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Using Leeches Collection to enhance learning.

May 29, 2009

Previous post on leeches made me search to a bunch of information about memorization, specifically about to the possibility to predict if one could remember or not something in the future. This is necessary in order to adopt a new way of dealing with “would become leeches” items. Nattan (aka Little Fish) has a great point on this, and I’m starting to think about implementing this procedure. At first I found counter intuitive to use a second collection, mainly because of fear of living it behind when doing my repetitions on my principal collection, but efficiency regarding the use of the algorithm in SuperMemo made me reconsider this once more, so I needed proof that one can indeed know in advance if something will stick or not into my memory. Happily, SuperMemo came to my rescue (Incremental Reading in fact).

Q: People’s ability to predict what […] to remember is much more reliable

#Title: Strategies for Voluntary
Memorization : Motivation and Strategies
#Author: William Hirst
1941: Strategies for Voluntary
Memorization : Applying These Principles : Motivation and

A: is easy or hard

Although not a great format for this question, here is the reason to give a try to having a separate collection for those “would become leeches” items.

The rest of the text on this book about memory, says that no matter how easy o hard you find something will be to remember, and no matter what effort you put into remembering that item, initial prediction comes true. So putting “only” those items in a separate collection until they are no longer leeches, makes a lot sense to make. As all this leeches influence the first interval, and because I think you can establish specific time for this hard items, in order to apply memorization techniques, or because you need a quiet place to learn them once and for all, and hence kill those zombies.

I’m starting a collection for leeches next week. At present there are still many items due on my collection. Be sure to follow on any piece of info related helping all learning to learn on SRSs

12 Comments leave one →
  1. LittleFish permalink
    May 30, 2009 19:01

    Another development! I found a great use for an old Palm device. Install Supermemo no it, and keep it with you wherever. We went and saw “Up,” the new movie by Pixar the other day. While in the movie theater, instead of watching commercials for other Disney shows and games, I did Supermemo for 10 minutes and finished all of them. I got almost all of them wrong, but that’s the point, like you said in the post. I can feel my ability in Chinese increasing as a result of my being daily exposed to difficult-to-remember words, but without the worry that the zombie-leeches will infect my base A-Factor. It takes a great deal of stress off of my back, I love it! 😀

  2. LittleFish permalink
    May 30, 2009 19:04

    Also, I just read your Tweet: That’s wonderful to hear you scored 95%! It reaffirms the fact that Supermemo indeed results in a more efficient way of learning!

    • gersapa permalink*
      May 30, 2009 20:56

      Well yes, it reaffirmed my believed on SM too. But a note on that issue is 95% was on items that where on my collection. I scored 83% on a 200 item test.
      The difference is because many items the where not in my collection.
      This is the reason I’m making a new strategy to learn the more than 10,000 questions I’ve bought. I’m trusting this program every day a little more as well.

      • LittleFish permalink
        May 31, 2009 14:20

        The 83% score is to be expected, if a number of items were not in your collection. But years later, you will STILL RETAIN all of that information, allowing you to make more balanced and thoughtful decisions in whatever field you choose to pursue. In the long term, your progress will not slow down, let alone reverse, which happens over time when people do not use what they cram.

  3. Marcin Rybacki permalink
    June 14, 2009 03:17

    Why bother with keeping leeches, anyway? If you find something particularly hard to remember you just don’t do it (in most cases it’s not worth it). Or you could reformulate it, but I think this is only when you think a particular piece of information is a must to remember (99% of the time it isn’t).

    What I lack here is the specification of leeches options per-category. This is important when, having one-for-all collection collects facts, information from different fields of knowledge, which difficulty greatly varies. For example I would like to consider a given element from the “Mathematics” or “Japanese Kanji” category as a leech after about 15 of lapses, whereas I would like to treat 5 lapses as a leech in a “English language” category.

    Another issue with leeches here is a problem with collection with very long history (say 7 years). For those kinds of collections there are lots elements which fall easily into category of leech, but it is only because they need to be only “refreshed” over this long perdiod of time from time to time, but they are not hard to remember.

