Lately I’ve been reminded more than ever how important it is for developers to always be sharpening their skill set. Often we get caught up in work and don’t take time to learn more about the immeasurably large world of technology around us.
Aside from writing code — unarguably the best thing you can do to be a better coder (duh) — reading is probably the next best thing you can do. Lately I’ve been voraciously consuming development-related reading. So, if you don’t mind being meta for a few minutes, read on for a few tips about reading!
Pay attention to the news
Don’t ignore what’s going on around you. At the very least, check Hacker News every so often. Reddit has a few resources as well. Some of the best coders share the latest goings-on, as well as plenty of tips, tutorials, new open-source projects and other articles. Aside from the link sharing itself, there’s even more dialog happening in the comments.
Also, if you’re on Twitter, find a few good developers to follow. I guarantee that they’ll share their favorite links. (My team is sharing over on @emmaemailtech.)
Keep a reading list
Take the recommendations of other developers and bloggers seriously. Promise yourself that one out of every five books you read is programming-related. Make a list. I have a giant to-read list I keep in my favorite to-do list manager that I try to tap into regularly.
Ask the pros
Don’t take for granted the talent you work with every day. I guarantee almost all of your coworkers have a book or blog you would benefit from. Just the other day I ended up reading MongoDB: The Definitive Guide on Alex‘s recommendation while doing research for a new project. Furthermore, if you share interesting reads with your dev team, it’s only a matter of time before they start sharing back.
To broaden your resources even more, ask professionals outside the office. If your company hires contract workers, ask for their favorite resources in their area of expertise. If you’re at a conference, there are hundreds of people full of suggestions. (Use the conference’s Twitter hashtag to communicate and share resources, books, tips and more.)
This is probably the most important kind of reading. Whether it’s swapping code reviews or finding refactoring opportunities in your codebase, nobody is going to fault you for taking the initiative to improve the code and processes around you.
Pick a new tool or library you’re interested in and find a tutorial about it that uses code examples. If there’s no written tutorial, there’s a good chance somebody has given a presentation about it. Look around to see if they’ve shared a slide deck online or email them and ask for their notes. And if, for some reason, no helpful tutorials exist, read the documentation and pay it forward by writing a tutorial yourself!
StackOverflow is also a great place to read. Most see it as more of a tool to get answers to your questions, but it’s just as good for code-heavy reading material. Oftentimes, even with the languages and tools you use all the time, reading a new spin on something you thought was a no-brainer is enlightening.
Here’s the deal: programming is writing. And any writer will tell you that you won’t get better at writing if you aren’t reading. So, tell us what you’re reading, because we all have room for improvement.
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