by

Do’h. Smart.fm is closing down, and taking your content with it (holy crap, I made a lot for them, including a good amount of semi-pro audio, which I paid someone for). Well, they’re only kinda-sorta closing down. The parent company, Cerego is ending the Smart.fm service and rebranding it as “iKnow” (wait… hasn’t this happened before… like twice?) and slapping a monthly fee on there.

Pardon The Opinion-Piece / Rant

So, I’m going to write a bit of an opinion-ish editorial-ish rant-ish piece here. Not sure how else to do it. I feel sort of… betrayed?

It’s not because Smart.fm shouldn’t be a paid service… it probably should be. They should have done this a long time ago. My feeling of betrayal is a long term thing, that started over a year ago. Here’s my own personal timeline with Smart.fm… or should I say, iKnow? Hmm, iDon’tKnow…

I discovered iKnow.co.jp (Smart.fm was originally known as iKnow, which is what they’re turning back into now). It was awesome. Probably one of the coolest knives in the knife drawer, so to speak. I loved the heck out of them. They were great.

I kept liking them, but then they switched to Smart.fm. They were still good though.

Then, they got a new UI designer (or something, I don’t know what happened), and everything became hard to use. Things started breaking/sucking, and nothing worked as well as it used to. For learners and people creating content, things just weren’t as easy as they used to be. Someone ruined it, and I don’t know the details. I just know Smart.fm slowly got harder and harder to use (actually it got even worse than this, but keep reading).

I met with one of the co-founders in San Francisco, when he was visiting / talking with people (possibly for investments?). I won’t tell you which one, because I like the guy. We talked about all kinds of things, but one thing that sticks out was his promise that Smart.fm would always be free. Ads? Definite probability… White labeling? Perhaps… but never a pay-to-use kind of program. Whoops. I guess that wasn’t actually his decision to make. We even met regarding a deal that would give him a lot of free content. Good thing it fell through, otherwise that particular content would have been their free content they could now charge for.

Things kept getting worse with the UI. It got harder to create content. It used to take almost no time to create cards… now it takes forever. Things not only loaded slow, but they added a ton of unnecessary steps in order for me to get something set up, making it hard to get things done. Other people started noticing this. For some reason, I had faith that it would get better, yet it only kept getting worse.

I start hearing from various (secret… ahem) contacts about problems from within Smart.fm – the engineers don’t respect the management. The management don’t really understand how to work with engineers. The engineers just kind of do what they want, there is no direction, and nothing gets done. In the meantime, however, Smart.fm raises a ton of money (because their executives, while not good at managing engineers, do happen to be good at raising a lot of money). I hear more and more about how working at Smart.fm isn’t all that great… and when your engineers aren’t happy and they don’t respect you, that’s never a good sign…

Then, things started breaking. My content (which was awesome, and now is kind of broken) started getting mixed up weirdly. Audio would shift around seemingly at random, pairing the wrong audio with the wrong word (audio that either I recorded or paid someone to record for me). My example sentences were getting switched out with other, somewhat correct but mostly incorrect, sentences. Basically, some algorithm on the back end was making me look like an idiot. I would try to fix things as fast as possible, but new problems appeared as fast as I could fix the old ones. This really sucked. This is when I realized it was time to come up with an alternative for TextFugu, which used Smart.fm a lot (all lists I created).

Then, bam, this news hit. Smart.fm is closing down and is becoming iKnow (again). I’m not upset about this because they decided to go to a paid model. Sure, I was promised this would never happen, but I definitely saw this happening at some point. I’m irritated because of the slow, painful process that took place to get to this point. The lowering of quality… the breakage… the lack of support for all the breakage… it goes on and on.

Sure, I’ll have to switch all my TextFugu flashcard content over to something else (some of it already is, thankfully), but I’m hoping that will be a blessing in disguise. I’ll have more control over my own flashcard content, and that will be nice. Still, I’ve had faith in Smart.fm for way too long, even when others had long given up on them. This, however, is my breaking point.

So, I guess it’s time to put down the Smart.fm torch (it doesn’t exist anymore, anyways) and pick up something else. Anki’s good, you should try that.

So, what do you think about all this mumbo-jumbo of Smart.fm changing to iKnow (again) and switching to a pay model? For me, I think it’s smart they’re going paid. They should have done that from the start. But… for me, Smart.fm’s quality has just gone down way too far, and I’ve stuck with them for way too long. It’s time for me to let go and turn to something else. What about you?

/EndRant

  • http://www.bradleyfarless.com/ Brad F.

    Well, it was kind of hard to use, and I did hear people complaining about it. It’s a great tool, though, and I was surprised it was free to use. That being said, if it’s going to be a pay to play kinda thing, I really hope they fix the problems and make it a much more user friendly experience. I also think it’s kinda crap that they’re going to try to capitalize on other people’s content, like the stuff you put together for free, that they’ll make money off of. You should at least see a cut of the profit from that.

    My prediction is that Smart.fm / iKnow will decline seriously in popularity and something else will just take its place.

  • http://www.bradleyfarless.com/ Brad F.

    By the way, this is a weird implementation of Disqus. I don’t like how it tries to squeeze in my bio at the top and cuts it off.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/euphoriafish Teresa D. Lee

    I wonder why comments are disabled in the Japanese version of the Smart.fm blog.

  • http://twitter.com/PsychoKat21 Kat

    This is very upsetting, mainly because of all the hours that everyone has put into it. Not only people like Koichi who have spent untold hours of labor and apparently his own personal money to create something to use on the site, but also those of us who have been using it to study. It’s a little irritating that the things I have already studied will no longer be tracked, creating extra work for me to sort through and figure out exactly what I need to study and what I feel solid on. Lazy, I know, but it’s also a time management thing.

    I just don’t see how they can justify charging for user generated content. Legally, yes, if you submit it, then they own it. But in a free market? I doubt people will pay for something they, themselves, created. I’m hoping someone with the computer know-how will take up the mantle and create something just as good, and probably better.

  • http://twitter.com/Bonjour_Maiden ALLIE

    disappointing..

  • Alvin B.

    Have an eye out for good alternatives myself, as well. I liked the ease of studying and goals on smart.fm. I never had a sense of progress using Anki, and there was little to no community associated with it either. Smart.fm brought both of those to the table, and was for me the ideal “social learning network”. Just like facebook is free, wikipedia is free, I believe learning can find a free model. I thought that was smart.fm, but I guess I was wrong.

  • http://www.ianlewis.org/ Ian Lewis

    I agree it should have had some sort of paid model from the beginning or at least early on. They should have switched to the paid model when they were at a popularity peak rather than a low which is what it seems like now. iKnow was very nice and though smart.fm’s design images and characters were better, it was much harder to use than iKnow.

    The iPhone app was also never usable. It crashes all the time.

    I’ve used anki for years and knew the author before he wrote it. It’s an amazing piece of software and the author, Damien, spends TONs of personal time supporting it. The iPhone app is also high quality and works very well. Even for large decks it’s very fast and Damien tunes it often. Highly recommended.

  • Anon

    English comments are disabled too. I’m quite bitter about this whole thing actually.

  • mats

    Koichi, why do you think they should charge money? it seems that a lot of the lists were created by users – yourself included – and they’ve done a great job. voluntarily

    I think that knowledge should always be free. if they want money (which they don’t seem to lack judging by your comment on fundraising in your post) they could’ve gone down the donation route like wikipedia

  • Pedro R.

    12$/month for user created content? Really? They must be joking!

  • Enlasnubes

    I loved that website, I get very upset when I read that the are no longer be free. They have the right to be paid, ok, but they should have done that at the beginning!!
    As far as I am concerned, I have begun to use this website, similar to smart.fm:
    http://www.renshuu.org/

  • conz

    You could try Quizlet, the games on there are fun.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Mills/592030311 Jeff Mills

    I am a little shocked. Smart.FM offered what I really missed with Anki. A bigger (social) community, higher quality learning content and actually a good user-interface and many facts were linked between multiple goals. When I started a new goal, I would usually be already at 50% and didn’t have to restart reviewing stuff I already knew. I was able to track my progress based on projections of the next review date.

    Now after about a month of building a profile where I’ve reviewed all the easy stuff and can focus on the stuff I didn’t know yet (while still reviewing the easy stuff from time to time) ….. suddenly that profile is locked and I have to start all over again. It feels like I’ll have to teach a new SRS system all over again which of the thousands of facts I already know and which fact I don’t know.

