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Incremental Reading death

July 27, 2009

I’ve been searching for incremental readers world wide. It is my believe that there are many incremental readers. Perhaps they don’t know the term “incremental reading” perhaps they don’t even call a special name the technique they use, but they certainly use some related procedure.

My interest is to establish certain practice principles so to help new comers not making the same mistakes we all have, which is for me akin to reinventing the wheel over and over. I’ve found some, specially in the Poland community, but not many have a lot of experience with this practice over time. Any way, this search has almost diverted me from my main goal, which is getting into the first places on the residency test I’ll have next year.

This discouraging feeling of not finding enough Incremental Readers leave me a bitter taste, but perhaps I was wrong, they are not many of there are not enough at this time. Incremental reading was either not born or is already dead.

48 Comments leave one →
  1. July 27, 2009 12:20

    I cannot stop to think that the same is true for whole SuperMemo method…

    • gersapa permalink*
      July 29, 2009 07:44

      From my point of view the SuperMemo method refers to active recall spaced repetition. Is probably the best to have a pre-established high retention level (Not verifiable though). Most of other software programs can compute this predetermined retention level. In fact we would all probably want a 100% retention anyway.

      The basic methodology of active recall plus spaced repetitions is used buy many other software. Many that have perhaps greater popularity at the moment and even lower level of drop outs then then supermemo itself. Most of this having to do with the issues of GUI as well of other “excessive” complexity in SuperMemo software.

      Even the name is misleading, it tends to advertise you’ll gain an above the rest memory capacity, but what you get is an overload of repetitions and make your study a lot more painful (meaning more time studying). But this is share by all the other similar software.

      Although this sounds like written by some company from the competition. I do love SuperMemo, I enjoy the “complexity”, hate the GUI though. But like many subtle arts, I don’t think SuperMemo method will disappear. How am I so certain?

      Because this is the way master performers have always use to improve they performance. You practice and practice “deliberately” (meaning what you don’t know yet, and what you’re not good to the level you want to be). Of course this imply that SuperMemo method will probably never be much popular.

      For me Wozniak’s SuperMemo like Buzzan’s mind mapping will stay at least for some time as they probably have always been around in the study practices of the world population. But they will constrain to a small group of people that think is worth the effort. I think, its worth, but have no meaningful data to prove it at the moment.

      As for incremental reading, I believe you are completely right. Incremental reading is dead. Else was never born.

      • LittleFish permalink
        July 29, 2009 16:39

        If Supermemo did not work, I doubt that it would have the support that it does, and I doubt others would put forth the effort to use it every day (But then again, many cults are founded upon absurdity, but people continue to follow them). I highly doubt that Supermemo will fade out of existence, but even if it does, the version that we have will serve us sufficiently for our lifetime and/or the foreseeable future (Providing some horrible catastrophe does not disrupt or stop the development of society, infastructure, etc.).

        As far as Incremental Reading goes, I think it is likely similar to Supermemo. It is an art to be learned and slow to master. If Wozniak is the grand “sensei” of Supermemo use, and we are following his path, it clearly is the intellectual road less traveled, the path of a hermit autodidact.

        I have confidence in incremental reading, but we must wait for the results first.

        • gersapa permalink*
          August 1, 2009 13:02

          I concur with you, my supermemo will last also for my entire lifetime, it has to, is part of me and my learning process. IR, yes we can only wait.

        • LittleFish permalink
          August 25, 2009 07:15

          “I have to admit, the program look and feels a little bit overload it self.”

          What do you mean by “overload?” Do you mean it seems a bit too complicated for doing something as simple as reading texts? Or is there too much information coming your way at once?

          When I first started using IR, I felt that there was too much material coming at me in one day, but at some point I realized that it only goes at my own pace. If I can read bits of 50 articles in one day, that’s fine. But if I don’t have time, I can do it tomorrow if I need to. The only consequence is that the “line at Disneyland” will get a little bit longer.

    • March 10, 2014 12:26

      Actually, the fact is it never took off. It is a gem lying there to be discovered. I have used it to memorize large batches of data and it is the best method that exists to transfer information into long term. I recommended it to many people but they never seemed interested in using it. Seems as if people are just comfortable with their useless ways to learning and don’t want to experiment. Hence, as I said, it never took off.

