On keeping up in tech, overload

Keeping up to date in tech takes effort. The world changes quickly. In an industry that is deeply set on reinvention and innovation; there's a great flood of new languages, frameworks, libraries, and businesses helping fuel the next wave.

There's a powerful loop that runs within the tech. We sit in a culture of reinvention where tech is often shared openly, with generous free tiers, or affordable pay-as-you-go pricing. This means that you - someone working in a company that makes money with code - can leverage millions of human-hours' of work while barely lifting a finger.

I believe it's important to be conscious about where you get your information from. There's two equally nasty extremes to choose from: ignoring new information can slow you down. Not understanding the ecosystem, patterns, and changes means you miss information or reinvent the wheel. It'll also make it harder to hire smart people who want to work with best-in-class tech. Not being careful exposes one to too much information; by lowering yourself into the flood too far, you risk information-overload — reading a lot, but not retaining anything.

Your goal here is to expose yourself to enough information to be competitive and keep in the loop, but not too much where you're not absorbing what you're consuming.

You need to figure out what you're really interested in, leave the other stuff.

If you're not able to set limits here, you're going to be underwater. You won't be able to keep up. You're perfectly welcome to change your mind down the track, but if you don't narrow your focus, no other steps here make sense.

Find the highest quality sources of information.

Do research. Look for aggregators, blogs, newsletters, Twitter accounts that consistently put out high quality content. Look for dense, accurate, and well-thought-out information. Avoid tools like Reddit or Hacker News - these can be high quality, but they update far too often.

This is not a static target. Quality shifts up and down over time. Your interests change. You learn more. Some sources will begin posting similar content. This should be something you re-evaluate as time passes.

Once you have a great quality source, is each piece of content worth it?

Skim the content before you start chewing on it. Does it make sense? Do you know this? Is it relevant right now?

You need to be hard here. Most content is not worth reading well. You may understand the content with a brief glance, or not need to consume it at all.

Retain the information

This is important. If you're consuming a lot of information, it's easy to let this slip. It defeats the whole purpose of consuming this content in the first place.

My advice, like with many things: write it down. When I finish reading content, I note down the key points that i'm interested in. This is usually 3 sentences of information, and serves as a useful bookmark.

You can still read for pure enjoyment

I write this from a tough place. Keeping up with all of the happenings in the tech world takes a lot of time, and adds stress when things fall between the cracks.

Despite the above: you should still read some things for pure enjoyment. That's OK. What I want to make sure is that you are able to keep up to date with as little effort as possible. Once you're up to date, you'll have more time and clear mental space to focus on building.

© daniel everts, 2021