[L]earning about what we do not know is often more important than doing things we already know how to do.
—Jim Highsmith, Agile Software Development Ecosystems
This chapter focuses on continual growth as a developer. The problem scenario presented in the text is one where we have only a basic skill level of software development as it pertains to our day job. The author suggests that we should take a multifaceted approach to learning.
Some examples of how we can seek-out new knowledge and experiences:
- Sign up for Google Reader (or another blog aggregator) and begin subscribing to software development blogs. With modern machine translation technologies, you do not even have to restrict yourself to those who write in English. You can follow Tim O’Reilly’s advice and track the blogs of what he calls “alpha geeks” across a variety of technology domains. These people are not necessarily the best programmers, but collectively they tend to sense new trends years before the rest of us. Consider using your own blog to reflect on the themes you pick up from these bloggers.
- Start following some software luminaries on Twitter and pay attention to what they are working on.
- Subscribe to a moderately high-traffic online mailing list and try to answer people’s questions by reproducing their issues.
- Join a newly formed local user group that is excited about a new technology. Do not just attend silently – introduce yourself to the organizer and offer to help.
- Persuade your employer to send you to a technical conference. Even if they will not pay for you to attend, you can still read the slides on the website and download audio/video of the speeches.
Using multiple tools to acquire knowledge and skill-sets is one of the best approaches I have tried. It is the same if you want to learn a new oral language, you surround yourself with it and continually find ways to incorporate it into your daily routine. Immerse yourself in the topic continually, not just when you are at home sitting with a book. The ending of this chapter resonated with me as the author mentioned how simple it is to take this continual search for more and more knowledge too far. I have a (possibly slightly unhealthy) obsession with learning about a variety of unrelated topics that do not benefit my life in any way.
When I hear of a new technology or topic that interests me, I become enthralled by it. Nothing else exists until I know as much as I can about it. Currently, my obsession is with 18650 Lithium ion batteries, particularly building my own packs. This pattern will prove to be helpful in my life reminding me not to get lost in the sea of interesting information and to also not lose my practical skills in life/development.