  2. July 27, 2009 16:19

    I’ve read about incremental reading, seem a good idea, but to complex to be worth while. The explanation about how it should be done is to general on the Supermemo page.

    • gersapa permalink*
      August 1, 2009 13:10

      I agree explanation is to brief to cover all areas, but that exactly the point here, agreeing in standard methods to make it better, easier, simpler. Complexity can always be manage by effortful study, for me IR seems a worth at least trying.

  3. Drabz permalink
    July 28, 2009 09:36

    Incremental reading is a very valuble techniqued for the study of general knowledge but not so much for specific academic themes. As this have exact time frames and schedules.

    • gersapa permalink*
      August 1, 2009 13:07

      If it is not valid for academic themes, how could it be modified in order to used it with this goal?

      • LittleFish permalink
        August 2, 2009 06:28

        I’ve looked at some FAQs on Incremental Reading, and it seems that it is more advantageous to take your time when processing an article. Rather than reading the entire thing at once, you must take your time as the article and extracts are processed. This would not be useful for school if you had to take a test over learned material within a week or so. Unfortunately, because this is how the academic world is structured (Short-term retention), this means that unless you can study material many months ahead of time, incremental reading, while having advantages, will not reach its intended and full potential.

        I’m enjoying IR quite a bit, hopefully it will continue being that way…

  4. LittleFish permalink
    July 28, 2009 23:08

    I have thought about this for a while, and I have drawn a conclusion. I think the reason that I have not succeeded using the Incremental Reading feature is because the use of Incremental Reading requires a fundamental change in how I think of learning and study. When I think of studying or learning something, it is always for a specific purpose (Test, certain occasion, etc.). It is like a light switch that I turn ON and OFF. When I need to study, I turn study mode ON, learn what I need, insert information into Supermemo, then mode OFF. A quick but choppy process.

    To me, this method of learning is considered “normal” because my concept of “study” has been influenced by traditions I learned, which is “study intensely for test, then forget about it.” Because the desired result of study (Passing a test) is very short-term, then the traditional method of studying and learning must also be very short-term. Therefore, if Supermemo is the method for near-perfect long-term memory, then Incremental Reading should be the method for near-perfect short-term memory (Acquisition or study).

    As Drabz said, it is not useful for specific academic themes due to schedules, because these are short-term constraints. Such constraints limit the potential usefulness of Incremental Reading. This is all theoretical because I do not yet understand why Incremental Reading is so good, although the concept has always seemed sound.

    Supermemo seems to be the superior method for long-term retention and has been one of my most rewarding pursuits, therefore I am naturally inclined to believe in the potential superiority of Incremental Reading. The only thing holding me back has been myself (Laziness, to be precise).

    I am going to give incremental reading a try over the next few weeks, I’ll let you know how it turns out.
    Also, I just hit 29,000 items. When I hit 30,000, I am going to have a party!

    • gersapa permalink*
      July 29, 2009 07:21

      Nice comments here. I was thinking somewhat like you. I have added a lot of articles to my database since starting to use SuperMemo (that was almost two years ago). I read a piece of info I need , extract this information and then most of the time, never use the rest of the article. This article might come later, but usually I don’t have time to read it just because I would like to know more.

      There is information you need to learn, and some your would like to learn. Most of the time what you need to learn fills up my time. Every day I’m more convinced that perhaps the concept is good but wrongly implemented for the most frequent study needs.

      So my conclusion has been that I’m not really incrementaly reading but just studying what I need, and revising past articles further in time, sometimes this have information I was searching for and then I pick this new information. This does not seem different from the way I’ve always learn. The best advantage I get from incremental reading now is telling if I already processed a piece of text (similar to highlighting a paper book)and also searching preprocessed text fast with out going to the web twice (in most cases).

      This way of using incremental reading does not look for me as the way it was designed. Hence my search for incremental readers world wide. The answer though seem to be that they are not many or none at all.

      A need for efficiency seems to be more important here, so I’ll probably just stick to my sort of incremental reading, after all so deep overload of repetitions does not let me do much more.

      Nattan congrats on those 29,000 items. This week I went trough the 18,000 barrier and I can attest the joy of fulfillment that you acquired for making the effort on the SuperMemo Method.

