Table of Contents | Anki

Solving the Ease Factor Problem

I am not the first person to realize that the excessively high "learning rate" of Anki's algorithm leads to extremely inefficient scheduling; both ja-dark and eshapard have written about the ease factor problem and proposed possible solutions to it. Eshapard initially proposed using longer learning steps: because Anki doesn't start changing the ease factor of cards until after they have graduated from the learning queue, the more time that cards spend in the learning queue, the longer their ease factors remain safe. Although this approach constitutes a big step up from vanilla Anki, it has many downsides which I won't go into here. If you would like to learn more about this approach, check out eshapard original blog post about it, or Conaanaa's video summarizing eshapard's ideas.

Eshapard later went on to create an add-on that completely overrides Anki's original algorithm, replacing it with a new one that more closely resembles SuperMemo's. I think it's a huge step in the right direction, but due to its simplicity, this new algorithm suffers from its own form of an excessively high "learning rate," in addition to completely precluding the possibility of using Anki on mobile devices (as an add-on is needed to use the new algorithm, and only the desktop version of Anki supports add-ons). You can read more about eshapard's new algorithm here.

The best solution to the ease factor problem that I know of was created by ja-dark, a how-to-learn-Japanese blogger who since has disappeared from the internet. In his now-defunct post, "CriteriEN: No Card Left Behind," ja-dark outlined a series of changes to Anki's settings and algorithm that he recommended in order to optimize workflow. I don't agree with many of the things that he said, but a combination of two of the changes he made to the algorithm constitute a simple yet elegant remedy to the ease factor problem: removing ease factor penalties/ boosting, and remove the hard and easy buttons. Ja-dark originally called Anki without ease factor penalties/ boosting "Low Stakes Anki," and Anki without the hard and easy buttons "Low-Key Anki." But in order to simplify things, I am going to be referring to the combination of both as simply "Low-Key Anki."

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