Viva la vida - Issue #9

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Viva la vida

November 5 - Issue #9 - View online
A theme-free newsletter where I shape all my thoughts every Sunday. You can expect it to be techie, but I might surprise you with non-techie topics such as life or how to recover from a workout drinking beer.

developer.update()
Technology evolves at extremely fast pace. If we think about the last few years and all the innovations that either came out or became somehow trendy, the list is quite large. Just mentioning some that came to my mind: virtual reality, machine learning, augmented reality, new operative systems with new features to develop for, React, programming paradigms and languages like Swift. There are many things happening and it’s hard for us developers, to keep up with all of them. Unfortunately, the industry and companies demand it, forcing you to actively make sure your skillset is up to date. That can be a bit exhausting, can’t it?
Just to give you an example, React is now very trendy in the web ecosystem. Facebook shook up the way web developers develop websites, giving them space to enjoy and focus on building great user experiences, rather than fighting the platform limitations. By the time React started becoming popular, there were other frameworks out there that developer got married with like AngularJS from Google or Backbone.js. Nowadays those frameworks are still actively used by many websites, and we could use them with the most recent version of our web browser. However, React introduced a technological shift in the industry, and many companies nowadays are demanding to have that skill. If you didn’t learn that framework and for some reason, you needed to move on from your current company/project you would be in a trouble. You’d have to spend some time learning them (and I have no doubt you’ll do it quickly) or you’d be limiting the professional opportunities you have access to.
I just used React as an example but you can think about Objective-C its replacement Swift and the example would be the same. We techie nerds, need to do some work from our side and grow as technology does. The fact that technology is finding its place in many areas, like education, is also forcing non-techie people to also update themselves and learn about the latest innovations in their work. Do you think teachers should keep teaching as they used to 20 years ago? Or should they use technology to make lessons more attractive, and catch students’ attention that would otherwise be hard to catch with old-fashioned methodologies?
Since I became a developer, I’ve been actively updating myself. Sometimes I event went beyond the limits and felt exhausted and overwhelmed. I wanted to keep up with everything but that’s impossible (it took me time to learn this one). I want to tell you what worked for me and how I keep myself up to date as a developer. It doesn’t mean the same ideas will work for you but maybe some of them:
Twitter
I used to use Twitter a lot. I mostly used as a feed of news because developers tend to share everything on Twitter: new libraries, posts, talks. I used to have multiple windows open in my monitor and one of them was Twitter, being updated every few seconds and having the last tweets always on the screen. I stopped it, at some point, it was very exhausting for me. First of all, I was very distracted and not only that, but I got used to reading squeezed content and it became hard for me to read a longer one. I couldn’t concentrate when I had to read a full article. I disciplined myself to use to only use it when I want to publish something, and explore the timeline only a couple of times a day. By doing that I could focus on my actual work, and later, see if there was something interesting to read about.
Instapaper
I find Instapaper very handy as a central place to send all the articles and pages that I want to read later. Sometimes I’m on the metro and I find an interesting article that I want to read but that I don’t have time for it, or I would like to read something but I’m not in the mood to do it. In these situations, I just “instapaper” them and forget about it. One of the first things that I do when I wake up, and when I’m able to concentrate the most and assimilate new content, is reading. I forget about emails, notifications, Facebook or Twitter updates, just read. I avoid getting distracted and enjoy that moment with a good cup of coffee (decaffeinated).
Offline
Learning requires concentration, and concentrations require being offline. I found it very hard to focus on something and keep all the notifications and sources of distraction active. When I want to focus on, let’s say learn Javascript, I forget about everything else. That means putting the mobile phone aside, closing all the apps in my laptop and leave open only the ones that I need. This is a hard commitment, especially when feeling disconnected is an awkward feeling these days, but for me, it’s the only way to really learn new things. There will be things happening while you are spending hours/days/weeks/months in learning something new, and you have to live with that. Don’t attempt to learn something and at the same time keep up with more things. If you do it, you’ll end up suffering from techno-fatigue.
You are the one deciding when to swallow the information, not the information.
Open source
I think open source is the best way to learn an experiment with new technologies on the side. When Swift came out I started working on an open source project to learn the new programming language, SugarRecord. It’s hard to assimilate new concepts if you don’t practice them. It’s like trying to learn a new language using books but not practicing it talking with people in that language. Some companies might give you time and space to do that, SoundCloud for instance does. If your company doesn’t I’d recommend you to take some from your spare time. You don’t need to go crazy with open-source, putting your life aside like if everything was all about open source. You can just find an idea that interests you, that allows you to practice what you want to learn, and then dedicate a 1 or 2 hours a week to work on it. Another tip that I would like to give you is that you shouldn’t do a lot of open-source work for the sake of having a lot of projects to share. Enjoy what you do, and learn a lot along the way.
Plan
And my last but most important tip is that you should have a plan. You should define your goal and plan towards achieving it. For example, if you want to learn Kotlin, think about the steps that you want to take to learn it. Define a learning KPI, what you need to be able to do to consider yourself proficient in Kotlin. For example, being able to develop an Android app in Kotlin using the most common APIs, and some functional features that the language offers. Being honest, I’m very bad at planning, as I mentioned in a previous newsletter issue I lose the focus very quickly, especially when I want to learn something new. I’m learning something and then something new comes up and then I shift my focus to that new thing. I’m lately using Todoist to overcome that issue. I define my next learning goal, create a Todoist project for it, and then add small achievable tasks with due dates that I revisit periodically. It seems to be working for me, but I’m still on my way to becoming better at it.

Keep learning, not only because technology “forces” you to do so, but because learning opens you new doors in life and your professional career. You can learn not only from books but also from the people around you. People have experiences that are not written in books. Be always open to learning, and don’t get mad at having to learn everything.

I hope you liked this issue. As you might have noticed I publish without a fixed frequency. When I feel inspired I just start writing and if I come up with something that I think has value to share, I just do it. If there’s any topic you are particularly interested in please let me know, I’ll be happy to talk about it in future issues.
Have a wonderful week!
See you again sometime in the future :)
Pedro
The song of the week
Two Shoes (Live at the Zoo), a song by The Cat Empire on Spotify
Some reading
The first 150 days of van life - Ruby on Wheels
'Our minds can be hijacked': the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia | Technology | The Guardian
mikeash.com: Friday Q&A 2017-10-27: Locks, Thread Safety, and Swift: 2017 Edition
Build a Business, not an App
My Journey to a Better Language Learning System - Chatterbug
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