    • gersapa permalink*
      August 1, 2009 13:06

      I’ll definitively be looking forward to your results with IR.

  5. LittleFish permalink
    August 4, 2009 22:53

    Incremental Reading (So far)
    I’ve only been using it for a few days, but after reading lots of FAQs and making an effort to use it, I am much more convinced of its effectiveness.

    I see visual metaphors as I think about things, and the only thing that comes to my mind is a concept called “Crowd Control.” In RPGs, Crowd Control is used to temporarily immobilize or otherwise hinder enemies from attacking you at their full potential, giving you the upper hand in killing them faster. Let’s say you have 20 enemies that want to chase you and kill your group. Rather than fight all 20 at once, if a member of your group could temporarily immobilize 10 of the enemies, you now have only 10 to fight. The job is now 50% easier than just a moment ago, and the tide of battle has changed drastically.

    This seems to be what Incremental Reading is doing for my reading material. I have many things I want to read, and if I had to read through all of them at once it would be overwhelming. But using Incremental Reading, I can chip away at reading material a little bit at a time. Most of what I read is deleted right away, but if I find something interesting, I simply extract the paragraph for later. The next time I see that paragraph (In a day or so later) I try to “refine” that extract as best as I can, even if it is a slight change. I repeat this until I finally have a flashcard (Only have made a few so far). This process of making a flashcard might seem to take longer than usual, but the quality of learning, the quality of the flashcard, and the ease of creating the flashcard feels to be much greater than before. Also just knowing that I have a “safety net” there is a good feeling. An article will never get “lost,” because it will eventually come up again for review. Maybe that is the reason for my positive attitude. Having a constant “bookmark” for each article is nice, also.

    Anyways, Incremental Reading seems to be the “conveyor belt” that leads to SM flashcards, the “Crowd Control” for a horde of reading material.

    Now I am starting to wish more things were in .txt format (Such as novels that I am reading) so I could more easily extract portions of interest without worrying “I need to put that into Supermemo later!” – Watch the nerd talk

    • gersapa permalink*
      August 5, 2009 06:27

      Nice metaphor about incremental reading, I’ve always though about supermemo’s IR as a stopcok for not becoming overwhelm with material you would like to read. You’ve captured very nicely the whole concept of what I understand as IR. My feeling is that IR is having a CPR with this comments, unless it doesn’t reach far enough, that would be like the patient not responding to CPR.

      • LittleFish permalink
        August 6, 2009 17:08

        But it appears that it is still “alive” to a small group of people. I’ve tried to use CPR to bring IR back to life, but failed each time. Maybe this time I will bring the dead one back to life… All signs point to “yes.”

  6. LittleFish permalink
    August 7, 2009 15:24

    Incremental Reading: The Result
    OK, I’ve been using Incremental Reading long enough to see a number of articles get digested from ARTICLE form to ITEM form. In short, I am now an Incremental Reading fan, I will never go back.
    In long: For me, Supermemo has been a “pit-stop” on my learning journey. I would learn things through reading, watching TV documentaries, discussions with others, etc., and when I had time I would put it into Supermemo. Because I have always learned this way I never questioned the methods. I tried Incremental Reading in the past but I was not willing to give it the necessary priority.
    When using Incremental Reading to the full, learning via Supermemo is no longer a stop-and-go process (Learn elsewhere, write down, put into Supermemo), but is an almost organic process, ideas constantly changing and becoming more refined. I no longer look at reading material as words set in stone, but instead as a brainstorming dialogue between me and the author. Ideas are presented, I “catch” the ideas worth further consideration, and I brainstorm with myself over what the true meaning is. Some ideas are clear when you first read them (And can quickly become a flashcard). Others are not so clear and require further brainstorming and dialogue to arrive at a clear statement (Therefore, a flashcard).
    So my conclusion: It is a self-brainstorming tool, working towards the goal of your intellectual benefit (Assuming the reading material benefits you intellectually). I see no reason why it could not be used in SOME WAY in everybody’s life. Now that I’m using it regularly, I love it.
    I am currently reading Atlas Shrugged, but I have found it more convenient to read through Incremental Reading; first I found a .txt file of the book and am currently reading it chapter-by-chapter (I’m much more likely to regularly read this now that it is in the Incremental Reading process). I plan to do the same things with other required reading material in my life.
    Another thing! When I hit 30,000 items I am rewarding myself with an EEEPC 1000HE, a small but powerful XP Netbook. The sole purpose of the Netbook will be Supermemo. Then I will be able to take my Supermemo progress with me wherever I go. 😀
    Also, if doing this BY MYSELF is so enjoyable RIGHT NOW, I can’t help but wonder what it will be like when I find a girl that is of the same mind as me, and the two of us can carry on a constant exchange of ideas using Incremental Reading as a catalyst.

