Coronavirus Economics and whole-deck ANKI pause feature

wmqpmw's Avatar


22 Mar, 2020 02:44 PM

I’m a former virus researcher with an interest in economics, and while reading up on financial responses to COVID-19, I came across an article titled “Stopping Time: An Approach to Pandemics”. The article was intriguing in itself, and it made me think of a feature that seems needed, albeit potentially difficult to implement, in ANKI, namely a method for temporarily stopping time.

The question “how do I take a break from ANKI for a day” has been asked over the years in multiple threads, and the most frequent answers usually center around some type of chastisement or derision (“you don’t; that’s not how it works”, or “seriously, you can find the time”) or utilization of “review ahead” options, always followed by caveats about this method. A third option of anticipating one’s reduced time capacity and halting new cards preceding the break is also recommended as a half-measure, as is the option of using load balancer add-ons. Personally, I just export my entire collection in an extreme situation (nasal surgery with following two days of heavy painkillers and mental fog, as a personal example), which has it’s own complications.

The ANKI support position seems to be that one’s memory doesn’t stop time, so ANKI doesn’t either.

I appreciate the position, but it’s not realistic, nor is there any necessary reason to shoehorn ANKI’s features into a mirroring of the ineluctible features of biological functioning. As much as I love ANKI, it’s neither a true biological extension of the human mind nor a divinely inspired tool that miraculously and uniquely enhances learning in a way that would be catastrophically dashed to bits if someone is simply unable to do cards for a day. It’s a tool – a very good one, but still a tool that enables us to enhance human learning in a way that asymptotically approaches, but never reaches, a “perfect” version of spaced-repetition-based human learning optimization. If someone has a need to bend that curve every once in a while away from the target, fine. After all, we are all each of us already under-implementing ANKI in some way or another whether or not we admit it, since there will always be - a better way to make or organize cards, a better algorithm, or some other thing that we haven't grasped at the moment. Occasionally stopping time, while immediately obvious as a deviation from perfect, is not necessarily a greater shortcoming in the grand scheme of things.

As a case in point, I have a number of Orthodox Jewish friends, some of whom have been in medical school. For religious reasons, they abstain from using many electronic devices, including anything that runs ANKI, for about a 24 hour period once a week, and sometimes for two or three days at a time for high holidays. Sure, they could cram all their cards on Saturday nights, or do everything on Sunday, but what about two or three days worth of cards? Who wants to trudge through three days of backlog when you’re used to doing 2 hours a day? Nobody. In short, it’s a roller coaster, unnecessarily so.

There are a number of features that would enhance ANKI, many of which have already either been astutely identified and/or wonderfully imagined, and which are either newly implemented or in the pipeline. An easy to use method for people to stop time should probably be on that list, regardless of the kvetching of misguided ANKI purists who are knowingly or unconsciously fetishizing an algorithm.

  1. 1 Posted by p4nix on 16 May, 2020 01:45 PM

    p4nix's Avatar

    The bottom line still is: this is not how it works. And no, a few days off won't hurt the effectiveness of the algorithm, especially the larger the interval grows.
    Issue of your proposed method is that you would usually have to postpone *ALL* reviews, which would not only screw up the scheduling of your due/overdue cards (which are screwed up anyway), but also your regular learning cards which are due in the future. It's not worth it.

    There are multiple add-ons/strategies which can help coping with backlogs, planned vacations, etc in a more clever way. Filtered decks, rescheduling, postponing, prioritising, load-balancing (within the range of fuzz) and so on are all more clever options than to stop time.

    Load Balancer -
    Free Weekend -

    and, if you really want to postpone:
    Postpone card's review -

    Why is it not in core Anki? Because beginners would easily screw themselves over with such tools and it would give a false impression. Memory decay can not be stopped by pressing a button.

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