SuperMemo 99 made the first step towards efficient reading of electronic articles by introducing reading lists and reading tools. Reading lists are prioritized lists of articles to read, and reading tools make it possible to accelerate the conversion of knowledge extracted from articles to knowledge that can effectively be used in the process of learning.
SuperMemo 2000 greatly increases the efficiency of reading by introducing the concept of incremental reading. The essence of incremental reading is in simultaneous reading of many articles at the same time, i.e. reading individual articles in increments.
At the moment of writing this documentation (October 2000), SuperMemo 2000 seems to be the only applications that makes it possible and encourages incremental reading.
Incremental reading may become a breakthrough in the efficiency of knowledge acquisition. It may be as important for the future of SuperMemo and learning as the original algorithm for spacing repetitions
Advantages of incremental reading:
Important! Only SuperMemo makes it possible to implement incremental reading. Incremental reading requires continuous retention of knowledge. Depending on the volume of knowledge flow in the program, the interval between reading individual portions of the same article may extend from days to months. Repetition spacing is the foundation of incremental reading which is based on stable memory traces in-between reading bursts
See also: incremental reading from user's perspective by Len Budney
Incremental reading algorithm
Incremental reading requires a collection of skills that you will perfect only with passing time and growing experience. Additionally, incremental reading in SuperMemo 2000 is a work in progress and the optimum use of individual tools may not yet have been entirely defined. Consequently, you will meet a number of choices and optimization issues that may be overwhelming in the beginning. This overview will help you handle the most basic skills and help you make a start with incremental reading.
The following assumptions will help us simplify the incremental reading algorithm:
Most important skills/steps in incremental reading:
Skill 1: Importing articles
To import an important article to SuperMemo, follow these steps:
If you would like to import articles with pictures, you will need to paste pictures separately. Use Copy on the picture menu in the browser and then press Shift+Ins in SuperMemo to paste the picture (you will need to specify the name under which the picture will be stored in the image registry). As you should not keep more than 2-3 pictures per element in SuperMemo, you should paste pictures from multi-picture articles only to relevant extracts of a main article. In such a case, it is recommended that you review the article in SuperMemo, extract fragments associated with pictures to separate articles (e.g. with Reading : Remember extract on the article pop-up menu), and paste pictures to the relevant extracts only.
Instead of articles, you can also import longer pieces of e-mail and respond incrementally (simultaneously with incremental reading). For more see: E-mail in SuperMemo
Skill 2: Reading articles
You could precede reading articles with conveniently locating the reading toolbar on your screen. Choose Window : Toolbars : Read, place the toolbar in a convenient place on the screen and press Ctrl+Shift+F5 (to save the chosen layout as your default layout). You will need to enter middle or professional levels for Windows menu to be accessible (see: File : Level).
This is a simplified algorithm for reading articles:
Skill 3: Extracting fragments, questions and answers
In the course of reading, we often mark important paragraphs. In SuperMemo, those paragraphs should be extracted as separate elements that will later be used to refresh your memory. Each extracted paragraph or section becomes a mini-article that will be subject to the same reading algorithm as discussed above. Extract your fragments and single sentences with Remember extract. Remember to add necessary context clues to make sure the extracted fragment does not become meaningless with time. If you cannot recall the necessary context, use the reference source link button on the navigation toolbar to jump to the article from which the extract had been produced
SuperMemo will demonstrate to you that extracting important fragments and reviewing them at later time will have an excellent impact on your ability to benefit from the reading material at later times. However, it will also show that once the review intervals grow beyond 200-300 days, passive review will often become insufficient. At that time you will need to use Remember cloze (blue Z icon on the reading toolbar). This option will convert single sentences into question-and-answer items.
For example, if you have extracted the following fragment from your reading about the history of the Internet:
The Internet was started in 1969 under a contract let by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) which connected four major computers at universities in the southwestern US (UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, UCSB, and the University of Utah)
you may discover than when review intervals become long enough, you may not actually be able to recall the name of the ARPA agency or even forget the year in which the Internet started. You can then select an important keyword, e.g. 1969, and use Remember cloze to arrive to the following item:
Question: The Internet was started in [...]
under a contract let by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) which
connected four major computers at universities in the southwestern US (UCLA,
Stanford Research Institute, UCSB, and the University of Utah)
In the course of learning, you will yet need to polish the above item by manual editing:
Question: The Internet was started in [...](year)
under a contract let by the ARPA agency
The editing added the following benefits to the above item:
Important! Your work on extracting fragments, producing cloze deletions and editing them should also be incremental. In each review, do only as much work on the learning material as it is necessary! Extracting and editing in intervals adds additional benefit to learning and is more time-efficient. Often your priorities change as you proceed with learning; hence, the incremental approach should not only refer to reading but also to the follow-up processing
Skill 4: Repetitions and review
SuperMemo is based on repetition. You make repetitions of the learned material in order to ensure that your knowledge retention reaches the desired level (usu. 95-98%).
In SuperMemo 2000, your incrementally processed articles will also be subject to repetitions. We will often use the more intuitive term review in reference to incrementally processed material; after all, when you resume reading an article after a certain interval of time, you are not actually repeating anything. You are simply delving into new sections of the same material and extracting newly acquired wisdom into separate elements (Remember extract).