  7. LittleFish permalink
    August 21, 2009 23:09

    Another status report: Sorry this comment turned out so long; it’s late, I’m tired and I probably repeated myself a lot. Hopefully you don’t think I’m crazy…

    It is a great relief to not have to worry about what material to study next; like a bunch of people forming a line at Disney Land, all of the material I want to learn is lined up, and all I have to do is digest it as I have time. Some days I cannot finish all of my incremental reading articles, but even if I don’t see those articles again for a month , I know that they still exist and I will see them later (Even though the algorithm wouldn’t make a jump from one day to a month unless otherwise specified).

    As a person I am quite cynical about certain things. For example, I tend to not use the remote on my car keys to unlock my car doors because I prefer to not consume the battery, EVEN THOUGH I know that the battery will die whether I use the remote or not. I’m not sure why this is, perhaps in the back of my mind everything is slowly dying/decaying. Anyways, I tend to lose motivation when I don’t see a promising light at the end of the tunnel, even if the light seems to be totally irrelevant to the task at hand. If I am doing something that seems to lack a long-term purpose or benefit, while I might not abandon the task, I certainly don’t feel optimistic towards whatever “goal” has been set up. The “goal” is just an illusion that is already broken; something I cannot (and should not, in my opinion) be put back together.
    This is what makes Supermemo so fascinating to me. It provides the kind of long-term assurance that I want, and I can find no flaw in the concepts embodied in its philosophy. Therefore, if something can be somehow “connected” to Supermemo, the same cynical voice that takes my motivation away is silenced. Until now Supermemo has silenced the cynical voice of REPETITION, but now that I am using Incremental Reading the cynical voice of KNOWLEDGE GATHERING/PROCESSING has been silenced. In terms of intellectual pursuits, there is almost nothing more I could wish for.

    I guess this is the main reason: For every ten minutes I work with Incremental Reading, I am going to retain 10 more minutes of information. The conversion rate cannot get any more basic and wonderful than this.

    Until now I have had many articles that I’ve wanted to read but never did, and they wasted away in my “Favorites” list. Now I can feed Supermemo as many articles as I want, and I know the contents will eventually become absorbed.

    I read on the Supermemo site about becoming a knowledge glutton, a consumer of massive amounts of knowledge, and I think I more fully understand how this is possible now. I have taken many big and seemingly intimidating articles, and over the past couple of weeks taken them down to very small sizes, and now I KNOW the information contained in those big articles (At least the ones that have been processed, anyways).
    I have added more items overall, and I think that my “30 flashcards a day” rule has been replaced by Incremental Reading habits. I have looked at my “Work Load” for the next couple of weeks, and nothing seems to have changed much (Around 300 every day, it takes around 45 minutes to complete every morning).

    I also have been keeping two databases: One database for “serious reading,” and another for “casual reading.” So, yeah.

    Nor have novels ever been this “interactive” or “absorbable.” This turns any text or piece of information into a hyper-brainstorming session. I will never look at information consumption the same again.

    (I’m very sleepy now… good night)

  8. Fernando permalink
    September 18, 2009 09:58

    I have been using Incremental Reading for a couple of years, mostly for learning new material. Since I do not have any deadlines or tests (I finished my schooling 25 years ago), Incremental Reading works very well for me.

    Lately, I have started using Incremental Reading for recreational reading (e.g., novels, the classics). I am finding that reading many novels at once is as enjoyable as reading one at a time.

    I have also recently started experimenting with Incremental Video. I am currently working my way through Berkeley’s Integrative Biology lectures:

    • gersapa permalink*
      June 11, 2010 06:49

      Great Fernando, I’m doing some incremental video learning now. I just went over you comment again, you might want to share more about your experiences on Incremental Video now. About Open University Videos, I find great value on this kind of learning and of course I’m grateful to the universities that contribute and understand this new paradigm on learning.

