Revisiting onboarding decks and tutorials

I wanted to share some thoughts on the topic of creating a shared deck to help users get started with Anki. This has been discussed previously in these topics:

My question is, would it be so bad to “abuse” Anki cards in this way? I would argue that it wouldn’t be a form of abuse. Spaced repetition algorithms don’t prescribe how one must respond to a prompt, per se. SRS is only about when to pay attention to a prompt. How to respond to the prompt is up to the user. Conventionally, users do active recall practice in response to a prompt. However, as Andy Matuschak has written in Spaced repetition systems can be used to program attention:

we can generalize spaced repetition to: a priority queue of microtasks
Within a traditional flashcard-style system, you can use this observation to go far beyond memorization: see Spaced repetition memory systems can be used to prompt application, synthesis, and creation and Spaced repetition may be a helpful tool to develop or change habits. Spaced repetition prompt design is about designing tasks for your future self.

and

the core concept —automatically arranging and presenting tasks according to some expanding schedule—can be instantiated in many interfaces and domains. I call this notion Spaced everything.

So why not have “explanatory” or “teaching” note types that ask users to learn a small bit of information? These could be special types of notes that are only meant to teach a topic and then be suspended as soon as one is ready to move on to the associated active recall practice cards or after one is sufficiently familiar with the subject.

Furthermore, something like iorad.com can be used to create “virtual” tutorials that provide a guided tour of one part of Anki. These tutorials can even be embedded on an Anki card, as could mini tutorial videos. Here is one example: Using the Browser to Unsuspend Cards

To respond to some specific points that @dae made:

  • The intro deck could be kept as minimal as possible, only introducing the concepts and skills a user needs to get started using Anki.
  • A more advanced deck could be used to allow users to take a deeper dive into Anki.
  • This could be a free deck on https://www.ankihub.net/, making it easy to keep up to date.
  • Translating the deck into multiple languages is a more complex problem, but surely a tractable one.

Example deck

Here’s a very rough draft of such a deck that includes an embedded board tutorial. This deck could be dramatically improved, but you get the idea. Generally, I think the cards should be a lot more minimal and maybe use more iorad tutorials. :smile: Getting Started with Anki.apkg - Google Drive

A better alternative

A better alternative would be an in-app product tour, like the ones you often see in web apps. See https://www.intercom.com/drlp/product-tours, for example.

Here is a quick and dirty prototype we did to validate the idea (shout out to @FloatingOrange for putting this together!). Unfortunately, it seems pretty tricky to do something like this well in Anki Desktop with QT.

I am unaware of any tools that make doing this in QT easier.

Questions

Do you think a Getting Started with Anki deck would be helpful for new users?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not sure
0 voters

If you do think it would be helpful, what’s the bare minimum that should be covered in such a deck? Can we eliminate any of these?

  • Adding new cards
  • Editing cards
  • Suspending and unsuspending
  • Burying cards
  • Note types
    • Basic
    • Cloze
  • Tags
5 Likes

I’ve moved this topic, because the “Shared Decks” category is muted by default, so most users won’t be notified about the post.

I’m not sure the poll is asking the right question. My position is not that such a deck would have no value, it is that it would have considerable downsides compared to alternatives like the manual, and be difficult to maintain. An integrated tour would be a better alternative, but I presume it would be quite involved to implement, and I don’t think we should be investing significant effort into new Qt-based features.

4 Likes

My only problem with the manual is it is too long and that it is a “manual”. This is opportunate because I was just trying to convince my brother to use Anki and he said something to the effect of It literally has a manual, I don’t wanna work so hard just for one application. I kinda understand him even though he’s wrong. Having the minimum required info in Anki in the form of a deck would be quite useful.

3 Likes

Hi Andrew,

Nice to greet you again. Long time no see :slight_smile:

I agree that the in-app tour (onboarding) would be the best option.

Related to this and Andy Matuschak’s articles. Anki only supports flashcards so these can be used as placeholders for tasks etc and use the SRS scheduling. Other apps like Supermemo support this natively as topics, tasks, and concepts, as all elements are also scheduled and prioritized via a queue.

Long story short, having “feature tutorial cards” might give the impression to newcomers have kilometric flashcards (20 rules of knowledge formulation) or misrepresent the concept of a flashcard.

I would be more inclined to have actual flashcards as an example deck, so there is one suspended card, another is marked, etc, so a user could quickly experience the main features without creating any flashcards.

These are my two cents.

