Listened to Designing and Developing New Tools For Thought with Andy Matuschak from Village Global's Venture Stories

Andy Matuschak (@andy_matuschak), joins Erik on this episode. He is a technologist, designer and researcher. They discuss:
- The key thread throughout his work and what he’s trying to accomplish.
- Why people read books despite remembering little of what they read.
- What books should look like and the features they should have in the digital age.
- Why spaced repetition is so powerful.- His requests for startups in the space.

Replied to a tweet by Greg McVerryGreg McVerry (Twitter)
Without checking, I have to think that I carefully couched my wording there. For that audience, I did use the more famous example of Stonehenge, for which there is some pretty solid evidence for my claim. There are other examples in the archaeological record that certainly are older and in other cultural contexts. I can easily think of standing stones that are as old as 12,000 years old for which the same case could be made in borderline agricultural societies. The tough part is that would have required the definition of standing stones and a lot of other pieces which I didn’t feel I had the time to create the context for in that setting.

I imagine that there are potentially examples of this sort of behavior going back as far as 30-40,000 years or more, but there is is no direct (known) archaeological evidence left to make such cases. There are oral histories of indigenous peoples in Australia that indicate memories of things that do exist in the geological record to provide some evidence of this.

I’ll also point out that astronomical use is NOT equal to memory use. To make that claim you’d need a lot of additional evidence. In fact, I might suggest something stronger, particularly about Stonehenge. Stonehenge’s primary use was not an astronomical one. Its primary use was as a mnemonic device. The astronomical one was important for the ritual practice (we would call it spaced repetition in modern psychology and pedagogic contexts), but wholly tangential.

If you’re interested in the underlying evidence, Dr. Lynne Kelly has an excellent Ph.D. thesis on the topic, but you might find her book The Memory Code, which expands on the thesis, more accessible. She’s also got a great bibliography of these topics on her website.

Replied to Cornell Note-Taking System by Josh CohenJosh Cohen (Art of Memory Forum)

Has anyone tried the Cornell Note-taking System? It looks interesting.

They layout looks like this:


Here’s a summary:

1. Record: During the lecture, use the note-taking column to record the lecture using telegraphic sentences.
2. Questions: As soon after class as possible, formulate questions based on the notes in the right-hand column. Writing questions helps to clarify meanings, reveal relationships, establish continuity, and strengthen memory. Also, the writing of questions sets up a perfect stage for exam-studying later.
3. Recite: Cover the note-taking column with a sheet of paper. Then, looking at the questions or cue-words in the question and cue column only, say aloud, in your own words, the answers to the questions, facts, or ideas indicated by the cue-words.
4. Reflect: Reflect on the material by asking yourself questions, for example: “What’s the significance of these facts? What principle are they based on? How can I apply them? How do they fit in with what I already know? What’s beyond them?
5. Review: Spend at least ten minutes every week reviewing all your previous notes. If you do, you’ll retain a great deal for current use, as well as, for the exam.

More details:

I’ve used Cornell notes specifically with mnemonic methods before. In addition to the date, name, subject area, I’ll also write down an associated memory palace.

I typically keep some space in the recall column to write down associated PAO, Major System, etc. images related to the key concepts, dates, and other notes and sometimes include locations along with the images. Sometimes I may make the notes themselves the memory palace by drawing sketches, doodles or other drolleries into the margins. Depending on the information I may also encode details into other pre-existing palaces.

I can then come back to the notes and do spaced repetition over them to strengthen the images, loci, and ideas. Depending on the material, I might transfer the basics of the notes over to Anki or Mnemosyne for more formal spaced review.

Idea for a spaced repetition user interface for

While I’m thinking about younger students, I thought I’d sketch out a bit of an add-on product that I wish had.

Background/Set up

I was looking at tools to pull annotations out of Kindle the other day and ran across Readwise again. Part of its functionality pulls highlights and annotations out of Kindle and then it has some UI that uses the idea of spaced repetition to have you regularly review what you’ve previously read and highlighted and presumably wanted to remember or use in the future.

Of course this is very similar to other spaced repetition/flash card applications like Mnemosyne, Anki, or language apps like Memrise and Duolingo among many others. I also seem to recall that Amazon once had some UI like this built into their Kindle Notebook, but I’m not finding it at the moment, but I know they’ve changed that UI sometime in the last two years–perhaps it’s gone?

The Pitch

Given the number of learners who are using, wouldn’t it be a fantastic bit of functionality if had a spaced repetition UI that would allow students to easily go back and review over their prior highlights and annotations?! Presumably this could be targeted for quizzes and tests, but honestly as a lifelong learner I very frequently love using tools like Timehop or even my website’s built-in “On this day” functionality to look back over bits and pieces of things I’ve done in the past, which also includes my annotations, since I’m keeping copies of them on my website as well.

Naturally such a UI should be able to search or sort by tag, date range, or even by source(s) so that a student could more easily wrangle a particular number of sources over which they wanted to review their material–particularly as over months, years, or decades one could build up a huge library of annotations. If, as a student, I was tagging my material by class course number subject area or something similar (like edu522, for example) I could then easily dump that into such a UI and be able to do spaced repetition studying for that subject area. Masters, Ph.D. students, and even the professoriate might appreciate it for occasional spaced repetition to be nudged or reminded of ideas they’d had in the past, but which may need rekindling to put into a thesis or potential future papers.

The more I think about this, the more I’d love to see it in If it’s not something the main team takes on, perhaps it could be an add-on for a group like Remi Kalir’s who have done some interesting work with the API to create Crowdlaaers

I’m planning to use import/export manually with tools like Anki to do some testing this coming weekend… I wonder what open sourced code may already exist that I could simply plug my data into? Hmm…

Read Vocabulary Study with Mnemosyne by Chris Francese (Dickinson College Commentaries)
Learning any language involves acquiring a large amount of vocabulary. For this reason, I think it is very useful for Latin and Greek students to put time and effort into systematic vocabulary study.
I’ve added a copy of the DCC Core Latin Vocabulary to the Anki platform for those interested in utilizing it there instead of on Mnemosyne. The cards can be found/downloaded at: My personal thanks to the DCC for posting and sharing the results of their research and work in this manner. This is a brilliant example of the concept of digital humanities.