  9. Littlefish permalink
    September 29, 2009 11:00

    Something new I’ve been doing: I have many, many things that are already formatted as Q&A, but if I were to put all of them in at once it would result in a spike of required daily repetitions (Which I don’t want). Right now I have about 300-400 every day, and I don’t want to add any more to this.

    Until now whenever I had topics that popped up for passive review I usually ignored them; but I’ve decided to start embracing them; because even passive review keeps the information locked in your memory (And therefore, is at your disposal) for a short period of time, by the time you review it five or six times you should have no problem remembering it as a Q&A.

    Also, because the algorithm distributes the topics in a fashion not unlike the normal Supermemo algorithm (Or at leat I THINK it does; if I’m wrong correct me), you can have many topics to review on day, (100 for example), but six repetitions later you will not have to review all 100 of those topics on the same day.

    If this experiment goes the way I hope it does, the ability to suck up information will increase by quite a bit.

  10. CrayFish permalink
    January 1, 2010 09:25

    Hello LittleFish,

    You seem to be a SuperMemo expert. I wish I could get tutoring from you. Do you live close to Florida? Are you a college student? What kind of subjects are you learning? What was your learning curve for getting this thing fully operational for your learning needs? How much effort did you put into it?

  11. Bharath permalink
    June 6, 2011 05:00

    My first comment 🙂 Incremental Reading is the Most Efficient way to learn new information.
    Supermemo needs marketing of its ideas and not its products like an app etc etc.
    Idea of srs, idea of forgetting index, idea of leeches in that order. PPL dont know abt all this as of know.

    From – India

  12. Bharath permalink
    June 6, 2011 05:28

    Yep. Its has tremendously increased my learning speed. I am writing the most toughest exam in India. From june 20th onwards. I am gonna use supermemo 2008, with its sleep chart and follow free running sleep, for the next one and half year continuously. I will keep u updated abt my results. I am interested to see what effects sleep can have on my alertness and memory in the long run. Having studied computers and now as a student of psychology. I can only say Supermemos IR is the most efficient way as of for learning as of now.

    • gersapa permalink*
      March 12, 2012 02:33

      I hope everything went fine, you should us your experience.

  13. bharath permalink
    September 21, 2011 04:29

    Hey guys i am big time into incremental reading. I am reading news articles every day in supermemo. I download web pages and incrementally read the. On an average 60 articles a day. The trick is to PRIORITIZE your articles. Hope i can be of some help to those interested in incremental reading. By the way Great blog!

  14. January 14, 2012 18:48

    I love incremental reading.

    However, I find the problem with SRS software is—one get’s to ambitious about remembering everything one reads. In my opinion there are 3 types of reading: 1.) Just to discover things worth remembering–chances are the entire reading session will be in vain in the long run—but it’s still worth reading broadly just in case you find something amazing 2.) knowledge to be added to your reference library–but not worth memorizing forever. For this purpose nothing beats actual books with dog ears and lines next to interesting passages. 3.) core knowledge that is actually worth the time to remember forever using SRS.

    The problem I have is if I incrementally read i’m too tempted to try to memorize things which are not worth it.

    A lot of creative ideas do come from memories which occur outside of our SRS training. At a certain point it’s impossible to know in advance what knowledge will be important and what will not so perhaps it is worth

    I’m using Anki with the incremental reading plugin. The big problem is if I import a large book it crashes.

    To me the most interesting part of SRS is it shows how absurd the traditional academic approach to learning is. Cramming knowledge short-term for tests that will truly be lost forever. Why spend a ton of time cramming for tests–which if we kept all the knowledge forever in our spaced repetition software it would become unworkable. Despite what educators claim most of what we work hard studying in school is truly gone forever in just a short amount of time.


    • March 13, 2012 11:16

      Knowing beforehand what you will need and what you won-t is of course impossible, you might have to use SRS as well as traditional underlining, that way you don’t finish including everything into SRS incremental reading system.