    • LittleFish permalink
      June 14, 2009 05:32

      LEARNED and REMEMBERED are two different things. Supermemo is supposed to be used to REMEMBER things, not LEARN them. Something must be learned before you can remember it, otherwise it will act just like a leech. The point of keeping two separate databases is to LEARN the hard information.

      We’re not talking about poorly formulated information, this is stuff that can be learned through pure repetition. For example, I MUST learn Chinese words; if they are hard to remember, ‘not doing it’ is not an option. So I keep my portable Supermemo filled with Chinese words, most which I get wrong every day for a number of days. At some point the info “clicks,” and I remembered it, indicating that it has been retained. At THIS point I put it into the main database, where it can be REMEMBERED in the future.

      Also, having done this for a few weeks, I’ve noticed a marked improvement in my Chinese speaking ability. Words entered into the portable SM have become easier to remember, I can use them in daily conversations or quickly recite the word on the spot (Which I could not do prior to this experiment).

    • gersapa permalink*
      June 14, 2009 10:33

      Marcin, I think we are clear in this matter. If you find a leech and its not wort keeping it trashing at once. However some info must be remember at any cost, hence the discussion was more about this cases.

      Using a leech catcher by categories, this is a great idea. Unfortunately not implement by default. This the closer solution I found:

      1) Establish leech criteria on the filter.
      2) open the contents of a category on the browser
      3) select child filter
      4) choose previously established criteria
      5) go trough your leech by category discarting or improving formulation.

      The best time to implement this kind of procedure will probably be when you have enough time.

      Of course a more tolerant leech options must be stablish first, so that if some items turns out to be “extremely leech” it will show up when doing the repetitions.

      What do you think about using this approach?

      • Nathan permalink
        June 14, 2009 11:32

        Yeah, that’s it; stuff that must be remembered at any cost.

        I’ve got Supermemo enabled to make me aware of a leech after 5 misses. It shows me the card (Leech Wizard), and I usually reset it. I’ve never really thought of doing it differently than this.

      • Marcin Rybacki permalink
        June 14, 2009 15:20

        I think that what you’ve described is the best way to deal with what I want at the moment. I made a suggestion to implement this behavior , but it seems my reasoning haven’t convinced them enough to implement it.

    • Marcin Rybacki permalink
      June 14, 2009 15:00


      That’s actually a very shrewd idea to deal with very hard material. I’ll try it with my Kanji collection (when I find time to learn it, which might not be soon considering other learning priorities).
      I’m wondering how do you ‘catch’ those items which seem to finally ‘click’? Maybe setting an artificial leech (anti-leech, so to say) would solve it? For example you could set options for Leech Cather to notify of the leech when the interval is, say, minimum 30 days long… I’ve never thought of using leeches in this way, but your idea made me thinking…

      • LittleFish permalink
        June 14, 2009 19:45

        I just look through my database (Of hard stuff) and find items that I haven’t seen in a while (Because it means I got it right a number of times). Write into Supermemo, delete from the palm, and transfer is complete.

  4. gersapa permalink*
    June 14, 2009 20:44

    Looks like where getting into something good on leeches. I think leeches bother us all. So far three alternatives for dealing with them.

    Using a separate collection on SuperMemo for palm or elsewhere.
    Using a second collection on SuperMemo (but this aproach is less time efficient).
    Using a leech catcher by categories.

    I consider all this methods as hacks for SuperMemo. When I asked in the wiki about new ways or task required to handle our learning the response was more like: “you are not doing what you suppose to, even if you believe you want something, you don’t want it.. here is what you want to do”.

    This is the reason this blog started to learn and share ways to hack learning and specially with SuperMemo.

    This also got me into reading old time notetaking (I’m talking really old like 1700). At that time many would try to memorize extracts from books of “the great authors” to use as arguments when stating a discussion or lecture. But then many would say that men should be free to have opinions and not only talk from “great” authors. Some times this “you must do what I say” is how I feel when asking on the wiki. And I sometimes I just want to make my SuperMemo do things different. Of course that’s the same reason I use Firefox, and gmail: Customization.

    I believe its ok to ask and receive advice about how to do something, but not to think that what we think is the only answer.

    So, thanks for sharing your experiences and lets continue to improve our way to use this great software.

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