G.

Issue #002: Active recall and spaced repetition

I’m currently in the process of studying for my pilot license exams (air law and meteorology to be precise) and while my university years are long behind me, I became quite obsessed recently with study techniques. To my surprise, a lot of what I considered to be effective strategies turns out, as evidence suggests, to be quite useless.

Two study techniques that are actually effective are active recall and spaced repetition. The first one is a strategy based on the evidence saying that simply reading and rereading material doesn’t work very well and learning is most effective when we’re engaging in cognitively demanding study. On the other hand if you put a cognitive effort by self quizzing or using flash cards, you practice remembering the material which makes you actually remember it. Spaced repetition is a solution to the so-called “forgetting curve” - the decline in memory retention over time. It’s usually practiced using flash cards (I use app called Quizlet as a digital equivalent) and can either be scheduled in advance in a revision timetable or, what I found to be more efficient, in a retrospective timetable. (In which you note the dates on which you studied/tested a particular topic and how well you remembered it)

I’m finding this topic fascinating so I recently started writing a longer form essay that I’ll publish on my blog soon. There’s plenty of scientific research and evidence around it (more and less recent) including techniques such as interleaving, scoping or diffused thinking but I haven’t found a single place that would be a good summary based on references to proper research and studies.

What I'm working on

This week I launched a new landing page for my bootstrapped startup called StackScout. It’s a server monitoring and incident management tool that simplifies the process of setting up infrastructure and alerts. Basically it’s an alternative to complex, expensive, enterprise products like New Relic Infrastructure or Dynatrace. I’ve been working on the product for more than a year now and been using it myself for a while so I decided it was a good time to start an early-access program and let the external users in.

You can check out the landing page and sign up for the early access program on https://stackscout.io.

StackScout screenshot

Weekly favourites

  1. I stumbled upon an episode of North Star Podcast from 2019 that featured Keith Rabois and which I found to be a mine of information about the concept of advantage accumulation in business and also personal life. You can listen to it on Apple Podcasts or any other podcast player. I know Keith is a pretty controversial figure but this is well worth spending an hour with.
  2. Speaking of podcasts, I recently switched from Pocket Casts to Breaker. I loved Pocket Casts but its lack of podcast and episode discoverability ended up being a deal breaker. (Pun not intended!) I don’t really use it for its social features but the way playlists work (including the fact I can add podcasts to a playlist even if I’m not subscribed and new episodes appear in that playlist automatically) and the recommendation system are best-in-class.
  3. The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek is a great introduction to the concept of finite and infinite games. Many people started reading the original book written by James P. Carse and got discouraged by its tone and the way it was written. Simon on the other hand writes in a clear and entertaining way and this is another book of his about leadership that I read and can easily recommend.

Quote

Starting a startup is a process of trial and error. What guided the founders through this process was their empathy for the users. They never lost sight of making things that people would want.

Jessica Livingston in Founders at Work

Thanks for reading, see your next week!

Greg

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