Being a Digital Squirrel

I have noticed that over the last four years I have developed a habit, a habit of squirrelling away information. I have become a hoarder of digital information, a digital squirrel.

The habit started when I moved from being a Senior Developer to Technical Architect, the demands moved from in depth knowledge for a topic to a breadth of knowledge across a range of technologies and techniques.

I started consuming more and more information, emailing myself links from social media to review and bookmark in chrome. I followed more and more blogs and again bookmarking them in chrome in case they might be useful.

Then I discovered the aggregate blogs like the The Morning Brew and Visual Studio Top Ten which provided even more fuel for my bookmarking habit.

A colleague of mine saw me trying to find a particular book mark in this sea of information and asked if I had bookmarked the entire internet, I did reach a point when I had too many book marks to manage and have had to reorganise a few times.

As well as the development community the workplace is also a rich source of information sharing, Google+ and Slack are used at work for collegues to share useful links and articles, adding more
volume to my bookmark library.

My collection of Ebooks and White Papers has grown exponentially, some of these are purchased but the majority are free. The ones from tend to be very useful but the free ones supplied for marketing purposes, when yousupply an email and company information in return for a book are less useful and form clutter.

Every conference I have attended has resulted in physical hand outs and courses have provided reams of material which ended up clogging the desk and drawers in the office, so if there is not a digital option these end up in the recycling.

Facebook and LinkedIn are a source for Infographics which look great and do get a message over quickly. I love a good Cheat Sheet and they are a great reference when working with an unfamiliar tool or technology, but I now have duplicates and cannot lay my hands on the ones I want when
I need it so began snaffling these away. Facebook is surprisingly good source for articles the Microsoft Developer pages provide great quality articles.

The quantity of free good quality information available at present is immense, and the broad spectrum of technology subjects required for modern development multiples that even further. In my roles I am required to be able to suggest technologies and techniques to solve requirements in meetings and calls and also in passing conversations. In depth knowledge is still required for the implementation on projects and this has narrowed down to a smaller subset of technologies.

In order to be able to filter the information available and select what is useful to me I have use a number of techniques;

I use feedly to follow blogs and these are categorised into Aggregate Blogs, Architecture , Development Community and Development. This allows me to scan through blogs quickly bookmarking any reference blogs by subject are which may be useful and read any blogs posts.

This process allows me to see the trends in development and architecture and look for more in-depth information for any gaps in my knowledge.

I set up a blog about a year ago, and try to write a post a month, I am going to start creating summary posts for technologies and trends that I can use as a memory tool and also a jumping off point if I need to go into more in-depth research.

The ebooks I collect are categorised by topic and put on cloud storage, I can access them any where and refer people to them for personal training. By far the best source of reading material I have is my subscription to Safari Books Online. This has more books available than I will be able to read and I can queue them up, the mobile app allows me to quickly access a book while travelling and make the best use of small pockets of time in the day.

To summarise the approach is to scan multiple sources of information daily, identifying articles of use or new technologies and trends, either book mark these for reference or research further collecting books. This approach allows me to maintain a broad spectrum of knowledge required as a Architect in a modern development team, and also a library of digital material I can draw on quickly.

This information provide me the confidence that I can draw on resources quickly during the rapid pace of Agile development.

This process is never complete and the collection requires regular maintenance to be effective, but as the number and complexities of technologies used increases, refining the skills to process information and store whats useful becomes even more critical.







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