How to Stay Up to Date With Programming Trends
Some daily activities to help you stay on the cutting edge
How do you stay a relevant developer when there are so many releases every day — new programming languages, new libraries, and trendy new ways of coding?
Keeping up-to-date with so many online resources can feel overwhelming.
A quality “tech watch” is part of a programmers job. Staying relevant is just as important as your other missions.
This piece is a list of activities you can do. Do them at different moments of the day and build your own strategy for an efficient tech watch.
Subscribe to Newsletters
Newsletters are curated publications that may interest you. Subscribing to a few is the most obvious way to get started.
Find websites which are about topics you like and subscribe to their newsletter, so the information comes straight to your email box. This prevents you from having to go to each website to do your selection.
I take two minutes in the morning to quickly go through my emails, then chose what I want to read during the day.
When I feel like reading something, I just have to pick it from my reading list.
Share With Your Colleagues
The chances are you work with other highly motivated individuals and that you’re also interested in sharing their tips and discoveries.
You can also have a meeting once a month to do lightning talks about a topic everyone is interested in, or to hold workshops where the team tries a new library, for example.
As I said in the introduction, being up-to-date is part of your job and your company should be aware of this. If it is not, consider looking for another job.
Attending a conference is a great way to stay up-to-date. Companies usually have a budget for it. Ask your company to pay for you to attend a conference in your job domain.
It’s great to see speakers demonstrating in live, sharing their experiences, suggesting the audience why they should use this library, why teams should write their code this way, or how they migrated from this to that.
Talks are short (30 minutes to cover a topic is short). The best conferences give you the concentrated juice of the latest tech world developments, presented so everyone can understand.
You can meet the speakers during the event, reach out to them on Twitter later — they’ll be pleased to answer any questions you might have!
Go to Meetups
There are Meetups for literally everything and they’re great for building your network.
As for conferences, you know in advance what the speakers will be talking about. Which means there’s no chance you lose your time by joining one.
They’re mostly after work hours, they’re always chill, and there is often pizzas and beers!
Find a New Job
Changing position or working for another company is highly beneficial for yourself.
Say that you are in a company where the tech stack is never improved and it’s awfully hard to suggest a new tool to use. Let’s be honest — you're wasting your time!
The product might be cool, you might be having a lot of fun with your colleagues, but at some point you have to balance your priorities.
Working in a new company will teach you another way of working, new programming languages, and other frameworks.
If you feel like there is room to expand your knowledge somewhere else, consider looking around. Find a stack that you find exciting, do interviews, and leave your job!
There are tutorials for absolutely everything. Anyone can learn new stuff nowadays.
Doing tutorials is an easy way to learn and apply new knowledge at the same time. They take time but I think it’s worth it. Experience beats theory every time.
Make a List of Topics you Want to Learn
And stick to it!
I know, it’s hard. There are so many new things to learn every day that it can be difficult to choose.
I recommend that you make a list of things you find interesting and want to learn. Understand that the list is constantly evolving. Just because you added X two days before Y, it doesn’t mean you have to learn X first. The list is not frozen: Add, delete, reorder, and prioritize things!
But once you start an item, hold on to it and don’t change the subject until you have learned it as well as you wish. Then, you can move directly to the next item on the list!
Work on Side Projects
Pet projects are great for trying out stuff. Reading documentation or articles is fine but it’s even more efficient when you apply this new fresh knowledge to a real project.
It doesn’t have to be useful if you don’t have any ideas, nor does it have to be a huge project. The thing is to have fun and improve your knowledge of the programming language or library that you just learned.
Listen to Podcasts
Another idea that doesn’t take much time, because you can do something else at the same time.
I try to limit my screen time outside of work. Being able to listen to instead of reading is a smart way of learning.You can listen to podcasts while commuting, or while working out, for example.
No matter what you are looking for, there is probably a team of cool folks covering your needs with a podcast!
If you’re into front end development and want to know more about the latest features in CSS, SVG, and Canvas, CodePen is the perfect playground!
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Pick at least one, then spend a few minutes figuring out how it was built. There’s always something to learn!
GitHub Explore is a feed of trends that you can personalize, filled with repositories, topics, collections, and events.
You can receive a daily, weekly or monthly newsletter.
Follow People that Talk about Tech
How long do we waste on social media every day? How about inserting some tech-related information between dog pictures and workout videos?
When I read a good article or finish a good tutorial, I try to find out more about the authors. The chances are they have Twitter or LinkedIn, where they share what they are working on, what they discover, cool tips, etc.
A good example is Wes Bos. I followed him first because I learned a lot thanks to him. But he also shares interesting things about web development (and not only!) on his Twitter. He interacts a lot with his community, which is really nice.
There are plenty of ways to learn and to stay up to date but not enough time in a day to cover them all.
By using multiple sources of information, combined with different ways of learning, it’s possible to get close to a perfect tech watch and to stay a relevant programmer.