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How do you keep up?

Joel's posting about using the new Echo format got me thinking (watch out!) -- do you have a strategy for keeping up with all the new stuff that gets thrown out there?  By stuff I mean, XYZ standard for doing ABC (RSS, Echo, 80whatever, HTML13.0, CSS 4.2, DOM 97.2, SOAP, etc ).

Does anyone else feel a little  twinge when they see a standard pop up into common use that they've never heard of?  I kinda felt that when Joel posted about this new fangled Echo thing (though that's not in common use...yet).  Sometimes I kinda worry that I'm not doing things as efficiently as possible and that one of these new standards could save me a lot of time (or make me more marketable)...BUT, I can't find that out unless I invest a lot of time in figuring out what the heck all those new standards do (and that's without getting into the annoying details of various implementations).

So, how do you keep up?

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

I am tempted to say, don't worry 90% of the TLAs you hear now, will be forgotten, replaced or obsoleted within a couple of years... and I'm only half joking.

Unless you are working with all of them, do you really need to know the fine detail of every one?

Even if you do, don't you need to the overview and main points - then use the book/help rather than remember everything? I once knew a guy who refused to do any Windows programming until he knew every API (and that was when there were a lot less APIs, but even then too many to remember!)

S. Tanna
Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Tangential to topic, I misread "80whatever" and realized that my misreading should be the new name for Echo:


It's unique, easy to say, easy to remember, and so very, very descriptive.


Wednesday, July 2, 2003

I ignore everything until it either goes away or I have to use it....

we dont have to keep up, we just need to be able to solve business problems using computers.

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Often if you ignore a technology, it will simply go away. :-)

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

It (that twinge when you hear lay people talking about something you should know all about but don't) is a confidence trick.

It is an industry wide "fire and motion" technique.

Go read  Business wankers love buzz, buzz means they don't actually have to understand.

What the leaders, Joel and the like, do (correct me if i am wrong), is to back their own judgement.

Hear about a new technology, does it make sense, does it seem useful, if so investigate and play, else disregard.  Even if there is a lot of hype, if it seems silly, it is.

It's amazing how much your preformance improves when you back your own judgement rather than trying to immitate a genius.

Picking new technology is like butting in on a lecturer at University to make a correction or ask for clarification, you worry about it and doubt yourself but when you start to trust yourself and be brave it's amazing how smart you can look :D

The classic buzz experience for me personally was 'Push technology'.  Most people I talk to now play down or completely deny it had any traction or press. 

I remember it coming, I remember thinking about it and deciding it was definately a non-starter, mid-hype.  Ahhh the satisfaction of seeing it fade to nothing :D

It's the same with more hardcore technologies.  WebDav, RDF, .net etc.  Think about it and trust your judgement, there is no one else who knows the future.


Wednesday, July 2, 2003

I remember a post that Joel made ages ago that basically said 'If you find a new standard or technology to difficult to understand, don't worry.  It will be replaced by a standard that can be understood.'

I use that still as a general rule of thumb, and it seems to work.

A standard will only take on general importance if it is easy enough for the majority of people to understand.

Some standards require a great deal of specialised knowledge before you can understand them.  Thats not a problem.  If you lack that specialised knowledge then the standard isn't relevant to your area.  If you have the specialised knowledge and still can't understand, then the rule still applies.

It may be that a standard that applies to a specialised area proves to be generally useful.  If this is the case then somebody will adapt it for use by the general population: eg SGML and HTML.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, July 3, 2003

>> I remember a post that Joel made ages ago that basically said 'If you find a new standard or technology to difficult to understand, don't worry.  It will be replaced by a standard that can be understood.'

I like this principal and I used it in my own career. It simply isn't possible for anyone doing real and useful work, to keep up with the TLA's (I take to mean three letter acronyms) that are being constantly manufactured. And most of the crap goes away after awhile as pointed out.

I've found that people who are really on top of current TLA's all the time (they always seem to know exactly what they are or represent and have dabbled in them) are either professional writers, or don't really develop large projects that require stable interfaces in their own work... The borks and agency recruiter scum always use criteria like 10-year mastery of a just announced TLA as a way to 'knock the trade' and put you down when you don't have deep experience in it.

Example: I ignored COM & DCOM through its rise in the late 90's because I had other work at the time. It was absolutely unapproachable in the limited time I had to look into it (I know all about threads and coroutines, but hearing about 'apartment' and other threading models gave me a brain aneurysm.) Now it's about to be superceded by .Net.

When I had an application in hand that needed a distributed approach, I used RPC. There must be a death squad that roams around that executes programmers who choose the simplest and most elegant available solution. This is judging from the cluelessness about RPC that I found with peers who were steeped in DCOM and CORBA who considered RPC a junk, bad, "legacy" (horrors!) protocol.  The simplest protocol was absolutely unknown, instead all the mass culture 'knows' is the hardest possible way to shove bits down the wire. 

And this pattern of making things as hard and as kewl as possible is repeated all over the place.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, July 3, 2003

It can be exhilarating to jump into something new while the metal is still hot, so that one has a hand in forming a potentially long-lived and influential tool or protocol. It's much the same allure as joining a young startup versus joining a staid, successful company. One must get in early to make an impact.

Witness all of the "little languages" that pop up, or the overlapping Java frameworks, or the new craze in XML-based vocabularies. Each is a fresh attempt to start a new club, to lure energetic interest away from the more settled projects.

The problem, though, is that these projects are often started and guided by vanity and competitive frustration rather than technical necessity. The participants often make good volunteers but would not be qualified to be recruited.

I try to ignore most new formats and protocols through a cooling-off period. Too many are just merely learning projects that don't need to be shared, let alone "standardized." I hold BEEP (nee BXXP) in mind as a notable exception.

Steven E. Harris
Thursday, July 3, 2003

>> I ignored COM & DCOM through its rise in the late 90's because I had other work at the time ... Now it's about to be superceded by .Net.  <<

That reminds me of a Dilbert cartoon - where a Dinosaur got hired to do a computing job, just because he looked like a programmer.
Now he wouldn't bother, anything you do, just wait till another asteroid comes down, or an ice age sets in.

Michael Moser
Thursday, July 3, 2003

I don't.

The majority of the client work I do is in either VB6 or ASP 3.0.  SQL Server for databases.

Granted, I'm learning the .NET stuff because it looks like it's going to stick.  But in general I am a late adopter who prefers to pick something up only after it hits two milestones - 1) it proves itself to be useful in the marketplace, and 2) there is wide support and availability of code snippets.

The majority of my clients are far more interested in making sure their systems work than in playing with cutting edge technologies.  And thank God for that!

Friday, July 4, 2003

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