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News vs. Information Seeking

03 January 2014

A constant barrage of “new things”

When I started back in 2009, I remember having a handful of bookmarks that I used to scour for all the information I could lay my hands on…

Sites like Nettuts and Line25 were big enough buckets of information on development and design, if felt like those were all a beginner really needed.

Then I joined Twitter and started following Smashing Mag, HackerNew Popular and CSS-Tricks and many more, each account/site/service being amazing at what they did, but their purpose was to share information and thus help people. However, like many developers and designers, I’m a little like a magpie in the way that I consume information; if it’s new and shiny, I feel compelled to check it out. And boy, does the information come in droves. If I were to check the last 200 tweets in my Twitter timeline, I imagine I’d find 5 JavaScript libraries I’m not using or 3 CSS naming conventions I haven’t adopted.

Jeez.

Selective learning

I’ve never been one for learning things I don’t need to know. I’m not saying that that is what University is like, but I’ve spoken to a few people who’ve gone to University and they’ve said, that all the relevant stuff they’ve learned has been through their own information seeking. If someone asked me to do something or if I needed to implement something, I’d go learn it! Some people learn better by absorbing a huge amount of information upfront and then applying the relevant parts to the problem they’re trying to solve. I’m opposite, I’d rather be presented with the problem and pick out the relevant bits of information and ignore the rest. Works for me, but it might not be for everyone!

Do I even have a problem?

This is where I arrive at the point and “skip to the end”, but I see a lot of people (including myself), tweeting/facebooking/myspacing “should I be using Grunt?”, “Do I need to learn Less or Sass?” or “Hang on, do I need to host my site on GitHub now with Jekyll??”. If you’re like me, when you see new libraries and techniques being tweeted out by influential outfits, there’s a slight feeling of guilt that I’ve a) not heard of said library/technique or b) not used it yet. My problem is that people might be encouraged and pushed to believe that they have a problem, when they very well may not. I sometimes long for the days when I knew very little and had to go and seek each piece of information out specifically to solve the problem I was having. Not saying I now don’t do that, but I find it immensely distracting when I scan Twitter, or worse, the hell-hole that is HackerNews, because I’m genuinely not sure if these “new things” are just offering a solution to a problem I don’t have or whether they can actually help me.

This isn’t some grand New Years resolution post that I’m going to cut out the noise and go all Amish on the Internet, but hopefully just a reminder to be selective in what you feel you need to learn…

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