How I stay up to date

Thursday 27 June 2013

As an expert in a given field, any field, not particularly software engineering, you must feel the need to stay up to date. It might be news articles, blog posts, random tweets, the source types are manifold. In this post, I will present you the solution I put together to perform my technology watch.

Sourcing

I use several information feeds:

  1. RSS - I still have 3 days to enjoy the soon to be defunct Google Reader. Last 5 years, I carefully crafted a collection of interesting RSS feeds, such as Rands in Repose, Coding Horror or The Daily Nerd.

  2. Twitter - Paris Metro SignI have been there since 2011 and it took me a couple of months to tune my timeline. I am one of the guys who read every tweet in his timeline, that's why I always enforce strict rules to survive this. I usually read my tweets twice a day, during commuting time in the Parisian subway.

  3. Friends & Colleagues - It is not uncommon to get in your inbox a simple message from a friend telling you that telling you to read this particular article. This is a valuable source as the level of noise here is very low, your friend having done the curation part of the job for you.

This list is obviously extensible with your favorite social network or any other source. Note here that I don't include mainstream news in the list, I have been ignoring them for a year since I read this. RIP Aaron.

Archiving

One important part of the job is to keep a log of what you read. You can't remember everything, but you can remember that you read something about a given topic. As a specie we are moving from Do you remember X? to Do you remember having read something about X and do you know how to find it again?. You know what I mean, Search Engines + Always connected.

So what you want to do is keeping a collection of bookmarks of articles you think you may need later. It's not everything you read, it may be between 5% and 10%. There is a catchy word describing that process: curation.

Buffering

So we have sources of information, we have an archiving repository, are we done? Well mostly. Say you are reading an article on your computer and you judge it is archiving material. Great! Just archive it.

But now let's say you just got an email from a friend entitled You must read that!, you don't have the time to read it right away. Let's assume that you use your inbox as your GTD todo list, then you must store the link somewhere and archive the mail. You need a buffer!

Now say you are reading your cached timeline in the Parisian subway, with no Internet connection. You stumble upon a tweet with a link and you are pretty sure you must read it. As we can handle asynchronous processes, but don't have a great working memory, we need an artificial one to help us there. Something where we can push the link to be read later. Again, that's our buffer!

Actual tools

You must have noticed that I just discussed concepts and ideas so far. Here are the tools I enjoy using daily.

  1. Readability - This is my buffering application. That's where new links get pushed when either I don't have time to read something or I don't have any Internet connection. You can have a look at what's on my plate right now. On the week-end, I try to go through all the buffered articles and decide something for them. Delete or Star the candidates for archiving.
  2. Pinboard - That's a one-man shop run by the Twitter-humorist Maciej Ceglowski and it's just great. Have a look at my small archive of the web there to get an idea of how this works.
  3. Tweetbot - It's great. Saves the position of the last tweet you read, and can easily send embedded tweet links to Readability (queuing this operation if Internet is down).
  4. Reeder - Great piece of software to read my RSS feeds. Can also send an article to Readability or directly to Pinboard (but I never use the latter).
  5. Simple pinboard button - Firefox extension which opens a popup to add the page you are reading to Pinboard.

Thanks for reading this article, I hope you found it useful for your own technology watch.

Keep learning!

Would you like to learn programming? I am CTO of Le Wagon, a 9-week full-stack web development bootcamp for entrepreneurs, and would be happy to have you on board!

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