How to Stay Up-to-Date in The Software Industry in 4 Easy Steps

stay up-to-date in the software industsry

Hey mate, I guess you often ask yourself:

How to stay up-to-date to the latest technologies and news in the software industry ?”

I know: Being a software developer is not easy.

You try to read your field blogs:

you never have time or, worse yet,
you waste too much time!

Well, you won’t have this problem anymore, because
I’ll explain you how to be up-to-date in the smart way.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

Your Resources should not be wasted

 

Your most valuable personal assets are:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Energy
  • Attention

When you find yourself surfing the web without limits nor rules, and reading the blogs for hours, you waste all of your resources.

 

time-money

 

Nobody will give you back the 2 hours just wasted reading articles that will not give you any benefit in your job.

During the years I developed my personal way to reduce the reading time in front of computer, taking advantage of my dead time to consume my readings.

Let’s see this method.

A box to rule them all

You need a news aggregator as your information base, where you’ll put in all the RSS feeds of your favourite blogs and portals of informations.

The idea is to have just one place where you place all inside, just like a very big box.

Based on my experience I suggest you to use Feedly.

Everything in its place

Before to start, you need to organize your information, so you have to create a structure in which insert your RSS feeds.

This is my RSS feeds structure:

  • Techical Blogs
    • Flow of many articles and industry news
    • Blogs with a few articles, but worth your reading
    • Blogs publishing a filtered list of top quality articles (Very good: someone else’s doing the dirty work for you!)
  • Blogs about your passions
  • News Blogs

 

Feedly Folders

In this way I organize my information sources by type, and my attention will fit it:

I’ll give less attention to a very long articles flow,

and I will look with more interest a blog that publishes information to a lower frequency, but with high-quality content.

Feedly Attention Flow

 

Actions:

  • Open your text editor and take 10’ to write a list of all your blogs you read.
  • Create the structure (you can use exactly my structure or you can change it)
  • Insert your blogs into the folders of the structure

The Process to Stay Up-to-date in The Software Industry

The most important thing is to have a system, and to know the rules by which it works.

This is my personal system, which is not THE definitive one!

Everyone should have his/her own method.

if you don’t have it, you can start with mine, and customize it during the time.

 

The method consists of 4 steps:

  1. Scanning and picking It’s the moment when you read all the post titles and you choose which one to read later
  2. Articles tagging you assign a label to each picked article, to organize your information flow automatically
  3. Reading It’s the stage when you actually consume the content of the selected articles.
  4. Review cleaning time (yeah, in the digital world too!)

 

infographic

 

In the next sections will see how to perfom each step.

The common mistake is to stay too much in front of the monitor,

passively absorb the articles flow and try to read everything.

The result?

2 hours passed away and you didn’t gain any benefit from it.

 

go-hunting-for-gold-nuggetsdo-not-waste-time-with-trinkets

 

The secret is to use the tools in the right way.

Use Feedly as a sieve for gold nuggets.

The gold nuggets are the articles having great content (useful for you) that deserve your time investment to stay up-to-date in the software industry.

Go hunting for gold nuggets,

do not waste time with trinkets.

 

Step 1 – Scanning and picking

The 1st step is to have a strategy to use Feedly in the effectively way.

The process must last a few minutes.

 

Decide the frequency to check your feeds:

I check them once a day, every morning, before going to work.

 

Before to start, make sure your posts are visualized as Magazine or as Title Only

(anyway feel free to try an other visualization type if you feel better with that).

 

Feedly as Magazine

 

SCANNING & PICKING STAGE

This is the algorithm:

  1. For each Feedly folder (skipping the first folder, called “All”)
    • take a quick look at the post titles
      • for each post title, ask yourself: “I’ll put this content in any way in practice in the short term?”
        • If the answer is “yes”, open the blog post on a new tab of your browser
        • Else just ignore it
      • Keep on with the next article title.
    • Keep on with the next Feedly folder
  2. In the end, after you checked all the folders, click on the “All” Feedly folder, and click on the check mark on the upper right (mark as read)

Here is the flowchart:

flowchart-feedly-processing

Now on your browser you’ll have a few of articles (for example, you have 10 articles).

Your goal is to reduce further the number of blog posts (for example, 5 articles).

articles-action-plan

Go on each post, take a quick look to the content and if it’s

  • useful for you
  • something to put in practice on your daily job, or your side project
  • a great piece of content

and long to read ( I mean it would take more than 2 minutes to read its whole content)

then you’ll save it into Pocket (I’ll explain into the next section what is it and what to do – for the moment leave your post there on the browser).

If this article is very short and easy to read in just 2 minutes, read it and close it when you finish to read it.

This is the case of general news or the news of your industry. Well, just read them to be up-to-date and go on.

If the article is not useful, or it’s too much theoretical,  just close it and forget it forever 🙂

Remember, the goal here is to thin out the number of articles you opened from Feedly, and finish the best selection of them, to put into a box, called Pocket.

Step 2- Articles Tagging

The tool to use for the 2nd step is Pocket.

Pocket

Pocket is a web application that helps people to save interesting articles to read it later (that’s the original name 🙂

getpocket

Pocket lets you save videos and images too, but for this blog post purposes we’ll only deal of articles.

When you save content into Pocket, it is available on any device – phone, tablet or computer. You can consult it whenever, specially during your dead time (while you’re in the queue at the postal office, at the grocery, on tram, subway, etc), and even when you’re offline.

In a nutshell, Pocket is your personal assistant for managing your reading list, stress-free.

In this way you do the magic:

 you can separate the articles picking process, from reading these ones.

How it works

I use the Chrome extension for Pocket called “Save to Pocket” (if you use an other browser, you’ll find the relative extension for Pocket), and whenever I want to save an interesting article to read it later, I click on this extension and I type in a tag to associate to the article, to easily access to all the posts with this kind of topic

 

Pocket Plugin for Chrome

 

Pro Tip:

If you follow technical blog, for example, about .NET,

you’ll probably are interested about both very techical articles (C# code tutorials) and soft articles.

To better organize my material, I use “asp.net – technical” tag for posts where there is code and “asp.net – easy reading” tag for the easier ones.

Structure

While you save an article on your browser, you can specify which tag associate to it.

You can define the tags structure before to start to use Pocket, or while the using.

Anyway, this is my structure you can start with:

Pocket Tag

 

Pro Tip:

You can save an article via a shortcut on your browser.

For example, using Chrome:

Right click on the Chrome extension icon of Pocket > Options > customize your shortcut.

Mine is ALT + P.

When I want to save an article I press ALT + P,

I press TAB and type the tag I associate to it.

Step 3 – Reading

Using the client app for Pocket you can consume your articles everywhere you go, and on every device.

  • Open the Pocket app (I use an unofficial app on Windows Phone, called “Poki for Pocket”, but you can find the official one for Pocket on iOS and Android)
  • refresh it to download all articles you saved before
  • you can finally choose an article to read by category (tags) or accessing to the most recent added items.

poki

You can sort the articles by time added or by reading time (useful if you want consume the shortest contents before).

You can even extract a flow of articles by tag:

for example, when I want to read all the contents I added with the tag “Asp.net – easy reading”,

I go on the Pocket app, I go on the “tags + search” menu, and I select the “Asp.net – easy reading” tag to get all the desired posts.

When you finish to read the article, you’ll mark it as archived or deleted.

 

Pro Tip:

you can speed up your reading skimming the titles or speed reading.

Step 4 – Review

You should do a recurring review of your personal information tools (such as you do with your car, personal computer, and everything). A very interesting blog could be born at any moment, and at the time the quality of articles content of another blog could get worse, or stop to publish.

The web isn’t a static stuff. Luckily 🙂

Cut out the deadwood

feedly_review

Every two weeks, or every month (better), scan all the Feedly folders, to check the following metrics:

  • publication frequency
    • There are dead blogs, that don’t publish for weeks?
    • There are blogs that are publishing too much, and you can’t follow them anymore?
  • Content Quality
    • Any blog whose content quality got worse?
    • Any blog whose contents are a copy of another?

Well, place these blogs into a “sandbox out” folder, that you’ll check during the next review, and whether the pubblication and content quality metrics of these blog will get better, you’ll keep them, else you’ll delete them.

 

sandbox-out

 

You could clean your Pocket too: I occasionally review the articles saved on Pocket, and for each of them I ask myself if I will ever put into practice that article. When the answer is no, I’ll delete that item.

 

Pro Tip:

Important productivity experts talked about the practice of recurring reviews,

Add new blogs on Feedly

Did you discover new blogs? Very well, put them into a “sandbox in” folder, so during the next review, you’ll check their metrics (pubblication frequency and content quality) and you’ll decide whether they’ll worth your time and your care.

sandbox-in

Conclusion

The strategy I showed you to stay up-to-date with the software industry optimize all your personal resources:

  • Time

each step of the process has the aim to filter the most important articles and that have a real impact after reading them. So you invest your time reading valuable content

  • Money
    • no money involved doing this activity, but you know: time is money
  • Energy
    • scanning and picking process will take a few minutes, and as a result, the least energy possible
  • Attention
    • asking yourself if you’ll apply the contents of each article before you read it, you will avoid wasting time and attention to something that will not get you any advantage.

What is your strategy to read blogs effectively?

Published by

Agostino Giglio

.Net Developer , pianist, youtuber and blogger.

My goal is to share ideas and thoughts on everything turning around the .NET developer profession.