  • Ayu

    This destroys my whole learning-process right now… -__-
    I know I’ll get used to Anki as well, but this comes very surprising…

  • WC

    I kept hoping they would monetize and ensure their survival… But it seems like they just did the opposite with that. I’m certainly not willing to pay for their service when there are competing services that are mostly equivalent, and even better in some ways. People already mentioned Anki and Renshuu.org, and I’ve been using ReadTheKanji.com for quite some time. (ReadTK is a pay site now, though.) I’ve even been considering writing my own community-driven site that does things in a more optimal fashion, according to the issues I’ve had with my studies.

    The one thing iKnow brought to the table was their awesome Core series. The order within each set could have been a bit better, but overall it was amazing. It’s sad to see that go behind a paywall.

  • http://twitter.com/Musouka Musouka

    Beside charging a steep 1,000 yen a month, the new iKnow seems to lack the social aspects of the older sites. All my blog entries are gone and there is no profile page :(

  • Anon

    Wow, I thought I was the only guy ever who hated how Smart.fm went from awesome to what-the-hell-are-the-designers-doing. A shame it had to end this way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chef0 Antony Crisp

    I don’t think it deletes your content. I can still find all of my created lists http://i.imgur.com/nJv4u.png I was also offered 1 year of free service, not sure if that’s for everyone or just long term users. Maybe now that Smart.fm (iKnow) is a paid service, the original iPhone app will return, which i seriously miss… Personally I’m going to give them a chance :)

  • Jonadab the Unsightly One

    Meh.

    I gave up on iKnow shortly after they renamed it to Smart.fm, although truth be told I was already pretty disillusioned with it before the rename. Two major problems with it, from my perspective, were that it gave you too many new cards all at once and didn’t review them frequently enough, and, worse, that their standard decks seemed to pay no attention whatsoever to ordering or prerequisites. For example, it would give you words made out of multiple Kanji you hadn’t learned yet. This was particularly bad in combination with the aforementioned problem: here are ten or twenty new words containing a total of something like thirty different Kanji, none of which you’ve ever seen before in your life. Look over them and learn them all right now, all at once, and then we’ll quiz you on them all, and when you finally get each one right three times by sheer guessing, we won’t show it again until the next day. Completely insane.

    I played around with it off and on for a while, but I was never happy with how it worked. As best I could figure, you needed a near-photographic memory to get any significant benefit from it.

    So I went and wrote my own spaced repetition system and designed it to introduce new cards periodically, one at a time, as the intervals between the existing cards get longer, so that typically your newest card is coming up very frequently — every 2-3 cards at first. This works a lot better for me. Maybe I’m just a dullard.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chef0 Antony Crisp

    Hold on, does iKnow still allow to create your own lists? Much of the reason I used smart.fm was so that I could replicate and learn lists of words I already had to study at uni.. I notice under “my courses” there is a custom tab, but that doesn’t seem to be usable yet :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Iliyan-Trifonov/1001011667 Iliyan Trifonov

    Man, this is bad. And I wanted to test my new programming skills writing a symbian/nokia program for the smart.fm api so me and everyone else with these phones could learn while travelling.. I also hope someone will take their place and provide an api too :)

  • Anonymous

    shit!, just Shit

  • gorghurt

    Damn, does anyone know an alternative with dictation.
    Well, i think i should copy all those core vocab into anki, as long as its posible.
    All those sentences, they are imho better than only words.

  • badjuju

    I am angry, to say the least. As s.fm was free, I used it as vocabulary tool for my students.
    I spend countless hours entering every vocab word for all of my courses (thousands of entries)–Cerego is going to charge people to use the content I created?

    Does anyone know of a comparable service?

  • http://www.phrasemix.com/ Aaron @ PhraseMix

    That’s too bad. It was a decent tool to point students to. I spent quite a few hours adding my content to the system. (Partly because the system for adding content was so time-consuming and buggy.)

    Anki is the clear next-best choice, but it’s more of a tool for nerds like me who want to control tons of settings and add our own specially-tweaked content. It’s not something I feel like I can point a general language-learning audience to.

    I wonder if there’s room now for a company to replicate and improve on what Smart.fm did. Surely there must be some way to monetize a ton of fanatical users coming to your website every day and spending upwards of 15 minutes on it.

  • http://twitter.com/rensinjapan Rens Jaspers

    I think I’m going to be on of the very few people that’ll pay the 1000 yen a month. I’m a poor student and I think it’s very expensive, but don’t want to loose my study statistics and make new study schemes myself. I’ve become depended on the site.

    I think that if they drop the fee to 200 yen a month, they’ll probably keep ten times more users and double their revenue.

  • alchymyst

    Yeah, my problem is not really that they decided to charge some money. That’s okay, I expected that at some point. What is really quite low is that they simply imported all the user-created goals into iknow.jp, without listing who the creators are (!), and think that they are going to be charging money for those. Right now everybody I know on smart.fm is importing/deleting lists they made, because people obviously don’t want Cerego to make money off user-created content.

    I think the way they set up pricing is not really smart (ha ha). It’s okay to charge for content they themselves created, but it would have been nice to have a free subscription option that allowed you to use user-created goals, maybe have fewer quiz options, whatever. It seems that having more than one price plan would have been a better business strategy. Right now nobody on my smart.fm friends’ list is planning on using iknow.jp at all… That doesn’t bode well for Cerego.

  • Jim

    You mean using ads? I sort of wished that they have separate pricing options like free users get to get study a few select courses while having banners ads showing. Members (like around 5 dollars per month) who paid get to have access to all the user created goals with little ads but they can’t create goals. Premium users (their current asking price) get access to unlimited content with no banner ads and they get to create their own goals.

  • http://www.phrasemix.com/ Aaron @ PhraseMix

    I could actually see a business model where it’s free to study cards that
    have been made, but you pay to customize or add cards.

  • eDRoaCH

    Reminds me of the CDDB debacle in the late 90s. I added a few hundred CDs to their DB and then they decided to go pay. They failed and basically got replaced.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    yeah, I would have liked to see a freemium model as well. Maybe something that would let you study a certain amount of cards before having to pay. The all or nothing model won’t really let people try things out, and will ultimately hurt business a lot. I’m sure they’ll get their initial sign ups from existing users, but once the trial period they have going ends, it’s going to be hard to convince someone to pay for something they can’t really try.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I’m going to start recommending Anki – a little more complicated to use (more options, which is good, but also more complicated, so in a way bad… but kind of good?) but pretty solid, I think. Plus, the creator is nice.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I’m gonna miss dictation too :(

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    dittttto

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I have no idea – would be interesting to know. When I talked to them before, they said they were mostly focused on their own lists (the ones they made) and really didn’t care too much about user generated lists. So… I imagine they will let you create new lists, but I don’t think it’s as much of a priority for them

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Nah, I think you’re doing it the right way. Smart.fm just started making less and less sense after becoming Smart.fm. Your own SRS is probably 100x simpler and 10x better.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I think it should keep your content (like you said). In fact, I kind of wish they were going to delete the content… that way they couldn’t take all the content I created for them and use it behind their paywall :(

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    damn, that sucks :(

    A little warning to pull things off the site would have been nice, for that purpose :(

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    yup, agreed :(

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    yeah, I agree :( Though, their founders are REALLY good at raising lots of unnecessary money, not that that could have lasted another 10+ years.

    I would have liked to see a freemium model for them, if they were going to go paid like this, rather than a black or white get it or don’t model. I’m thinking this will backfire, though their main userbase by far is Japanese people learning English, so perhaps it will do pretty well over there…?

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    damn, man, that’s super lame :(

  • gorghurt

    Yeah, making money with user created content, without asking or even dhow the creator is realy bad. I’m sure this will have juristic consequences.

    By the way, Anki is even usable for dictation, and you can download the core 2000 and 6000 decks easyly.
    I’m fighting with taging and editing the premade decks right now to make a dictation part.
    But tagging isn’t as easy as I thought, I can only tagg all sentences the same, but not only the marked (in ths case all the listening cards).
    But its easy to add the writing part to those cards.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Well, I guess I think they should have gone paid from the beginning. So, in a sense I think they should be a paid program (actually, freemium seems like a better model), but they should have done it a while ago and not wait until they had a ton of user generated content to (legally) steal and use for their own monetary gain, leaving the creators in the dark.

    I suppose what I’m getting at is that they should have had a monetization plan from the get-go, rather than waiting so long that they had to make a poor decision such as this one, pissing off creators and users alike.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Just had my first interaction with Damien, nice guy! I definitely feel better about Anki now, though.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    aye

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    too much 2chan maybe? haha.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    ah yeah, it’s their new comments theme. Just trying it out for a while to see if it increases comments or not / seeing if anyone notices. You noticed!

