Worries about Future-proofing of SuperMemo

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Concern

Max Koteikin, Russia, wrote:

I have been using Anki for many years and am a big fan of SRS. Recently, I decided to take a look at your program, and it seemed to me very useful. It’s not so difficult to understand it as people usually say, and I quickly got used to it (although, of course, there are a lot of bugs, quirks and bad design choices like the templates concept). Anyway, I would like to continue to use it, even though I use a Mac and run it in Parallels Desktop, however, I’m really worried about this: It’s a proprietary program, it’s very specific and you are not a monster of infinity like Microsoft, Apple or Google. Also, your software is not something like MS Word, when you can extract your data as a PDF file and move on, because SuperMemo is a completely different beast — focus on input, not output.

I’m afraid that if you stop the development for some reason, we, users, will be in an extremely difficult situation. I don’t think that your program will ever transform into an open source project, since the same ideas and code are also used in your other commercial products (SuperMemo.com). Is it wise for a person to stick with your program if all his or her efforts can turn into nothing in some day (I mean stats and collections)? Although Anki is not such a powerful program, it’s open source and has a large and active community interested in its further development. What are your thoughts about future-proofing in case of SuperMemo?

Reply

Please see similar question on Reddit — https://www.reddit.com/r/SuperMemo/comments/br2bnb/exportabilityimportability_and_trustworthiness_of/.

Comments:

  • you can export most of your data as XML. If an asteroid hits, someone will certainly find a way to import it to other platforms (or develop new)
  • open source is not impossible, there is just not enough momentum
  • longevity of SuperMemo in Windows is mostly a matter of longevity of Windows. If you can use Windows 10 in 20 years, you will be able to use SuperMemo 17/18, possibly crippled by changes to Wikipedia, YouTube, Google, etc.
  • it should be possible to run SuperMemo 2 for DOS on a computer that can run native DOS today (that would be a longevity of 32 years, in the old operating system)
  • you should be able to run SuperMemo 8 in 32-bit windows (longevity of 24 years)
  • SuperMemo 98 can run in Windows 10 (incl. 64-bit). This is a longevity of 21 years in the up-to-date operating system
  • SuperMemo 1.0 line is just 2 years "younger" than Windows itself
  • SuperMemo World is 28 years old and supermemo.com is a platform with good longevity prospects. If you are tired of Windows, you can press for the expansion of on-line SuperMemo into your favorite functionality areas (again, not enough momentum at the moment for incremental reading, etc.)

Humor

You say: you are not a monster of infinity like Microsoft, Apple or Google.

I say: Encarta, Front Page, iTunes, Google Plus, Picasa, Google Answers, YouTube Annotations and several hundred more skeltons


Follow up

Koteikin

Thanks for your replying! I will definitely continue to use your nice program for some stuff, but not for all (yes, I realize the negative side of this approach). Currently I only use SuperMemo for scheduling and processing topics, while final knowledge goes to Anki.

Also I want to say that it would be great if you released the mobile version of SuperMemo, which could synchronize with the desktop version. I like that Anki has a powerful mobile companion, and it’s very comfortable to know (psychologically) that right here in your pocket there is a treasury of *crystallized knowledge* (thanks to Dr. Woz for this laconic metaphor), which you can quickly look at for reference.

In addition, I would like SuperMemo to use a modern web engine that supports technologies like SVG images and animations, MathJax, etc. Although SuperMemo has a more powerful and rational algorithm, I still gravitate to less efficient Anki, because the latter allows you to make very beautiful and attractive cards. When I look at my cards that contain questions about flags, chemical elements and mathematical formulas, I want to hug them like puppies — they look so-o-o cool and cute! It makes me open Anki every single day (yep, I’m definitely a crazy geek and adore web design and beautiful typography :D).

Final knowledge

If you love to hug your puppies, learning will be more fun and efficient. However, SuperMemo strips extras for the sake of simplifying the pathway to the final product: simple Q&A or cloze items (perhaps with a picture, or with a sound). In that way, at some point, your brain won't even have time for hugging. It is about spending a second or two to refresh an association and move on. For that reason, your final knowledge should rather be stored in SuperMemo. It will always be easy to move back to other platforms. You can use SVG or animations or MathJax, however, you are always supposed to be driven towards simplification of representation (e.g. why SVG instead of "just picture"). One of the first thing you standardly do is to apply a filter (F6) to quickly simplify web pages to material that is easy to consume. JavaScript is one of the first victims. You may have dozens of ideas how to animate your items, but in the end, you may prefer simplicity for sheer speed. Are you at the stage of hundreds items or thousands of items? The deeper you go the stingier you are about time and detail

Similar ideas/concerns

It might make sense to integrate all ideas into one: