How to stay up to date as a web developer
Web developers are in a tight spot these days. On the one hand, we are very lucky because there are many great job opportunities compared to other fields. You probably know the feeling of getting at least a couple of job offers in your inbox per week. On the other hand we might feel freaked out and paralyzed from time to time because the web and its related technologies are moving so fast that it is quite impossible for us individuals to keep up with all the new stuff. In this post I want to share some resources and strategies that make it easier for us web developers to stay up to date with the latest developments. This is by no means a complete list, but it's what I am currently using and some opinions around it.
Newsletters are one of my favorite format to keep me up to date: You get them in your inbox and scan them if there is anything that catches your interest. Most of them arrive on a weekly basis and are well curated with the latest developments in their field. Here are the ones that I am currently subscribed to:
There are also more specialized ones such as:
but I canceled those as I don't do much ruby at the moment and I definitely have to filter the amount of stuff I can learn, read, etc.
Reading List Apps
Not really a resource but I throw this in here as I find myself constantly in situations where I am scanning potential relevant articles but I don't have the time to read them in this particular moment. For example, I am scanning my inbox and have three new weekly newsletters with loads of interesting articles but I have only 5 minutes, so there is no time to read them now. In this case, I just add the relevant articles to my "read-later" list. I am using Pocket for this, but there is also Evernote and probably some others that do the job. The important thing here is the integration. For example Pocket integrates with my browser through and extension (Evernote as well) so I can save and tag an article with a few clicks. It also integrates with Twitter, Gmail, Hacker News etc.
Hacker News and clones
The mighty Hacker News. Everybody reads it. Everybody complains about it. It's like a bad habit - you can loose a lot of valuable time there, so don't get lost in the comments section, but from time to time it pays off to check the news there. Lots of startup and tech related news. There are also lots of good HN reader apps for iOS and Android.
There are also a couple of Hacker News clone apps that specialize in a certain field:
Blogs and RSS Feeds
This is a classic one. There are so many great blogs on the web with great tutorials. I recommend you get some kind of feed reader if you don't have one already and every time you are on a blog that seems interesting enough you add it to your feed reader so you will get new content delivered right into your feed reader instead of manually keeping track of all those blogs. I use Feedly as my feed reader. It syncs with my phone so when in public transport or waiting I can keep track with the latest developments here.
Here is a list of RSS feeds that's potentially interesting for web developers (taken from Sindre Sorhus AMA https://github.com/sindresorhus/ama/issues/45).
The older generation probably still remembers IRC channels. It's a simple text based chat protocol and there are channels dedicated to a lot of open-source technologies. These are usually good places to ask for help when you are stuck, because they are usually populated around the clock from people of different time zones. I just made it a habit to have my IRC client (I use LimeChat) most of the time while working. A couple of channels I hang out in (all on Freenode):
Twitter the most used social media service in tech. Lots of 'famous' bloggers, authors and otherwise entitled people there broadcasting their opinion. I don't know, sometimes it feels really noisy, so I don't recommend this as the first place but you definitely will get lots of useful information there as well. It's again all about filtering. Also thanks to Pocket I can easily save Tweets or shared links into my reading list for later.
If you live in a city, chances are that there are at least a couple of usergroups / meetups dedicated to certain technologies in your area. These are great because you get to know your local developer scene and you get to learn new things.
Go to meetup.com and check for yourself, there are definitely lots of great meetups (Just in Berlin there are literally hundreds of tech meetup groups).
Usually these meetups are free to attend for anyone.
There is a huge trend around conferences in the tech community. If you are following certain people on Twitter, it seems all they do is go to conferences! While I do think conferences are great to drive technology forward, they tend to feel a bit elitist and expensive. Of course there are exceptions, such as RejectJS which I like a lot. So if you are like me and don't particulary enjoy attending these conferences or prefer to spend your free time with friends and family, just go and watch the talks on Youtube. Usually they are uploaded within a month after a conference.
It is always interesting, what is currently trending on Github. There is also Github explore which comes as a weekly newsletter that shows you the trending repos as well as what the people you follow starred this week.
Another favorite of mine are screencasts, as it really helps me to follow along with a video tutorial. I think it's a great way of learning to program and it keeps my motivation up.
- http://nodetuts.com (free) - great way to learn node.js from a seasoned expert.
- https://css-tricks.com/video-screencasts/ (free) - really good CSS and workflow tips.
- http://nsscreencast.com (paid) - This one is specific for native iOS development.
- https://sysadmincasts.com (free) - some great tips here for devops and server management.
Sometimes it's good just to listen to something that's not music. That's where a good podcast comes in handy. Although it might be problematic to concentrate on both a technical podcast and coding at the same time here are some recommendations:
If you want to feel like a 90s developer, try signing up for some mailing lists. Joke aside, there are still lots of people using mailing lists, also I don't find the format as accessible as others, in some cases it really helps (e.g. if you want to follow the latest discussions from ECMA-Script or Chromium development).
There are many resources we can use to stay up-to-date as developers. It is up to us how much information we can gather and consume while staying sane and focused. We definitely have to filter the content to some extent and it helps to keep things organized in mail folders, reading lists and rss feed readers. Nobody expects us to know everything, but it also helps trying to keep up with recent developments as good as possible and know where to dig deeper if we need to.