  • Charlie

    I agree that they should have been charging something in the beginning…However, the way that the new CEO went about it was really shaddy. I believe that it was initially meant to be a free service.

    What really is disconcerting is the fact that people put a lot of their time into helping create content not just for themselves but to help others as well. They had an inclination but did not know that Cerego was going to just throw the $12 charge without well warranted notice. I believe that the management team lacked tact. Although not a joint partnership type, there is social responsibility that the company owed/s its users.

    One person stated that they were already provided with a 1year free membership on the new system(Iknow). If management really stands for what they say they should provide to all current users. I think that will at least help to circumvent the feeling of betrayal.

    At this point, it feels more like a bad relationship where “Ok, you have 2months to pack your sh*t and leave”

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I’m thinking you’re right – something, at least for the Western market (they’re super popular in Japan for learning English) will come in and do a much better job. Smart.fm is so bloated right now, and nobody there really seems to care about what they’re trying to do anymore (that feeling, to me, was lost when they switched to Smart.fm). That being said, I hope they get better too, but I’m not counting on it. They’ve always had a ton of money via funding, so I’m not sure if having a paid model will fix things and make them better. We’ll find out, I’m sure, though!

    Once someone comes in who really cares about SRS and learning appears they will replace them quickly, I think. Anki is a great alternative, I think, though the web-based nature of Smart.fm really makes things simpler for people, I think.

  • http://twitter.com/forgottenmems Janelle

    I found out about it on Lang-8 from reading a Japanese person’s blog in English. I think they said they were surprised and didn’t know what to do. I got the feeling they were going to ditch Smart.FM just like many of us.

  • http://twitter.com/riChchestMat Chris Matchett

    Can someone explain 2 things please?
    1) If you made content that Cerego will profit from then why aren’t you using your free login to iKnow (until March 31st) to delete or sabotage your content?
    2) Smart.FM had lots of copywritten material such as vocab lists and other content from published text books like Minna no Nihongo. I guess it was dubious before but now Cerego is going to make money from material that someone else copied from a published book. Doesn’t that leave them wide open to legal action from the publishers?
    BONUS: you’ve re-read the licence agreement that you agreed to when creating a Smart.FM account right?

  • D-bloodalchemist

    For me, this news are very sad and disappointing, because I was just starting to use Smart.fm, and I don´t have money to pay for the new service. I´m gonna try to use Anki, thank you Koichi for the information about anki, and I will keep reading your blog.

  • http://twitter.com/forgottenmems Janelle

    I’ve checked out Renshuu.com I was disappointed by the fact that they won’t show you any kanji at first without verifying that you “familiar” with it. I also don’t like the fact that it looks a bit 98-ish. Maybe I’ll get over it. I love the fact that it has a strong community and some game-like features such as a points system.

    I don’t care for Quizlet much even though it reminds me the most of Smart.FM in terms of word review, games, and graphics. The user content is pretty basic stuff and when they do give kanji for words, the answer appears in English or in romaji (not kana like I’d prefer).

    Read the Kanji.com is one of those sites that I really want to love. I’m trying to warm up to it, since it’s free for me because I was an early adopter thus grandfathered in. It’s alittle stiff on the community/game like features part. The flashcard review of vocab kind of feels like a game, but not that much. The thing that turned me away from it onto Smart.FM in the first place was the fact that when you enter the romanization which is converted into kana, you must know your “rows” well because you can’t just enter “tsu” as shown. I just had a hard time doing that so I always got stuff “wrong” that I knew.

    I’ve tried to use Anki over and over again, but I just can’t get into it. I always feel unsure about how well I know a word; making it harder to rate it. Even if I do know the word I somehow feel queasy about making any decision on it. Soon, I start to dread studying in this form and quit trying to do review any deck I start. What I liked about Smart.FM compared to Anki is that you just know the word or you don’t and you visually see your progress with a bar and percentage level. Also, Anki doesn’t have any “game-like” element to it. Futhermore, with Anki you see the content ONE way, you rate it, with Smart.FM you saw it a couple different ways (pairing kanji to an English word, pairing kanji to kana, recall by writing the word in kana after hearing/seeing it in a sentence).

    It’s just majorly disappointing that Smart.FM won’t be around anymore because it was such a motivating tool for me. I don’t know much about how “horrible” it was to create content because I never created anything so that aspect of Smart.FM never bugged me like it does for some.

    Against my better judgement, I almost want to pay for iKnow because in a very short time I’ve seen tremendous success with Smart.FM. I recognize some kanji/words much better than before. Although the issue is, I think it’s a complete rip off to be honest. I’ve tried it the free trial at iKnow a bit and think as the website stands now, it’s inferior to Smart.FM.

    Seriously, I’m not sure what to do anymore. Only time will tell. At least Lang-8 is still free (although that’s more for cementing what I already know)

  • http://www.bradleyfarless.com/ Brad F.

    Well, I like the way it looks, other than the bio thing. Maybe I’ll just edit my bio. I haven’t updated it in a while anyway. I think I noticed because I use Disqus on my blog as well. I have for quite a while.

  • http://www.bradleyfarless.com/ Brad F.

    I’ll check out Anki, though I’ve had to push learning Japanese to the back burner for now anyway. I’m about to go back to college full time to finish my anthropology degree and then get my master’s. I think I’ll be putting a lot of effort into that. I want to be at, or near, the top of my class.

  • aderow

    This is pretty upsetting. A little over 6 months ago I found it now its closing down. I’m glad I got use it as it was helpful but I guess I will have to move on…

  • Tomhogers

    Do’h koichi,

    What’s up with the EduFire link, on their page it states:

    “Japanese Classes

    Sorry, we currently don’t offer classes in Japanese”

    As for lKnow, iKnew you Knew that iKnow’d be back, but ididn’tKnow you Knew it’d be back as paid iKnow. Now iKnow.

    Thanks for letting us iKnow.

    Cheers,

    Tom

  • Janett

    Honestly, you should leave all your content up until 2-3 days before the closing date, just out of spite. We’ll be able to study as much as we can while its free and you can make sure they don’t make any money off YOUR hard work.

  • ccccc

    Unfortunately it looks like user created content is already migrated over, plus i’m assuming they have backups of all our files.

  • Sad

    It sucked. I wish it would fail big time due to this greedy move.

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  • http://twitter.com/ocapehorn Ollie Capehorn

    Hey I’ve mentioned Anki (and this post) over here where I predict smart.fm’s demise…

    http://nihongoup.com/blog/end-of-smart-fm/

  • xeno_panda

    Can’t you just delete the decks/content you made?

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I can, but then people using them now can’t use them. Probably will delete
    everything after I finish transferring, though I have a feeling they have
    backups of everything I’ve made…. :(

  • http://twitter.com/xharmony harmony

    I agree. I used to love Smart.fm/iKnow (found out about them from your site ages ago) but the new interface is just so buggy and cumbersome. Not to mention the failed iPhone app– I was really disappointed in that one. I still occasionally visit the site as a resource to hear audio clips. But even that is becoming troublesome, because they have all these auto generated Text to Speech voices now. For those of you who want to hear natural audio examples of native speakers pronouncing words for free, I highly recommend Forvo.com as an alternative. I also second the recommendation of Anki, to handle your flash card reviews. You can include your own audio, and even set it up to prompt you to type out the answer. Readthekanji.com is another alternative, although it doesn’t have any audio.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Helen-Gordon/1485996870 Helen Gordon

    I have no problem paying for Smart.fm. I do have a problem paying 1000 yen per month! Thats more than a Premium membership at JapanesePod101.com that has WAY more useful stuff. :(

  • http://twitter.com/lightningatdusk Ryan W

    There’s a plugin for Anki called “Smart.fm Import Lists” that let’s you import Smart.fm cards into your Anki decks… I’d suggest grabbing your cards before you can’t use them any more!

  • Barbpj

    Smart.fm apparently stopped providing public API last August, so that plugin won’t work anymore. This info is from the Anki program itself.

    I guess Smart.fm was planning this way back in August, ’10 and so stopped the plugin from working. Dirty birds.

  • Anonymous

    Since, I never heard about Smart.fm until I joined TextFugu I can’t speak for how it used to be and can only comment on what I experienced.

    When practicing / studying on Smart.fm and even now on iKnow, I noticed that instead of giving me a Japanese kana to guess it just gives me the answer to type back in. I mean, geez, obviously an error in the back end, but seriously!!! If you’re going to go to a paid model by all means do what you have to do, but if it’s going to be paid, at least get the thing working right. @#$%

    ~ fv

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NMMV6AXYY4MPQ67ULYXG542TKA Jen

    I noticed when they changed their input format that it was starting to go downhill. When I first started using it, you could just add words without changing pages and loading and a whole lot of nonsense. I still used it when the interface changed, but only when I had to study hardcore for a test since using it for day to day stuff took more time to input than it did to learn. I even recommended it to the sophomores I was tutoring in Japanese.

    I doubt I’ll use it now. I’m not going to pay for a broken and finicky interface. I’d pay for the old one, but not for this nonsense.

  • ara bo bara fee fi fo fara

    KOICHI! I have discovered (or already knew) about another site that is (in my opinion) BETTER THEN ANKI AND SMART.FM

    It is http://www.quizlet.com/ :D This is also a flashcard site that you can use to study with in any subject! You can check other people’s cards and make your own for FREE!
    *I will say that you can upgrade to premium which means you can be in over 10 groups but I don’t think its worth it. just favorite your favorite sets of cards.

    However, on this site you can also play games to study your words and it automatically gives audio for your Japanese section if you are making cards (the pronunciation is pretty good).
    If I were you, I’d try this site out. I also use it for my spanish classes. >-<

  • http://wiredinjapan.blogspot.com Ryan the Wired

    I think you speak for a lot of us users who used Smart.fm frequently and made content to help others out. Everything you said mirrors my feelings exactly. But the one thing that makes me most mad is how they can take the content that we’ve helped to produce and then expect us to pay a premium for it. iKnow is exploiting its users.

  • http://wiredinjapan.blogspot.com/ ryanthewired

    Even if you delete the lists you created, I imagine that all your text and audio contributions will remain in their system for them to use as they please.

  • http://wiredinjapan.blogspot.com/ ryanthewired

    What happens when you need to pay for food or rent? Will studying really be that important? How about next year? It takes a while to learn a language.

  • http://twitter.com/ImaginaryJapan Joe Munro

    I actually ditched smart.fm/iknow quite a long time ago. After they switched smart.fm became really slow and I just didn’t use it as often. I switched over to Anki (I had already been using it, but at this time I switched completely) and tried to convince a lot of other people to do the same. It’s simply a quicker, better functioning program. I bought the ipod app and I don’t regret it at all despite its somewhat high cost. Damien is super nice and will respond to any emails you send him. I was really surprised when I actually started getting emails back (and he responds very quickly as well).

    I feel like it’s kind of wrong to take all of our content and start charging money for it out of seemingly nowhere, and I’m not the only one. Read through these comments. Lots of used smart.fm and very few of us will pay for it. I think it’s going to die out for good.

  • Shinmanotenchuu

    Some people from smart.fm have started a group at facebook. Seems like trying to keep a community active, is the goal. ;P -smart.fm refugees, aiming for higher learning and looking for ones of their own.

    Facebook group for Smart.FM refugees: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_104338546311426
    :)

    The service was a great idea… very convenient… but right now it’s not going to be.

  • Es2Key

    It’s a disaster, what a shame! :(

  • Kumazaki Kiyosuke

    aren’t there Intellectual Property issues involved with cerego’s use of user generated content?

  • http://twitter.com/BA_Matthews Blaze Matthews

    Excuse the language but F@*^ a Duck! Man am I tired of trying to support these people. I’ve been using them for 2 or 3 years now… I even stayed with them after they became Smart.FM and started having all the issues you mentioned. I was finding it rather hard when I picked it up again (I’m one of those learn then stop, learn then stop, type of people) and was starting to wonder what had happened. Now that you’ve told me what happened, the difficulties all make sense.

    I don’t mind paying for a product that will help, but I am not going to be paying for Smart.FM/IKnow… they had my trust and they lost it. End of Story. I’d rather pay someone I know deserves the money… like our good friend Koiichi via Text-Fugu.

  • http://www.wideislandview.com Fish

    This really REALLY annoys me. iKnow was a great service. And I don’t mind going as far as to say that it SHOULD have remained free to use. Cerego has STOLEN a lot of user-created content. I’m trying to figure out a way to remove or at least sabotage some of the content that I have created over the last five years on iKnow & Smart.fm. So so annoying.

  • http://twitter.com/Musouka Musouka

    Smart.fm will be operational (and iKnow will be free) until the end of the fiscal year (March 31, 2011). I would have liked more time but I guess two months isn’t that bad.

  • http://twitter.com/fembassist Jenny

    I agree that the old iKnow was a lot better before they started changing everything, but then I got used to the new drill beta. Since the new drill beta is actually based on an amount of time and not items, it actually was better for me because I may only want to put in 5 min of study but do as much as possible during that time. Other times I may want to devote a full 30 min or whatever.

    The whole study time was just confusing. It seemed to me if you put in a goal date the goal would only give you the new or uncompleted items. It would never let you finish by that date and you had to keep changing it. If you took it out then the app would give you all items due to be studied.

    As for being a paid site, they should have done a basic and premium services. Hell, even charging for the iPhone app would have been a good start to see how much income they would have gotten from it.

    @koichi – I hope you can find some way to get your content back online for those users who used the goals. I actually liked the transitive and intransitive goal you made.

  • http://twitter.com/Musouka Musouka

    The new iKnow seems to be even more crippled than the current Smart.fm. At least currently. Maybe because they are giving free trials to all Smart.fm members. At the moment, you can only search for official courses. No user-created content is available. Maybe that’s a good thing? I mean they are at least not taking advantage of people’s effort… yet.

  • http://twitter.com/Musouka Musouka

    Oh, never mind…. I didn’t notice the “See user-created courses” under search XD

  • Pingback: nreviews.com Blog » Blog Archive » Smart.fm No Longer Free()

  • http://meeks.z-studios.net Meeks

    I don’t know how I feel about them going paid really. I do think right now what they have listed is a tad too much. I know other places, like JapanesePod101 that do it a little less than that. But there are other fish in the sea.

    I remember signing up for another site that has gotten a lot better since I originally left it for iKnow, and I guess I’ll be going back. I suggest you guys check it out as well and see if it suits you.

    http://www.livemocha.com

  • Anonymous

    thought smart.fm was brilliant when i discovered it: automated self learning *and* social tools for motivation and material collaboration. too bad it’s not free software, but at least it’s free beer. now i think smart.fm is dishonest: it’s users provided huge feedback, publicity, and actual *content* – all of which is being stolen in exchange for one month free service (~$12). i hope this move earns the negative publicity it deserves. thank goodness for anki!

  • Anonymous

    You can still download the smart.fm core 2000 1-10 series. I just did today, and there is a few more smart.fm bits that are still available for download… grab it while it’s good ;)

  • Michael

    It should have been for-pay all along. For people who are serious about their studies, iKnow is well worth it. Decline in popularity does not matter: as long as people who come there to study find it is worth it and the service can sustain itself, it was the right thing to do for them.

    All the “alternatives that come to replace them” will quickly learn that if you offer something for free, it is extremely painful to charge later to sustain the service. And if you cannot sustain the service, why start it in the first place.

  • Michael

    Somehow Anki author figured his work was good enough to start charging for after a couple of years. See The Price section at http://bit.ly/hUzX1t — good like to idealists who want great software for free, forever.

  • Michael

    Because they offered a good service and running it isn’t free? And come on, there were a few very active contributors who created good lists but vast majority of community-contributed content has poor quality. Trust me, I’ve spend more than a year there studying 4 languages over that time.

    mats, please try running a donation-based service and see what % is going to donate (and how much those who don’t are going to ask you for). You will be surprised.

    Smart.fm does not get the credit they deserve. Good luck finding a good service that is free forever. Oh, wait, Anki author says his time & effort better be compensated, too? — http://bit.ly/hUzX1t — something just isn’t right in the “knowledge should always be free” Universe. Knowledge should be free, but not effort of people who maintain and develop all these tools.

  • Michael

    Really? And running all the servers & developing tools & paying people who maintain all that will be paid by who? Aliens? These aliens better come here quick.

    Grow up, Pedro. Running a good service is not free. Maintaining a popular service is a ton of work and you’ll also get a ton of shit from people who don’t want to pay you yet want everything to be perfect and free forever. Please.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyrie-Adams/100000168055297 Tyrie Adams

    I was so upset last night when I saw the news after going to log on to the site. I had been using smart.fm for a while. Since September, I began to put up lists of vocabulary words from my workbook, and now its like they’re taking it from me. They’re forcing me and my little study bugs to pay for all the hard work I did.

    As soon as I finished reading about the changes I came here to see if you would know something about it, and you did :) I feel a lot better now, but I still feel a little cheated. I will start using an alternative after I finish adding the content to the site. If people have to pay to study the lists I made, then I should at least finish loading all the content on there for the first workbook.

    I would have no problem paying for using the site if I hadn’t encountered so many problems with it. How do they expect me to pay for something that has been so troublesome? Its a great site, I’m just not willing to pay for it until I see some positive changes.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Just the iPhone app?

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    If you read the article, I agree – should have been paid all along. That’s not what I’m bitching about.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    There’s also the emotional attachment people have to their own lists, whether or not they’re “good” or not for you. People created these things for themselves so they can learn. Now Smart.fm will profit off of them, whether or not they’re good or not to others….

    I also don’t think it’s a viable solution to do donations, especially for a web app that’s been degrading in quality over the last year, but why not a freemium model? Seems like it would fit more with what they originally wanted to do.

    Considering I answered this question for mats (which was directed at me), and you’ve written a few comments like this… trolling much?

  • gorghurt

    yeah its just the iphone app

    the android app seems to be free, and the dektop application ist free as usual.

  • Michael-5211

    This has made my week very sad :( It was my favourite website, and I’m now having trouble adjusting to Anki!
    Ganbatte everyone

  • Your’s Truly

    it would be nice if people would boycott and get iknow to a free service again
    it work with Martin Luther King, it worked with Gandhi, it could work here too

  • Damien

    The desktop client is open source, so it will always remain free. I charge for the iPhone app because I need some way to put food on the table, but if you can’t afford it there are free iPhone clients with less features available: ankimini and ianki.

  • http://twitter.com/edgarjon Jon

    Honestly, I was one of the few people telling you to just stick with Anki when you posted about not being sure whether to recommend “smart-fm” or anki to learners. I’m biased because I’ve been using anki (and pleasantly watching it grow) for about 4 years now.

    I became aware of iKnow when it was iKnow…and I used it for awhile (in conjunction with Anki). However, when it became “smart.fm” I didn’t really like it as much. I quit using the service altogether; but it seemed like every Japanese-speaking-person-online was recommending smart.fm to Japanese learners for some reason. I never understood why, because I felt anki was simply better. I know it’s not as flashy UI-wise, so some may feel it’s too boring to look at for them. But, it’s just freakin’ flash cards. I don’t need any fancy UI-effects; I need a good, stable, reliable and working release of an SRS system that gets the job done – and for me, that is, and always has been, ANKI.

    P.S: By the way, your friends’ descriptions of what it’s like to work for “smart.fm”/”iKnow” sounds similar to my current job lol. It sucks.

  • http://twitter.com/edgarjon Jon

    I know I’m just repeating what Ian said here, but I wanted to chime in as well. Damien really does update Anki all the time, and both he himself and the program are fantastic. I think what the problem is, is that iKnow was less scary-looking (and sounding) than Anki for complete beginners. I think the UI of iKnow was very welcoming for the beginner, and as someone else said, there was a sense of community (like NihongoUp or even TextFugu forums, which I’ve yet to really participate in just yet, but plan to eventually), but with Anki there’s not much sense of community. You end up feeling like you’re kind of on your own. Sure, there’s downloading/importable decks that others have created that you can use to study from, but for the most part anki = you creating your own black and white flash card, front and back, and maybe, if you want to put the effort into it, adding some pictures and sound files to the card. Perhaps because of this, beginners are turned off from anki, and turned on to services like iKnow.

    However, I still prefer anki, personally.

  • http://yonasu.com/ yonasu

    I’m a bit surprised that they’re changing the name again. Sure, “smart.fm” has kind of a bad reputation, but switching back to the old name isn’t gonna magically make things better.

    I agree that iKnow should’ve been a paid service from the start, and even if we’re talking about a really small monthly fee here, I think that can actually make users use the service more. Having that said though, user submitted content should always be free, or at least the author should get a cut of the profit.

    The worst part, besides “stealing” content made my professionals such as yourself, is that they also “steal” a whole lot of content made by amateurs. And I doubt this content will be reviewed for quality assurance.

    Either way, I hope the service will get better because I don’t know any better tool for improving your vocabulary. I’ve never liked Anki, for many reasons, so I’ll have to keep my hopes up.

  • john

    i started a fb group to bring this paid crap down!!! yeah there gona listen! lol
    But hey if a bunch of people join it could only help highlight the big Fing problem here XD

    so please join if you know someone who is using tell them to join!!

    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_188621021157777#!/home.php?sk=group_188621021157777

    wooo!

  • http://twitter.com/PickMyBran PickMyBran

    I started on iKnow about 3 years ago when I first found your blog–after the Japan Times article about you.

    Back then, and even when they first switched to Smart.fm, everything worked wonderfully.

    While teaching ESL at university, I incorporated the site and uploaded loads of (copyrighted…shh!) content for my students. I also got their system to be used by the other professors.

    About a year ago, it turned to total rubbish; nothing worked properly, everything was slow. I still held on, believing in their mantras about free education.

    Now, I’m disgusted with them. I’m sad that they have my original content, and hope, for their sakes, that they removed the multitudes of copyrighted content before they’re sued.

    I’ll have to check out Anki.

  • http://twitter.com/PickMyBran PickMyBran

    I started on iKnow about 3 years ago when I first found your blog–after the Japan Times article about you.

    Back then, and even when they first switched to Smart.fm, everything worked wonderfully.

    While teaching ESL at university, I incorporated the site and uploaded loads of (copyrighted…shh!) content for my students. I also got their system to be used by the other professors.

    About a year ago, it turned to total rubbish; nothing worked properly, everything was slow. I still held on, believing in their mantras about free education.

    Now, I’m disgusted with them. I’m sad that they have my original content, and hope, for their sakes, that they removed the multitudes of copyrighted content before they’re sued.

    I’ll have to check out Anki.

  • http://twitter.com/PickMyBran PickMyBran

    I started on iKnow about 3 years ago when I first found your blog–after the Japan Times article about you.

    Back then, and even when they first switched to Smart.fm, everything worked wonderfully.

    While teaching ESL at university, I incorporated the site and uploaded loads of (copyrighted…shh!) content for my students. I also got their system to be used by the other professors.

    About a year ago, it turned to total rubbish; nothing worked properly, everything was slow. I still held on, believing in their mantras about free education.

    Now, I’m disgusted with them. I’m sad that they have my original content, and hope, for their sakes, that they removed the multitudes of copyrighted content before they’re sued.

    I’ll have to check out Anki.

  • http://twitter.com/PickMyBran PickMyBran

    I started on iKnow about 3 years ago when I first found your blog–after the Japan Times article about you.

    Back then, and even when they first switched to Smart.fm, everything worked wonderfully.

    While teaching ESL at university, I incorporated the site and uploaded loads of (copyrighted…shh!) content for my students. I also got their system to be used by the other professors.

    About a year ago, it turned to total rubbish; nothing worked properly, everything was slow. I still held on, believing in their mantras about free education.

    Now, I’m disgusted with them. I’m sad that they have my original content, and hope, for their sakes, that they removed the multitudes of copyrighted content before they’re sued.

    I’ll have to check out Anki.

  • http://twitter.com/PickMyBran PickMyBran

    I went through and deleted my content–and then my account–before they officially shut down.

  • gorghurt

    By the way, do you use some automatic script like thing to konvert your work?

    I tried the smart.fm plugin for Anki, and it seems to work, though the description says it wouldnt work…
    I’m confused.

  • http://japaneselevelup.com Japanese Level Up

    That’s irritating.

  • quizlet all the way!

    I also LOVE quizlet. My school uses it for most of its language classes. It’s easy and fun to use. ^-^

  • Mats

    Michael @

    I reckon a great deal of smart.fm’s budget has gone to design. personally I couldn’t care less about how flashy it can be. take JWPce for instance. it looks like a digital wart but it’s free and it works wonders

  • Mats

    of course JWPce does not need the server capacity that smart.fm does

    I’d donate some money if it were still as good as it used to be. $12 a month you say? that’s too big a number for my student budget

  • Rowen

    I think it does Anki a disservice to say it’s complicated… to use it in the most basic way it’s actually very simple – just download a shared deck and go. creating your own deck is very simple too.

    It only gets complicated if you want to start fine tuning it or adding plugins etc

    In the long term the way anki works is waaaaaay better than smart.fm anyway imo because you can set it up exactly how you want it.

    The 1 thing I’ll miss from smart.fm is dictation.