4 Likes

This is an Anki tutorial add-on that looks like the visual novel game I am developing. (Still under development) It uses PyQt and game assets for visual novel games, and it can change the description or trigger Anki features by user’s choices.

The challenge for now is that I need to create interesting tutorials. If I simply explained AnkiManual, users would get bored, so I would like to come up with interesting stories or develop some kind of rewards. (For example, if users make a new card, they can earn coins.)

4 Likes

In principle, I don’t think this would be a bad thing. However, in practice, I just don’t see a person too unmotivated to at least look at the manual being motivated enough to work through what would basically be a manual in deck form.

1 Like

Counterargument: the deck would come with Anki itself, so the user wouldn’t need to go to Ankiweb to discover the same information

2 Likes

…as does the manual; Anki Desktop/Help/Guide menu item or the F1 key (if it hasn’t been redefined on your system).

The manual is a different medium. If you can focus on using Anki, you probably can use the deck.

3 Likes

Hey, old friend! :wave: :smile:

I agree that having the tutorials available in a more appropriate location would be better. Perhaps embedding them on cards would be a suitable hack for the near term until there is a better alternative. The main problem I want to solve is to train new users to use Anki effectively in Anki itself, immediately after installing, without having to read the manual or watch long YouTube videos. I think this is definitely possible at least for the fundamentals.

Another option is to make mini-tutorials, docs, GPT chat support, etc., available in a sidebar. I really like the sidebars I’ve seen implemented by AnkiBrain and the Discord sidebar, for example. I think a library of tutorials, etc, would be a wonderful application of the sidebar idea.

3 Likes

I think if I bought something which came with an explanation it is much less exhausting then If I was told to go to a website and read a manual on it. Also my experiences with my brother tells me Manual in itself can be a term that comes with the connotation of something being overly complex.

1 Like

It’s easier now, you can go straight to GPT. And if you also feed the manual to the neural network (you can download it as a PDF), then it’s fine.

I can get that, it just hasn’t been my experience.

I felt it was easy to find and the intro was plenty to get me started. And I didn’t actually read the manual, I just looked stuff up when I had questions and read the relevant sections. Not saying it couldn’t be improved, but I think the manual is quite good considering the underlying complexity of the software.

I guess in the end I have a hard time seeing how onboarding decks/tutorials would be useful to very many people since I sort of assume most users are like me. And to a certain extent, I fear it will end up contributing to the whole “Anki is toooo complex mythos” instead of addressing it.

1 Like

I think this image shows why the manual alone is not sufficient
image

2 Likes

Sorry, but I can’t see how this makes your point.

In any case though, I’m not trying to argue with you or convince anyone not to make these tutorials. I’m just offering my opinion of how impactful they’re likely to be.

Will it be helpful for some, almost certainly, but reiterating my original comment, I still can’t see it being helpful for people too unmotivated to even try looking at the readily available and easily accessible materials like the manual.

And just in case it’s lost in my comment, I appreciate all the work and contributions made to anki by volunteers: Anki and Ankidroid are my most heavily used programs by far. That doesn’t mean though that I think all contributions are equally useful.

4 Likes

Sorry, but I can’t see how this makes your point.

According to the poll on r/Anki, most users rarely (if ever) read the manual.

1 Like

Wow, thanks for mentioning my discord addon. Feel free to Fork etc, and I will link to it as a related Add-ons if you wish.

1 Like

As the poll shows, not many people are like you. But in any case, what’s the harm in trying. Let’s see how useful it becomes.

Also, a poll that asks people how likely they are to read a manual vs instruction/tutorial that comes with anki. Asking people to self assess themselves considering their own past behaviour may be the best bet now. ( @Expertium you may be interested in this)

1 Like

Hard to tell if you’re being serious! The poll shows how many people read the manual: Not how many wanted to but couldn’t find it, nor how likely they would be to use these tutorials/decks if they were/had been available. Both more relevant questions.

My interpretation is that Anki is simple enough to use that most people don’t even need the manual. Obviously an overstatement, but with a large grain of truth.

ETA: I’d wager that, a year after the tutorials are released, the results of a similar poll of their use would look largely the same as this one.

2 Likes

I disagree. I think it shows that, even among poll participants, most people are in fact like me. Your idea of a poll asking specifically if people would use such decks, could be more relevant to the point at hand.

In any case, nowhere did I say someone shouldn’t do this. It seems silly to keep having it implied as if it’s something I said. I only offered my opinion of how useful I thought they’d be.

1 Like