apparently it resets to "nothing". I may have confused it with not resetting history, which includes keeping total and avg times.

  14. System closed this discussion on 22 Feb, 2016 11:50 PM.

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