  • Rimachan

    I’m veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery disappointed, I’ve been using smart.fm for a long time and I was counting on it to help me with my first visit to Japan. I’ve known Anki too for a long time, but honestly it doesn’t compare to smart.fm.
    I’m switching to textfugu now for my kanji lessons. Pleaaaaase tell me you’re not gonna switch the jacket on us too.

  • Hinoema

    It’s always somewhat shady when a site puts a paywall around user created content it didn’t create and doesn’t own, and ends up causing nothing but trouble.

    I use anki and livemocha, myself.

  • HaineChan

    I think it sucks! All my progress for nothing. I’m half-way my Master Hiragana and now I have to find another website to learn it to me in the same educative way as Smart.fm

  • http://www.facebook.com/LukeHero Luke Hero

    I’m pretty gutted about this as im in the process of using Smart.fm for the learning Hiragana chapters on Textfugu :-/

    Will you now be creating your own way of doing Hira/Kata or will you be switching to another site for your content?

  • http://logicaust.wordpress.com logicaust

    As soon as I found out what they were doing, I went through my entire collection and proceeded to delete errything.

    Such bald-faced deceit can’t go rewarded. After this, I deleted my account and gave them feedback, which basically said stay away from the content, because it’s not “free for use”; it’s copyrighted from my university course.

    I was using the site as a place for personal study; noone else had access to what I put up. If I knew at any point that iKnow/Smart.FM was going to eventually become paywalled, I would *never* in a million years have created any content, or have used the website.

    As it stands, I only liked the scheduling part, the part that cracked the whip. Personally, it was a disjointed way for me to study, because I learn better when I utilise the big 4 (reading, speaking, listening, writing). At the end of the day, their so-called sophisticated algorithm for determining the optimal time for studying…seemed to always be in the “every two days lol” sweet spot. It didn’t seem personally tailored at all.

    So yeh, bye Smart.FM, thanks for lying to everyone. Cerego Japan, iKnow, whatever you want to call yourself in the future, I’m definitely not trusting you guys again.

    Peace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/euphoriafish Teresa D. Lee

    Anki has some web stuff too. Not the community or shared lessons of iKnow/Smart.fm, but you can store lists of flashcards on the website.

  • http://www.facebook.com/russmoench Russell Moench

    Thanks everyone for your feedback. I work as the Content & Curriculum Manager for Cerego and guided the team that created all of Cerego’s official courses.

    We can certainly understand that a lot of users are disappointed with our decision to become a paid service. The transition from a free service to a paid service is always difficult.

    People seem most upset about the issue of content. The perception out there is that Smart.fm content has been primarily built by the users. This, however, is simply not the case. Many users have made their own courses, but the vast majority of study activity is on the official Japanese, Chinese, and English courses. There is little user-created content in the system (original items and sentences) that a lot of people are studying. Of course there are a few popular exceptions, such as Koichi’s courses, but by whatever metric you use (time studied, items studied, items mastered, goals completed, etc), the bulk of all activity is around official courses. Most user-created content is studied by the user who made it, not by others.

    Because of this, if you look at the new iKnow! service, you’ll that the focus is on official content, not user-created content.

    Please see our blog post on this topic here:

    http://blog.smart.fm/en/2011/01/31/a-message-from-iknow/

    And please keep the feedback coming. Everyone on the team is listening.

  • Jonlink

    You are a great man.

  • Jonlink

    It is pretty ballsy to come here and subtly intimate that the user-created content sucked.

    At the same time it skirts the issue that the site’s functionality was on a never ending slide downward. I tried out the new site and it is clearly more of the same in terms of poor performance. For a free site that was forgivable, but not for a paid one.

    Get your act together and I’ll consider trying iKnow if there is a free trial. The one right now is worthless because the site in its current form is nearly worthless.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001034830592 Pieter Van Broekhoven

    As a user, and not a creator, i find iKnow alot easier to use than Anki..
    Changing would be tedious (don’t I sound old xD!)
    But the worst part is the pay. 10 euro a week, oh yay. When a car hit me when i was 14, and i was almost bleeding to death, my mom got angry at ME! because my bicycle front wheel now had to be repaired at a cost of 20 euro. My life <

  • http://twitter.com/Musouka Musouka

    Thanks for the great efforts. One of the things I like about Smart.fm/iKnow is that the system needs proof of your knowledge. So if, for instance, the system asks you if you know a certain word and you say yes, it wouldn’t stop at that but would ask you to choose the correct meaning of the word. This way you cannot cheat the system.

    The desktop Anki doesn’t offer that. It offers choices like Again, Hard & Easy. These might be fine but it doesn’t give me the same degree of satisfactions when I get something right. Does the iPhone app offer something similar to iKnow? And will the paid app ever come to Android. I will be more than happy to buy it.

  • Kenchan

    He never said or even implied that user-created content sucked…just that it wasn’t being studied. Makes sense to me, too. I never created anything on Smart.fm that wasn’t purely for myself. I most definitely couldn’t be bothered to make a generalized curriculum starting at BELOW my own level and going ABOVE it. I only create what I need to study at the time, and I bet most everyone else does too. Since each list users create is so personalized to them (because they created it) they’re probably under the false impression that it’s THEIR content that’s so great, but from the perspective of a user who just wants to study, only the generalized stuff is even relevant.

    That personalized touch was what made Smart.fm great, though… if they can keep that they’ll probably be able to keep a lot more users…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-Chan/510329067 Matthew Chan

    I

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-Chan/510329067 Matthew Chan

    I found iKnow.jp really good. I have been using everyday now.
    I don’t really know how Smart.fm supposed to be, because I have actually never heard of used Smart.fm before. But I recently saw a posting suggesting using Smart.fm to learn Japanese (the post might be really old though). Then the first thing I saw was that Smart.fm will close down and become iKnow.jp. And apparently there will be free trial until March. So I tried it and really liked it.
    Is iKNow.jp kind of similar to Smart.fm, or is it very different? Either case, I would definitely recommend using iKnow.jp, it is one of the best learning tool I have seen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/russmoench Russell Moench

    Kenchan, the ability to customize your courses and create your own content is absolutely going to be a part of iKnow! We know very well that the content creation tools on Smart.fm are not acceptable, and we haven’t released the new content tools yet because they are not ready for external use. The new creation tools on iKnow! will be more powerful, more reliable, and easier to use.

  • http://twitter.com/VXLbeast VXLbeast

    Well, I can’t afford a paid program, so that’s that. Furthermore, I am following your program Koichi, so I will go where you point me. That being said, I will definitley miss smart.fm. I rather liked the GUI, but then I never saw iKnow. I was more than happy with how I was learning hiragana with their program (even if there was no easy way to restart goals and a couple options were tucked away where no one would think to look.) So yah, its a shame. But, who knows? Maybe it will go free in another year? Lol (and ad-supported doesn’t bother me a bit.)

  • http://www.video-games-for-healthy-living.com Adriana

    This whole process has been so disappointing for me. Not just as a Japanese learner, but as a linguist… Seeing iKnow go down the drain was heartbreaking. Especially because its user-generated content was some of the best on the internet for Swedish learning.

    I don’t intend on paying for this “service” any time soon, so Swedes, watch out!

  • http://smartanki.zephyrist.net/ Kevin

    Hello Koichi! I’m also quite displeased with the sudden announcement as I just started getting back into Smart.FM myself. If you need any help with migrating all the TextFugu content into Anki or other alternatives, please let me know! Your TextFugu service is great and was a great resource of learning for me and I want to give in part of my effort in return as well.

  • Info

    Please explain how to download the Core 2000 and 6000 decks. Please

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1512302516 Megan Richardson

    Can they just take your content and post it somewhere else AND charge for it? Is that even legal?

  • Jon

    I’m sorry, but I don’t think that he said it— implying by definition means he couldn’t have said it. The “comment” made by Russell is just a reposting of his talking points from the blog, which continues later on to say that “…it’s been difficult for users to create good content in large volume.” I believe this brings that implication into sharper relief.

    It’s all kind of moot at this point. They’ve said their piece and (in my opinion) thrown themselves under the train. The great thing about that internet is that people are always looking for a good opportunity and I believe a better service now has a huge opening and a solid example of what not to do.

  • Rascal

    using the Anki menus:

    File -> Download -> Shared Deck…

    search for japanese core

  • Anonymous

    Hey.. why did you delete my comment? That to so long to write… :'(

  • Anonymous

    Why do my comments keep disappearing?
    Have I posted something I shouldn’t?

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    not that I know of, unless you’re posting spam? I’ll check the spam net and
    see if your comments got caught

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    don’t see anything in spam / flagged, though your other comment does look a little spammy, even though I know you didn’t mean to make it that way…

  • Anonymous

    Well the link I wanted to post has been posted but I had another comment that was quite verbose with just some feedback about the whole issue

    Perhaps it’s too long?