The algorithms used to make (1) standard repetitions of question-and-answer material and (2) reviewing reading material are similar. Most importantly, all repetition and review is made in increasing intervals. In incremental reading, you will constantly see inflow of new material to your collection. Unprocessed material will need to compete with the newly imported material. Increasing review intervals make sure that your old material fades into lower priority if it is not processed quickly. Naturally, the speed of processing will depend on the availability of your time and the value of the material itself. Articles that are boring, badly written, less critical for your growth or work, will receive smaller portions of your attention and may go into long review intervals before you even manage to pass a fraction of the text. That is an inevitable side effect of a voluminous flow of new information into your collection and your brain. However, intervals and priorities can easily be adjusted. If the priorities change, you can modify the way you process important articles. Upon next review you can read the whole article, revert it to a short-interval review or even use search (Ctrl+F) to locate more articles on the subject you feel you have neglected.
The algorithm for repeating questions-and-answer (e.g. cloze deletions) is quite complex and you do not have much influence on the timing of repetitions (see: Algorithm SM-8). This stems from the need to keep a high level of knowledge retention, which can be compromised by manual intervention.
However, the algorithm for determining inter-review intervals in incremental reading is much simpler and is entirely under your control. Each article receives a number called A-Factor that determines how much intervals increase between subsequent reviews (the name A-Factor is used here for orthogonality; however, A-Factors here correspond to the extinct concept of E-Factor known from earlier versions of SuperMemo and should not be confused with A-Factors used by items in Algorithm SM-8). For example, if A-Factor=2, review intervals will increase twice after each review. A-Factors are determined heuristically on the basis of the length of the text. Long texts will receive low A-Factors (e.g. 1.1), while short extracts will receive higher A-Factors (e.g. 1.8). You can change the value of A-Factor associated with a given article by choosing Ctrl+Shift+P (A-Factors associated with items cannot be changed by the user).
You can also control the review timing by manually adjusting inter-review intervals. Use Ctrl+J to determine the date of the next review. If you want to reduce the interval with Ctrl+J at the moment of review, you will often need to close the current review (e.g. with Esc) to make sure that the interval before the next review will be equal to the current inter-review interval (if you do not close the review, the current interval will simply be incremented by the period that will pass before the next review).
Skill 5: Handling large volumes of knowledge
With incremental reading, your work with SuperMemo will freely combine and mix reading with standard repetitions of knowledge. Actually, randomizing the sequence of repetitions should be encouraged. Only random coverage of the material will provide you with a true sense of your progress. You can randomize your daily portion of repetitions and review with Learn : Random : Randomize repetitions (Ctrl+Shift+F11).
By using Randomize repetitions, your repetitions will not favor more accurate processing of material based on the length of the interval, element type (e.g. articles, extracts, question-and-answer items, etc.), contents (i.e. branch of the knowledge tree) or degree of processing. Random repetitions will help you better understand possible negative trends such as excessive inflow of new material, lowered retention (mostly as a result of frequent rescheduling), poor formulation of newly created cloze deletions, low quality or applicability of the acquired knowledge, excessive emphasis on certain subject at the cost of others, etc.
Your hunger for new knowledge may quickly result in substantial overflow of new material at the cost of the quality of knowledge and retention. For this reasons you may, but do not have to, decide to execute your repetitions in the following stages:
In order, to make the above steps possible, you will need to learn a few new tricks available in SuperMemo 2000. Most importantly, SuperMemo 2000 introduces an option Postpone. Unlike Mercy, which can be used to reschedule all outstanding repetitions, Postpone makes it possible to reschedule only a subset of repetitions. For example you can opt to delay repetitions in these subsets:
Postpone uses a number called a postpone factor that is used to increase intervals of outstanding repetitions. Intervals are simply multiplied by the postpone factor. For example, if you choose to Postpone with the postpone factor of 1.1, all intervals will be multiplied by 1.1 and will increase by 10%. Postpone will always increase intervals by no less than one day from the present day. This way, all items on which Postpone is executed fall out of the outstanding subset. Postpone works in a slightly different way on topics, when the postpone factor is modified depending on the value of A-Factor. This way articles with low A-Factors will get postponed less than articles with high A-Factors.
You will execute Postpone with Ctrl+Alt+P in three ways:
in the browser: if you want to postpone any subset of items that you can generate with browser operations (see: Using subsets)
in the element window: if you want to postpone a branch to which the currently repeated element belongs
Here are some typical ways in which you will execute Postpone:
If you would like to make your repetitions using the above suggestions, you should add all your new material to a selected branch, and transfer individual items to target categories such as sociology, psychology, history, etc., only then when you are sure that these items have received their final wording and meet your stringent quality criteria. As a rule, you should not ever use Postpone on your mission critical knowledge. Postpone should only be reserved for dislodging the excess of newly processed articles, extracts and cloze deletions. It can also be used sparingly on branches with lower priority (e.g. Private, Hobbies, etc.).
To efficiently work with categories you should be familiar with the following subjects:
see Incremental reading from user's perspective by Len Budney
Frequently Asked Questions
Cloze deletion font cannot currently be customized
Use Remember Extract if you do not want to decide the first interval
Use Remember Extract if you do not want to decide the first interval
The need to specify the interval in Schedule Extract is annoying. I would like SuperMemo to just use the optimum interval
This is exactly what Remember Extract does
Cloze deletion font cannot currently be customized
(Walter G. Mayfield, Jr., Wednesday, July 04, 2001 12:37 AM)
Is there a way to do cloze deletions without SuperMemo altering the original text?
Currently you cannot customize cloze deletion behavior. Marking the keywords with a different font is very important in properly structuring knowledge for active recall. Usually, while at knowledge processing stage, your items will form a messy mix of various fonts and formats. However, once they assume their final shape, they will usually be moved to the target category. This will apply the default category template with a uniform category font (assuming space-saving plain text components are used in the target template). In the future, cloze formats are likely to be customizable