Various questions about general supermemo operation

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Summary

If you are not happy with your progress, if you take breaks from learning, a fresh meticulous start can revive your learning process.

Problem

Hello!

I am not a new user of supermemo. I have been using it actually for a few months. I must say though that in this time I did not follow the "Twenty rules of formulating knowledge", probably because of laziness and because I didn't yet know if Supermemo was good or a complete scam.

Now that I have no doubts about how efficient it is I would like to reformulate many of my supermemo elements (the majority of which are not in Q&A format, but I just used clozed deletions).

Topic 1

I want to reformulate my elements mainly because they don't follow your advice at all in regards to how simple each element should be. I often have many lines of text in the same item to the point where working with Supermemo has become a burden simply because the items themselves are a burden to read.

The problem is: how do I reformulate my items without losing the item history? I guess that if I just edit the text, that's fine. But if I "slice" a text in more manageable items I guess they are considered new items, so to be learned like any new item. Correct? Is there any way to transform a non-Q&A item into a Q&A item without losing his history?

Topic 2

In Step-by-Step to Supermemo Mastery there is the question:

Do I really need to know it now? Or can I learn it later?

If the answer to this question is "No", in the sense that I don't really need to know this now how exactly do I have to give this answer to Supermemo? Most importantly: how do I make sure that eventually Supermemo does introduce the "not-so-urgent" item in the learning queue when it actually because "urgent" ?

Topic 3

I have recently stopped using Supermemo for 26 days. The outstanding queue had a disproportionate number of items to be reviewed to be realistically possible. I have used "mercy" and told Supermemo to give me each day X number of elements.

Is this the most optimal solution?

Topic 4

I have to prepare for an exam that will require thousands of pages to be studied and commands to be memorized. Would it be beneficial to have this information in Supermemo although this kind of detail is necessary only to pass the exam while in the day-to-day life I could do with a more "generalized" version of the information? Or would you advise to use a different tool (like Anki) for the exam preparation keeping Supermemo for more "generalized" topics that are present in the exam but which will also benefit me after the actual exam?

Conclusion

I realize that probably all of these questions have answer in some web pages somewhere. The reality is that there is so much information on the main Supermemo site that it's overwhelming. Please excuse me if I am using your precious time to answer already-answered questions.

Answers

simplifying items

Please paste an exemplary item to get specific suggestions. Optimum strategy may range from deleting a few words to deleting the entire item. It depends on the content.

things you do not need to know

Follow this strategy for less important items:

  1. if you think you totally do not need to waste time on an item, delete it
  2. if you are not sure, deprioritize it (e.g. Priority=99%)
  3. if the item keeps coming back and you keep forgetting, delete it

outstanding work

If you had a month break, Mercy is a good option, esp. if your material is not prioritized. Mercy is a tool for those who take a break and want to have an easy return (hence the name). However, if your material is well prioritized, auto-sort and auto-postpone is all that you need to do, esp. if you have a good habit of not peeking at the outstanding parameter.

In your case, as you look for a fresh start, Mercy can help you focus on new well-formulated material.

starting from scratch

You can proceed incrementally. With your new mindset, create new perfect items with high priority and keep deprioritizing old material. This way you will soon receive all bad items in manageable portions. Your experience will keep growing and you will find it easier and easier to make the next step. If the situation is bad, i.e. you keep getting loads of bad items with lots of lapses, you can Mercy it all out into the future to get a sensible number of items to process per day (5, 10, 30, etc.), depending on your processing capacity. Adding new perfect items is important. This will keep your enthusiasm high.

exam material

If you have a new exam with boatloads of new information, you might keep exam information in a separate collection. Rushing through more items at low quality can only destroy your goal of a fresh start. You can then make slow meticulous and correct repetitions in your main collection and keep the mess in your exam collection. Once the exam is over, you can sift and deprioritize the exam material and merge it with your main collection with little damage to the overall process.

The main risk of the exam deadline is that it can further undermine your present resolution to keep things well organized and well formulated. In a few months, your collection might become even more chaotic and you might be tempted to take another break, which is the first step to ending your SuperMemo adventure.

Each time you need to rush through a lot of learning, try to keep the chaos away from your main collection. it is possible to do a lot of messy learning in your main collection, however, this requires a lot of experience and determination. Your main clean collection is your anchor to future learning.

Further comments from user

Thank you for taking the time for answering. In the matters of simplifying an item, here are some examples of current items which:

Example 1:

Klebelsberg argues that there is a dialectic relationship between safety as it actually exists (‘objective safety’), and safety experienced by people in different situations (‘subjective safety’). The model shows that traffic safety increases with improvements in objective safety, without commensurate increases in subjective safety (figure 4). It decreases if there is an increase in subjective safety without objective safety increasing in at least the same proportion.

Example 2:

Another difference between emblems and illustrators is that although both are shown when people converse, emblems can be used in place of a word or when people cannot or do not speak. Illustrator movements, by definition, occur only during speech, not to replace it or when people don't talk.

How would you transform these items?

Peer Suggestion

Since this follow up was not answered, I thought I would tackle it as a fellow user. Luckily before using SuperMemo I used Anki for many months, and read over the 20 rules to get the basic idea of how to break down cards. So these ideas may help anyone with these same questions. Or maybe not, maybe this is a wrong approach, but this is what works for me.

Example 1

Q: Summarize Klebelsberg's main point about safety in one sentence.

A: there is a dialectic relationship between safety as it actually exists (‘objective safety’), and safety experienced by people in different situations (‘subjective safety’)

Q: What are the two dichotomies of safety defined by Klebelsberg?

A: objective & subjective safety

Q: How does Klebelsberg define "objective safety"?

A: safety as it actually exists

Q: How does Klebelsberg define "subjective safety"?

A: safety experienced by people in different situations

Q: What does Klebelsberg's traffic safety model prove?

A: traffic safety increases with improvements in objective safety, without commensurate increases in subjective safety (figure 4) <-- put this figure in an image component marked as Answer

Etc.

Comments

Still the above questions looks "scary" and complex (at least on first encounter). Without a good understanding of "Klebelsberg's traffic safety model", those items might ring hollow fast. I would take a different approach. Pad up the text will as many explanations as I need to soften the blow (to be sure I understand it all 100%). Then I would just cloze strategic keywords, perhaps just one at each review/re-reading, and look for all side effects during actual repetitions (to add context, clues, simplify wording, etc.). If I knew the subject better, I might try to produce an example, but this is always done best by an actual student (with good knowledge of near fields).