  • Anonymous

    Saying that, I replied to Russell Moench too but that never stayed on the page when I refresh.. hmm

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Hmm, perhaps someone put you on a Disqus blacklist? :(

    Maybe disqus is just having trouble, too. I dunno. No idea if there is a
    length limit on comments, either. I imagine it would have to be reallllly
    long

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  • http://elysiaart.blogspot.com Elysia

    Aww ;_; looks like it’s time to have a go with Anki then.
    The smart.fm ipod/iphone app never worked for me anyway.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258860151 Jorden Allen

    This is so depressing. I logged on the other day and my friend asked me if someone died, by the look on my face. I’ve been a member for almost 2 years and I absolutely loved it. I, borderline pathetically, told myself all of the problems would go away, recommended the site to countless people…. and now they’re closing. Granted, it’s about time they started charging for the service, as great as it was, maybe it won’t be quite so janky anymore. (Though charging for user-generated content is bs).

    I do have to say that the iKnow interface is nice and they’ve added a couple of features that are nice (though the speaking skills training is a little gimmicky). I’ll definitely stick it out until I have to start paying… who knows, they might just reel me in. In the mean time, I’ll be checking out the other resources you’ve recommended (I’ll be interested to see what you do on Textfugu :) – no pressure)

    As of right now, I’m with Brad F. – something else, will undoubtedly come along, and the cycle will continue. C’est la vie (in the digital age).

  • Franzeska

    Man, I hope nothing happens to Lang-8! I’m happy to pay for services I use, but the new iKnow revamping means you can only study with the sound on, at least for now. (And regardless of the fact that that’s clearly better, I was using Smart.fm because it was easy to drill from computers I can’t use the sound on or download things to. An app that requires sound just isn’t useful to me.) I was expecting them to go paid or partly paid at some point, and I was expecting to fork over the cash. But considering how much they now suck, I won’t bother.

  • http://twitter.com/yukisuishou 水晶雪

    Darn it…I just joined a few weeks ago too. D: And if they’re not giving credit to those who originally made all of those epic lists…I don’t want to pay for that “stolen” content…

    I’ve been using SpeedAnki, which is a JLPT-kanji flashcard system. I really like it. I’ll also check out Anki; seems to be really good. *goes to delete Smart.fm account D<*

  • http://philfreo.com/ Phil

    You should check out Quizlet again… there’s a lot of new features recently (audio) and you can create content (and search for it) with Kana instead of Kanji/Romaji

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=26304333 Steven Samuel

    I Hate ANKI.

  • Alex

    They want people to create content, since it’s free content they can give to other users. They get no benefit out of someone using the site passively just to study. So the cost model would probably be the other way around.

  • AcousticAshley

    Someone passed this onto me on Smart.FM, try this, it looks good and is free http://quizlet.com/
    I tried the new Iknow service, it really sucks so I will leave it

  • Alex

    Care to share why, so we can improve it?

  • Zhana

    Is there a way to download the Core 2000 series before the site shuts down? I’d really like to use the vocabulary and I only got a little more than halfway through Step 1! :(

  • gorghurt

    well there is an anki plugin to download goals, and there is the whole core 2000 and 6000 in the public decks, so you could use anki, like i do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1635704913 Even Tolo Dybevik

    Wow, I was really looking forward to, and saving, the japanese core ._. It looked so fun so I waited a long time before starting XD And now it’s soon gone :/

  • http://twitter.com/Musouka Musouka

    From Smart.fm: “On the iKnow! service, from February 8th to the beginning of April, all courses created by users will be private and only accessible to the creator. Please see this blog post (http://blog.iknow.jp/en/2011/02/04/on-user-courses-in-iknow/) for more information.”

  • Hb7of9

    Hmmm, not cool, can’t get iknow.jp is so slow that its useless, also not showing English comments.

  • http://twitter.com/nick_merritt nick merritt

    Grrrr…I have been using Smart.fm a lot lately to learn Kanji basics. :(

    It’s a great service, but I don’t see myself paying for it.

  • Sam

    I also took at a look at livemocha.com before deciding to stick with Smart.fm. I’ll probably have to head back there. The interface was (surprisingly) not quite as clean as smart.fm I thought, but there’s still some cool community stuff going on.

  • Jim

    To me, one downside of Anki is that there’s no quiz function. All it does is show you the question then you click to show you the answer and you have to judge for yourself if you grasp the question or not. I wish it quizzes you, where it shows you the question part of the card and you pick the answers from the answer pool from the deck then it schedules the review for you. Kinda like what iknow does.

    Other than that Anki’s pretty good. I just wished I found out about Anki before I graduated from college.

  • Alex

    The problem with multiple choice quizzing is that it trains you to rely on cues which are not available when you have to actually retrieve that knowledge out “in the wild,” in conversation with someone or while reading or watching TV. It’s suboptimal to use deduction to decide which options aren’t likely the answer, when you don’t actually know the correct option. And when you do know the answer, it’s a waste of time to have to locate it among the options.

    I suspect you like this style of quizzing because it’s more familiar to you, having been exposed to it at school and university. It’s also less to think about when using it. But you’re cheating yourself if you’re not doing fully active recall.

    A lot of these popular services like Quizlet and Smart.fm use this style quiz because people think that they want it — it’s not obvious how it’s a substandard study method. So maybe we need to think about how to ease people into the Anki study method, so that it’s not such an unfamiliar experience.

  • Alex Ehlke

    Anki has it now — the same content exported from that set.

  • Franzeska

    I don’t know, Alex… The problem with “optimal” study methods is that all study methods are useless unless you actually use them. Smart.fm is like a brainless game of tetris, so I actually used it and it did help me. Anything that’s more like paper flashcards and that involves more thought is a method I’m unlikely to stick with no matter how good it is.

    If I wanted to practice recal “in the wild”, I’d read some manga.

  • Alex Ehlke

    I for one found smart.fm too irritating to use — why make me type in a word if I know the answer? Why do I need to scan several boxes for the answer if I know it? It feels like wasted effort to me. I understand it’s not this off-putting for many other users, but I still question how sustainable that kind of method is for users — it attracts users easily, but will they find it worthwhile much down the line?

    There may be ways to make active recall study more engaging. Perhaps one way that might help would be to integrate the flashcard system with reading material — so when you add a flashcard from a piece of text, it can pull in the whole sentence or excerpt that the term came from. Then it can generate cloze deletion cards — e.g. “(bread)を食べた” which would be more fun (well, if it wasn’t a stupid example like this).

  • http://hatchjapan.wordpress.com/ ざっちー

    You spelled D’oh wrong.

    …Also, I’ve always used Anki for my Japanesing. I never really got into smart.fm, so I’m not really sure what features it had. I like to have programs on my computer that I don’t have to depend on the internet for just in case. Though Anki does provide ways to internet it up. Pretty solid.

    But, mostly I commented for the D’oh thing. ; ]

  • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

    Earning $23.45 million back will be pretty hard, even with a price of $12 USD per month. And let’s face it, there is nothing special about smart.fm / iKnow anymore. When they started in 2000 the idea of a spaced rep software was still sci-fi and needed a lot of brains, today every small flashcard startup is based on this principle.

    Getting a CEO from MTV is also an interesting decision. We know what happened to MTV, at least “the elder” amongst us ;). The focus is clearly on getting investor money back, quick and at all cost.

    My 2 cents and I have to say I loved the concept of smart.fm, never used it though which is then again a problem in itself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BrightBlack Aimee Burgess

    I got started with it right toward the end, I guess. I didn’t really notice it getting worse – it didn’t bother me much because I didn’t know it used to be better. It really makes me mad that it falls in to the same category as everything else that gets my attention and enthusiasm up. As soon as I really start getting in to it- it either shuts down or charges monthly.

    I would happily pay IF I had the money. Unfortunately my ambitions outreach my budget. It’s really hard to learn a second language when you can’t spend money to do so. Everything worthwhile charges money -_- Still trying to save up for my Textfugu but it’s slow going. Until then all I can really do is keep working with free content. (Probably my most useful tool so far is a pictorial dictionary I’ve been making in a blank journal. When I learn a word I draw something that represents it with the Katakana or Hiragana under it. It’s a bit organised and people look at me funny if they look over my shoulder but at least it’s free and reliable)

  • Killernomad84

    Eh. I stopped using “Smart”fm a long time ago. I’ve found that the old fashioned way works just as well (flashcards) :)

  • Nguyen

    Oh no. It’s like 7 Dec 1941 all over again!