  15. Ken permalink
    March 2, 2012 09:43

    I’m still waiting for a MOBILE implementation of incremental reading. I love SuperMemo, but it’s completely unsustainable unless you have sufficient time in front of a computer. A mobile SRS-IR software (i.e. tablet / smartphone) that can handle multiple text formats, “plug in” to other apps (browsers, especially), and sync effortlessly between devices will revolutionize learning. I just can’t believe such a product hasn’t been released yet. Every year I tell myself: “Maybe next year.” SuperMemo isn’t showing any signs of going mobile, and Anki isn’t showing any signs of implementing IR. We might not see this in our lifetimes…

    • gersapa permalink*
      March 12, 2012 02:30

      I’ve wating something similar, incremental.reading should be possible on any smartphone, supermemo for the Iphone just doesn’t fill this need.

  16. Hizbullah Khan. permalink
    December 10, 2012 02:32

    Hello dear friends,
    I have studied a lot about that incremental reading,and that really interests me. but problem is i am living in an area where no internet connection is available .I have to come to the city and get soft wares in CD’s . do you have any suggestion for me to get that super memo version,mind it, I have always asked for super memo in my locality but a lot of shop owners even don’t know about it. My name is Hizbullah khan, and Iam from Khayber Pakhtoon Khwa state of Pakistan.

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  20. March 10, 2014 12:31

    I doubt Incremental Reading ever took off. It is sad because it is powerful. It is actually very easy to use. Read something you like and want to remember. Then copy paste it into your program. Keep re reading it at the intervals the programs specifies.

    Every time you read it you will find information which is important so extract that and make a new card of it. Keep doing this and you have many cards with important stuff extracted out of the original and the fluff gone.

    When you seem to know it, make question answer cards out of it and you will never forget it. Quite ingenious.

  21. August 20, 2014 19:56

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  22. August 20, 2014 21:14

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  23. August 21, 2014 02:33

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  24. October 8, 2014 23:33

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  25. November 8, 2015 10:56

    Don’t allow yourself to be discouraged. We are out there. 😉

    I think that Supermemo being the main avenue of IR is what is holding it back, as it is so incredibly user antagonistic. However we are seeing it evolve outside SM.

    Anki has an IR plugin now, and BuboFlash is also a very powerful IR platform THAT ALLOWS IR OF PDFS.

    IR will only grow in the future.

    • gersapa permalink*
      November 21, 2015 18:30

      In fact I’ve never been discouraged, this days I’m really busy that’s the main reason i haven’t bee writing about supermemo or incremental reading, hopefully new designs will use this technique and it wont take long before we find the wholly grail for IR.

  26. October 8, 2017 12:03

    Hi there this is kinda of offf topic but I was wondeing if blogs
    use WYSIWYG editors or iff you have to manually code with HTML.
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  27. LittleFish permalink
    August 23, 2009 19:06

    Great, so you are trying IR out also? How is it going? Do you feel different about it compared to before?

  28. gersapa permalink*
    August 23, 2009 22:19

    I don’t like much this auto-comments, they confuse me a lot. I’ve been doing Incremental Reading since I knew about it (a couple of years ago), at first you wouldn’t probably called it IR, but today I think is the most powerful for learning, especially huge volumns. The post I refer to is you own comment, I’ll try to fixed this auto-comments, any way the description of the feeling is so real I felt more people should enjoy it. Funny thing is today I’m feeling sleepy… zzzZZZ.

  29. betosalva permalink
    August 23, 2009 22:30

    I’ve been doing Incremental Reading like an experiment, I’ll have to do a thesis in three years so I thougt it could be a great way to test if this really helps build knowledge trough a lot o lectures. I’ve added 50+ text I’m willing to get deep into. I have to admit, the program look and feels a little bit overload it self. But you seem to enjoy so much the process I though I might as well give it a try. I’ve written an email to SuperMemo creator about this same issue of the thesis, but he is on “creative vacations” what is that?. Nice post, please update if you get troubles, perhaps a new versioin would be much easier to understand, but many say this version might take to long to postpone my learning waiting it come.

  30. betosalva permalink
    August 23, 2009 22:32

    Gersapa would you edit previous comment, as this was for Littlefish. BTW great blog, sometimes to complex for me though.


  1. Incremental Reading Status Report – Littlefish « The SuperMemo Blog

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