I speak with a lot of people looking to pick up code these days. Common motivations include the siren of large salaries and the plethora of job opportunities. To those motivated primarily to become master of the craft not already in the know, here is one of my strongest practices for break-neck pace learning.

Be surrounded with the best in the Twroom

There are two things you need to be convinced of here:

  1. We tend to rise or fall to the standard of those around us.
  2. Twitter is a means to put the best people around you.

I won’t spend much time trying to convince you of number one (I hope life experience has done that for you already), but as a thought exercise, consider the following:

  • What would be the impact on a 5th grader’s learning after a year in a 6th grade classroom vs. that of a 4th?
  • What would be the average mile time for runners after 6 months if they trained with people running 6-minute miles vs. those running 8-minute miles?

For me, almost every category of life can be positively or negatively influenced by those whom I choose to surround myself. When it comes to code, there are few things that light a fire out of complacency quite like seeing others push the envelope in what can be done when developing applications.

A common approach to surrounding oneself with the best is to work for a company to learn and to be mentored by smart engineers. I think this is a great ideal. I also think that finding a position at a company that 1.) has these brilliant minds, 2.) leaves them open for mentoring and 3.) allows opportunity for consistent, meaningful work is a far more difficult task than one would hope. In addition, the most talented human in that company is only one citizen in the global tech community.

While not mutually exclusive, Twitter is only a sign-up away and can serve as a portal to some of the smartest humans building applications. Period.

Twitter the tool, not just the network

For the twitter uninitiated, a paradigm shift may need to take place.

Twitter was originally pitched to me (ironically in Austin, the home of its famous launch) as a place where one could send texts that the whole world could read. I balked at the concept and determined to take a hard pass.

Four years later, I was again in Austin attending SXSW where I discovered Twitter was almost exclusively the go-to networking and communication tool. After spending an inordinate amount of time choosing a handle, and the novelty of seeing what Taylor Swift had to say about life wore off, my perception of Twitter quickly shifted from social network to that of a tool.

With this change in perception, I began treating Twitter as a library with books of living knowledge just waiting to be checked out. All of a sudden I had access to a stream of thoughts, opinions, and resources from the most talented and prolific people in the industry — an industry that embraces Twitter as a medium for exchanging grey matter.

The Twitter advantage

The benefits I experience from leveraging Twitter boil down to preserving more of my most precious resource: time. The following are a subset of ways it can do the same for you.

  1. Twitter is your personal tech bouncer. Among the most common lamentations from individuals building for the web is how fast everything moves and the increasing number of new things to learn. I’ve found a powerful key to learning is aggressively focusing time on the most valuable and enduring trends. Twitter is a fantastic filter and vetting process for new tech. Typically, the best and most worthwhile tech bubbles up here.
  2. Twitter gives you vision. Like your proximity from a spider, you are probably no more than 10 feet at any given moment from a person who changed their major in college at least twice. What’s more that person is likely working in a field largely unrelated to the degree they settled upon. How much more effective could their college years have been had they a clear direction on the type of career they wanted to end up in? How much more satisfying could their current position be? Congrats on deciding you want to master development! Where do you want to be with it in 10 years? Twitter has members of the industry that are already down that timeline. Following them on Twitter is like virtual job shadowing.
  3. Twitter is your learning resource concierge. The influx of people eager to learn to code has brought with it a lot of noise to the online learning space. There are as many people trying to teach you a particular technology as there are different technologies, and as with most things, not all are created equal. Some simply aren’t very effective at teaching, while others can be rife with anti-patterns. Again, Twitter can be leveraged here as a filter. See what material the authors and active communities of a technology put out and recommend. In addition, you can catch the pearls of wisdom and consume spontaneous discussions that never crystalized into a formal blog post. Also, get this, you can send your questions directly to the people with answers and you’ll be amazed at the response rate you’ll get.

So what’s your handle going to be?

I’m confident much can be added (and better than I have/can) by way of benefits and how to leverage Twitter as a learning tool. My goal is to have convinced you to start composing your personal Twitter learning stream and begin experiencing the benefits yourself.

So who should you start following? Well that depends very much and what you’d like to learn! Let me know @TranscendMikey and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.