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I don't have a definite alternative to Cloze deletions yet. I think that they are very effective in certain contexts (the example from the article of using overlapping Cloze deletions to memorize an alphabet generally seems like a great use.) However, I've found that they aren't helpful for me when trying to memorize, say, mathematical formulas. In particular, I feel that I start to "learn the deck", rather than actually learning the underlying material, and I never get a feel for the formula as a whole. So, I should really revise my comment about Cloze deletions to be "Cloze deletions are not the most effective way to learn many subjects, including those I am trying to learn."

The nice thing about Cloze deletions is they're quick to make and quick to review. I would suggest making a few sample Cloze cards and seeing how it works out for whatever subject you're studying. If they seem effective, great! Definitely use them in that case. If not, experiment with alternatives. Sorry I can't give a better answer than that.


Not sure if this is what you meant by "systemized", but here's my basic workflow for textbooks:

  1. Read chapter (or, more likely, some 4-5 sections of a chapter)
  2. Summarize/analyze chapter in an emacs org-mode document
  3. Generate anki cards from the summary
  4. (Optional) Expand summary with notes from lecture

Writing new cards takes a long time, so I try to spread out the work. Roughly speaking, one textbook chapter usually takes two days, and will generate 20-30 cards. (This is for physics and math, where I'm generating a lot of cards that are relatively basic formulas and constants.) Also, most of the work is in reading, understanding, and summarizing. Making the Anki cards does take time, but it tends to be less than the other parts.

I haven't done much to automate the process, although I'm working on autogenerating cards from the emacs documentation to learn emacs shortcuts. The most important modification I made to vanilla Anki was writing a very kluge-y plugin to allow full use of my commonly used emacs keybindings (mostly movement, killing, yanking, and deleting).

A few quick pieces of advice:

  • Learn the shortcuts. It's a lot less painful when editing to type Cmd-T + M to get into Latex math mode than it is to use the mouse.

  • On a related note, if you're doing math, physics, or anything else with formulas, learn Latex if you don't know it. It's for more pleasant to review cards with pretty formatting than with ugly formatting. It also makes cloze deletion of formulas a lot easier (although I'm not sure how effective Cloze formulas are yet).

  • Batch the steps of whatever process you choose. So, I do all the reading, then all the summarizing, then all the anki additions, then all the anki reviewing. It's much faster, and way less painful to review.

  • I've found it to be easier to review old material and learn new material at the same time. Learning 10 or 20 new cards can sometimes be frustrating, especially when I basically wanted to brute-force memorize (as I did with trig formulas before starting Calculus, where I didn't care how they were derived). Reviewing, on the other hand, is generally pleasant, since I get to feel accomplished and intelligent.

  • Think hard about what information is useful. I wanted to memorize the derivation of the formula for a ring of charge in physics based on the formula for a point charge. I initially tried to make a bunch of different cards that sequentially went through the steps of the derivation. What worked, though, was having one card for the general strategy and another card for the bounds of integration. Once I had those two pieces of information, I was easily able to reconstruct the whole derivation. Since there were 3 or 4 additional similar derivations, recognizing those pieces of information as being critical saved something like 15 or 20 cards, which is huge.

If you haven't read these yet, here's a list of 20 rules of formulating knowledge, with an emphasis on SRS. This is a much longer article by the same guy, covering basically the same information in more detail. I agree with gwern, though, that Cloze deletions are not the most effective way to learn.


StayFocused has a nice (optional) feature where you're required to type a long, complicated paragraph before being allowed to change settings. Additionally, it prevents you from making changes after you've run out of time for the day. Finally, it also blocks sites that are linked to from restricted sites, which works wonders for Reddit/HN browsing. However, you can have only one list of restricted sites, unlike the sets of sites that you get with LeechBlock. Additionally, you are forced to have at least one minute available for browsing per day, with an additional minute available from 23:59-00:00 (if you want to block sites for the whole day). It's a bit to easy to disable on a whim, but in general I've found it works well - I haven't yet attempted to circumvent it since I started using it ~2 weeks ago.


If it's on a weekend or late enough on a Friday, I would be willing to drive up from Bloomington.


An interesting analogy. Extending that, what we want to explicitly avoid is simple alpha reduction (where we simply replace one variable with another (unbound) variable). Extending the analogy to cover eta reduction is probably a bit of a stretch, or at least I can't see a meaningful way to do so.


I'm at IU, but I can make the trip (and might be in Indy that day anyway).