  • :(some poor 16 girl

    when i notice what it will be a pay service i felt sad cuz im poor im 16 (i dont work!!!) i used it to improve my level of english to some day start to use textfugu at 100%. (im learning japanese and german too).now im goin to give a try to anki´s but i don´t know if anki´s have something for learn english:(

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  • http://twitter.com/Rukishou Martin E. Bergwall

    I haven’t used Smart.fm a lot since it initially became Smart.fm, but I would make list and use the site to learn more vocabulary back when it was iKnow.co.jp back in, I think it was, 2008. One of my lists even got hundreds of subscribers or users or whatever they were called and became a featured list. I didn’t pay for professional audio for it or anything though.

    Despite this I haven’t even visited the site once in at least a year now, so this change doesn’t really make a difference to me. Still, it’s one less of the already few sites I will be suggesting to friends who want to learn Japanese from now on.

  • Eij

    Where did you move your Kanji Radicals flashcard set to? I was working on that set and took a break for a while only to see this news :( Looking forward to resuming it…

  • http://twitter.com/EpicFailFTW Not Available

    I didn’t like what they did, this site helped me a lot with kanji. I guess it’s time to try Anki then :)

  • VampireRubi89

    It’s great that they are charge to use but they should at list make it affordable for those of us that live in underpaying countrys. I’m starving here.

  • http://mywordsareraw.blogspot.com Sholum

    I am using a mix of quizlet.com and Anki. The only reason I liked smart.fm was because of its quiz feature. I agree that multiple choice can become a crutch, but it helps put information in your head. Also, with quizlet you can use fill in the blank and other question types.
    Basically, I use quizlet to put the info in my head and figure out how well I know it after it is there. I use Anki to cement the info in my head.

    As for smart.fm, I think that they should have switched to freemium instead of pay only. If they had made it free to access user content and pay for everything then they would have more people using the service left, that and if they had made it 400 yen instead of 1000, I have the budget for that. If that isn’t enough money to get the site back to what it used to be then they can place ads.

  • Salahare

    Darn. I thought it was getting harder, but my use of iKnow/Smart.fm was sparse at best so I didn’t notice all of the changes quite so well, thinking it was my own faulty memory that accounted for the harder useage. And my account is OLD, way back when it was iKnow from the start like yourself. Very disappointing to hear the news of the troubles behind the scenes.

  • Annalin

    I got an email from them announcing their change to a paid service just a few days ago. For some “odd” reason, I’d stopped going there frequently… It did get harder and harder to use. For myself, I’m definitely not feeling the urge to pay them money for what I was getting towards the end there. Interesting to hear about the “behind the scenes” stuff. I wonder how long they’ll live as a paid site…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002125971952 Taya Doya

    Dude you should make a learning Japanese sister site to Tofugu, that would be awesome make it like Wikipedia where users can add their own content give it a sweet UI that makes it easy to learn like smart.fm and be even more loved by the world!

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    ha, thanks, I’ve thought about something like that, but always run into this
    or that or another thing. Will continue to ponder :)

  • http://profiles.google.com/dlynam Dave Lynam

    I am a developer for WordStash.com (http://wordstash.com) which is a similar flashcard based learning tool but with better games imo. Check it out, let me know what you think.

  • Andy_Megara

    When I first met smart.fm I loved it. It helped me a lot to remember different words. Then, starting this year, I felt kind of betrayed, they were announcing they were going paid. I thought, ok, most of the things cant forever be free, but they just did it so suddenly that my plan of japanese study got totally messed up. I thought it would be the same smart.fm, just with a new “old” name: Iknow. But then I tried Iknow, and it wasnt even half as good the old smart.fm was: No kanji strokes, no clear fonts, and the new colors gave me headache… And another thing I dont like: The payment methods. Why only paypal? why only credit cards? If I have a debit card, why cant I pay?… This sucks a lot. T_T.

  • Petites

    I just went back to smart.fm today and was re-directed to iKnow. From here, they extended warmly the fact that I now have pay for all the content. I was a little saddened and disheartened by this fact, since I was a member, what felt like 2 years ago.

    Same boat brotha’ man ;_;

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  • Samantha

    This article missed the biggest issue users are having with the transition from the free Smart.fm to the paid iKnow.jp:

    The new paid service does not provide all the services featured in the free service. Period.

    Namely:

    * NO CONTENT CREATION TOOLKIT – This hits students the hardest. If you once used Smart.fm to build lists of vocabulary that were being covered in the classroom… well, you are out of luck. With the new paid version called iKnow, you can only study the lists provided by Cerego. Although Cerego claims a new toolkit is coming, the release date continues to get pushed back every month with no explanation as to why.

    * NO REVIEW SYSTEM – That’s right, the vocabulary review system has been removed completely. Formally called BrainSpeed, the old Smart.fm review tools has been removed and the company has no intentions of bringing it back to the service… although being the #1 most user requested feature according to iKnow’s very own feature request system (called UserVoice):
    (link: http://iknowen.uservoice.com/forums/97635)

    * NO SOCIAL NETWORKING – One of the nice things about Smart.fm was the ability to interact and receive advice from other users through the mini-forums that were integrated into each course. These have been removed. Again, Cerego has made no announcement regarding their return in spite of the high volume of user requests submitted through their feature suggestion and bug reporting system (again, UserVoice).

    * POOR SUPPORT – Many user requests filed through the company’s support system (UserVoice) largely go completely ignored. For the case of the #1 Top Ranked user ticket entitled “Bring Back the BrainSpeed” (referring to the vocab review tool), Cerego initially responded that they were “considering alternatives,” but have since left the ticket completely unattended for going on 4 months — despite continued user additions to the ticket begging for attention to be returned to the issue. Meanwhile, other users who report extremely long load times or inability to use the site due to a failure on behalf of iKnow to deliver content reliably also go completely unattended.

    In short, many users were upset with the move from free to paid, but even more users are upset by the horrible degradation in the quality of the service and the deaf ear iKnow directs towards its users.

    The user base that has tried to stick it out with and succumed to paying for access to the service found only a scaled down version of what they once had. What’s worse… it’s being rewritten as people use it… so things are constantly breaking and being fixed.

    In all reality, Cerego migrated to iKnow.jp too early, asking users to pay for an incomplete and inferior version of the Smart.fm product. As a result, iKnow users are upset by the quality of their purchase and are even more upset by the lack of communication with Cerego.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    That’s too bad to hear :( I’m hoping to re-review iKnow sometime soon, so
    it’s sad that there’s still so many issues, it sounds like!

  • Rin

    I use to visit smart.fm or iknow or whatever the heck it was called. If I just typed one of those two words in my search bar it worked so it didn’t matter. Now I’m confused; do those two names mean different companies or something? Anyways, I visited that site today and some totally different site pops up. I tried logging in but it said to “Agree to the Terms”, so I was more confused. I felt it was some sort of trap so I left and now I’m reading this. Well this article explains a lot but I still feel like WTF? Yeah…

  • WTF

    Guess I’m using Anki from now on

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  • Fawnet

    Wow, Samantha, you’re right. I stopped by iKnow today, to see how the service had changed and decide if it was worth subscribing to, and it’s a little wasteland. Unless there are more courses hiding somewhere, all that’s available are hiragana lessons, katakana lessons, and Japanese Core 1000 through 6000. Now, that’s more than enough to keep anyone busy, but I really enjoyed the smaller quizzes; family members, months of the year, katakana loan words and so on. They were fun. And the lack of user comments makes the place feel deserted–it’s like I’m the only one there. And to add insult to injury, none of my free sample lessons will even load. Geez. I never thought I’d miss Brainspeed, but I do!

  • Marianna

    I’ve never used smart.fm I checked it out today and I was like..what? you have to pay for it?

    I’ve being using anki for ages, and I really like it: I’m starting buildng up my own flash cards because I started feeling there weren’t enough decks with audio that I’d find useful there.
    To find new audio tracks at my level I thought I’d follow your suggestion and try out smart.fm, but when I checked the web-link it redirected me to iKnow.
    I’m already spending a lot in Uni’s fees… I just want to learn faster with no added cost…
    I hope Anki will stay free forever

  • David

    I think we might have something for all of you in the near future, please leave your email at http://60words.com !

    PS: this is the older welcome screen and it doesn’t show all we are planning to do (esp. mobile access and social features)

    thank you!
    David

  • Buddha

    Turn to me Koichi. I have all you need.

  • Noctis Caelum

    all of this is old o,o

  • maria

    The paid service is slow too! Better quit using it.