Anki vs. SuperMemo

AD90's Avatar


28 Dec, 2014 03:00 AM

I've had the chance to try both Anki and SuperMemo (12). I like Anki better --maybe due to the fact that I'm more familiar with it than with SuperMemo.

Anyway, I always try to pick the best program from a choice of two similar ones and stick with that program. Unfortunately, I don't have enough information to make an informed choice.

I think everything boils down to which one has the best algorithm because that's the key to effective learning/memorization.

Based on what I've read, SuperMemo wins. Apparently, they've been fine-tuning their algorithm for quite some time, and it seems to be more powerful with every new version of the program.

On the other hand, and as per my current understanding --please correct me if I'm wrong-- Anki is based on an earlier algorithm (SM2), which according to the people at SuperMemo World is inferior to newer SM algorithms.

I suspend judgement on the reliability of this information. I'm just trying to make an informed choice, and I'd appreciate it if you guys could share any insights or extra information on this topic.

Thank you.

  1. 1 Posted by mnhende2 on 28 Dec, 2014 10:12 AM

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    @AD90: I can't actually say which algorithm is best, but you have
    accurately identified that SuperMemo has continued to develop and refine
    their algorithm, while Anki is using SM2. Anki experimented with another
    version of the SM algorithm in the past and it didn't go so well and
    seemed to be more hassle than gain. But nevertheless, it seems probable
    that Anki is using a "good" algorithm, while SuperMemo is using an
    improved one. So, while I can't say definitively, it does seems at least
    likely that SuperMemo has the advantage on the algorithm.

    What Anki clearly has though is useability. Anki has a much large
    user-base and is constantly in active development. Many people write
    addons that enhance Anki in numerous ways. For example, I have 13 addons
    that I use. Also, I don't know the full details of SuperMemo, but Anki's
    features syncing across multiple devices and platforms, has shared
    decks, and and a great user community and support team. I use it on
    three computers, two apple devices, and one Android device, and am
    consistently satisfied with Anki. Plus, Anki has a robust ability to
    design cards exactly the way you want.

    So, while I don't know all the details about SuperMemo to give a totally
    fair comparison, my gut tells me it is something like better "algorithm
    versus better features and useability."

    All the Best, mnhende2 (a fellow Anki user)

  2. 2 Posted by ZapBeeb on 28 Dec, 2014 12:59 PM

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    I have very little experience with Supermemo, but i somewhat doubt that the increased efficiency of the learning algorithm makes a big difference.
    I always thought that the actual differences between users are big enough to render optimization claims dubious.
    We'll have a definitive answer when and if someone makes some real research to test the subject.

    Meanwhile, as far as i can tell, Supermemo has an edge in how it handles incremental reading (i tried the anki add on but i find it very basic) and managing source material.

    If i had coding superpowers i'd fuse anki and evernote, adding some zest to the note taking capabilities of the latter.

  3. 3 Posted by AD90 on 28 Dec, 2014 01:24 PM

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    While I think you're right that Anki is more versatile and user-friendly than SuperMemo, I think this doesn't cut it for me. At the end of day, the best program is the one that helps you memorize better or more, and this depends on the algorithm.

    One interesting thing I've noticed about SuperMemo is that it gives you more detailed set of feedback options when you're evaluating yourself on how well you remembered. It has six options in total, whereas Anki has just four (Again, Hard, Good, and Easy). I think this feature evinces of a more complex algorithm, one that enables you to tailor the learning process even further.

  4. 4 Posted by AD90 on 28 Dec, 2014 01:35 PM

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    I don't know about you guys, but I think the algorithm makes all the difference.

    I mean, the key to better or longer recall was discovered a long time ago by psychologists, but only computers can implement the steps required for the process to work. That's where the algorithm comes in. As I mentioned before, it all boils down to whether we're using the correct algorithm or not.

  5. 5 Posted by mnhende2 on 28 Dec, 2014 02:10 PM

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    @AD90: You are talking about the two most respected SRS programs out
    there. So, as you mentioned in your original post, it isn't an easy
    choice. Whichever one you go with will likely be tremendously beneficial
    to you, and the potential gap between them is relatively small. They are
    both SRS at the core.

    That said, I disagree with the "all about the algorithm" concept. I
    think it is actually all about "efficiency," meaning we want to learn
    the most efficiently and quickly that we can. The algorithm is as much a
    means to that end as the useability and other features of the program.
    So, the ability to tweak learning steps, lapse steps, interval
    modifiers, adjust card templates to however I like, use addons, etc, all
    can help gain time and efficiency.

    So, theoretically, if I gain 5 minutes a day from one program because
    of the algorithm, but 8 minutes a day from another because of the
    interface/ease of program/etc, then I'd say the later is the better
    option. But unfortunately, we have no study of a head to head
    comparison between users of the two programs. So we are just left with
    educated guesses.

    So, I can't tell you which one is the best choice. I'm very satisfied
    with Anki, and being active on the support forums, I hear from the
    people who convert from SuperMemo to Anki because of useability issues.
    But I am sure there are plenty of people who are using SuperMemo with
    great effect and probably love it as much as I do Anki.

    I wish you well in whatever decision you make.

  6. 6 Posted by Aleksej on 28 Dec, 2014 02:31 PM

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    AD90> about SuperMemo is that it gives you more detailed set of feedback options when you're evaluating yourself on how well you remembered. It has six options in total, whereas Anki has just four (Again, Hard, Good, and Easy).

    Do you ever spend time deciding which button to press?

  7. 7 Posted by AD90 on 28 Dec, 2014 03:03 PM

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    You mean whether I give some thought to my choice?

    Yeah, esp. after I realized that the feedback you give to the program determines its future "behavior". I knew this, of course, but hadn't internalized it completely.

  8. 8 Posted by AD90 on 28 Dec, 2014 03:13 PM

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    I agree with you in that usability is a big plus. That's probably why I'll keep using Anki as my main program, but I'll also tinker with SuperMemo for a while to see what happens.

    As ZapBeep mentioned, it'd be nice if someone --maybe an experimental psychologist-- could carry out a research study comparing the effects of using Anki vs. SuperMemo on the amount or quality of learned material retained.

  9. 9 Posted by Aleksej on 28 Dec, 2014 03:16 PM

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    @Aleksej: You mean whether I give some thought to my choice?

    No, I mean whether more answer buttons would take more time to choose from.

    Also, you can use fingers waiting on keys with fewer buttons easier.

  10. 10 Posted by Aleksej on 28 Dec, 2014 03:43 PM

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    Anki used more answer buttons in the past. Mnemosyne still does.

  11. 11 Posted by mnhende2 on 28 Dec, 2014 07:10 PM

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    @AD90: Keep us updated on your tinkering. I think we'd all be interested
    in hearing the comparative experience. Anki is always a work in
    progress. There are things to be learned to keep making Anki better.

  12. System closed this discussion on 22 Feb, 2016 11:42 PM.

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