As someone with a long commute I find Podcasts a great way of keeping up to date with technology (as well as other things) and it helps me feel that my commute time is not wasted. Over the years I think I have benefited from this approach as its increased my level of general knowledge and helped me keep up to date with the latest developments in the industry.
Over the last ten years I have occasionally posted my top podcast picks and here are the links to my previous posts in 2010, 2012 and 2016.
Below is a list of my current podcast recommendations for technical and non-technical subjects.
Something that’s proving popular on Medium these days are “development roadmaps” that outline a roadmap approach to choosing techniques and technologies for certain technical domains (for example Web development or Dev Ops). Some of these are particularly powerful for putting the many bewildering technologies all on one page with logical grouping and a visual representation of how they interact. Modern web development has seen so much change over recent times that it is very easy to get lost and become overwhelmed and these roadmaps can help clear the fog (a little).
I have shared this with several people who have also found it useful regardless of their level of expertise. The front end roadmap is a great guide to what the community are currently settling on as the standard choices for tooling and techniques. I have checked back to the roadmap a few times over the last 6 months to verify my approach when starting on a new project and I find that visualising the options makes decision making easier.
There are also Backend and DevOps Roadmaps included which are equally as useful.
Having recently had to compile a list of useful learning resources for a development team migrating to git, I thought I would share them here.
Git is a very powerful and versatile distributed source control system but its not the easiest for a newbie to get their head around. The below links are ordered from tutorials based on giving an overview of git through to more advanced topics.
I like to make the most of my two hour commute and see this time as study time and an opportunity to learn new stuff. Every few years I list my current podcast picks on this blog, so here are my current list of regular podcasts, and this year the subjects are more varied than before to include a new found interest in Photography and Finance.
There are a lot of free ebooks covering technical subjects, and there are a lot of ebooks that have excellent content however finding some with both attributes can be hard. Syncfusion have a collection of really good technical overview books that cover different subjects ‘succinctly’.
I’m keen on fostering a learning culture within teams and was drawn to this article on InfoQ “Creating a Culture of Learning and Innovation by Jeff Plummer” which shows what can be achieved through community learning. In the article Jeff outlines how a learning culture was developed within his organisation using simple yet effective crowd sourcing methods.
I have implemented a community learning approach on a smaller scale using informal Lunch & Learns where dev’s give up their lunch break routine to eat their lunch together whilst learning something new, with the presenter\teacher being one of the team who has volunteered to share their knowledge on a particular subject. Sometimes the presenter will already have the knowledge they are sharing but other times they have volunteered to go and learn a subject first and then present it back to the group. Lunch & Learns work even better if you can convince your company to buy the lunch (it’s much cheaper per head than most other training options).
It’s hard to justify expensive training courses these days but that said it’s also never been easier to find free or low cost training by looking online. As Jeff points out innovation often comes from learning subjects not directly relevant to your day job. In my approach to learning with team I have always tried to mix specific job relevant subjects with seemingly less relevant ones. For example a session on Node.js for a team of .Net developers would be hard to justify in monetary terms however I’ve no doubt the developers took away important points around new web paradigms, non-blocking threads, web server models, and much more. Developers like to learn something new and innovation often comes from taking ideas that already exist elsewhere in a different domain and applying them to the current problem.
I agree with Jeff’s point that the champions are key to the success of this initiative. It is likely that the first few subjects will be taught by the champion(s) and they will need to promote the process to others. One tip to take some of the load off the champions is to mix in video sessions as well as presenter based learning sessions. There are a lot of excellent conference session videos and these can make a good Lunch & Learn sessions. Once the momentum builds it becomes the norm for everyone to be involved and this crucially triggers a general sense of learning and of sharing that learning experience with others.
Microsoft unfortunately recently announced the demise of the TechNet Subscription. Whilst I appreciate that TechNet download abuse must contribute towards the availability of pirated products, I still think that this is a short sighted move by Microsoft. The MSDN subscription will continue (for now) and anyone making money from privacy will be able to cover the extra cost of an MSDN subscription. Few individuals, however, are able to afford an MSDN subscription to feed their enthusiasm for Microsoft products. Nor would they want to with attractive alternatives being available from other vendors.
My concern is that the barrier to entry for being a Microsoft Technology IT Pro and Developer was just raised significantly. In my 2009 post on Microsoft making it too expensive for developers to experiment with Azure, I outlined how critical it is to make your products available to both current and future upcoming developers. Microsoft responded over the last few years by offering free Azure websites, reducing prices and offering improved MSDN offers. This has reduced the barrier to entry for Azure for developers, but Microsoft has now raised it for IT Pros and the enthusiast market.
According to Microsoft, evaluation versions of OSs will be available for download. I think that 90-180 day trials are very valuable but historically they have only been available for the latest products. Great if you want to try out Windows Server 2012 but not if you need to experiment with Windows Server 2008, which is a major flaw to this approach. Also short trial periods such as those found with client OSs are a real frustration. Virtual Labs are excellent for targeted training of specific features but are not a replacement for the real world experience of running a real instance.
But surely it’s all running in the cloud now anyway? Well perhaps in the future the idea of running servers locally will be a strange concept but we are a way yet from that being the norm. The Enterprise IT Pros and Developers of today and more importantly the near future will need to be skilled in running servers locally for some time to come. Running virtual servers in the cloud might be an option for some and may be the future but it’s expensive to do this currently and techies will not be exposed to those server maintenance activities that are abstracted away by cloud providers.
There is a large home server enthusiast community that will rely on TechNet to evaluate and run Windows Server products. This is a vibrant, active community and one that happily shares detailed technical knowledge with the wider world and feeds the Microsoft Technology communities. With the death of Windows Home Server, and now TechNet, these enthusiasts will now start to look for alternatives. There are by comparison plenty of non-Windows choices in this space (Linux/BSD).
The cost of a TechNet subscription seems to have dropped to a bargain price over the last few years, perhaps too low, and Microsoft could have gradually increased the price over the next few years to make it less attractive to those looking to avoid buying retail versions and yet continue as a mechanism for Microsoft enthusiastic techies to access Microsoft Operating Systems.
In summary I think that Microsoft have needlessly raised the barrier to entry for experimenting and learning Microsoft Technologies and makes alternative platforms more attractive. This move will in the long run surely push enthusiasts and young upcoming techies into the arms of Linux/BSD.
I previously blogged how I value podcasts as I find them an excellent way to maximise the use of my daily commute time. I thought I’d provide an updated list of the technology related podcasts I subscribe to:
"…there are two different developer communities out there that I deal with. In the past, I’ve referred to these groups as the "inside the firewall crowd" and the "outside the firewall crowd." The inquiries I have with the first group are fairly conventional — they segment as .NET or Java development shops, they use app servers and RDBMSes, and they worry about security and governance. Inquiries with the second group are very different — these developers are multilingual, hold very few alliances to vendors, tend to be younger, and embrace open source and open communities as a way to get almost everything done. The first group thinks web services are done with SOAP; the second does them with REST and JSON. The first group thinks MVC, the second thinks "pipes and filters" and eventing."
Following the tech industry it is clear to me that this division is tangible and in fact I would suggest the gap is currently increasing. I recently started to revisit my open web development skills after it occurred to me how large this divide was beginning to get and how important these skills will be key in the future. Whilst the Enterprise developer often traditionally focuses deeply on a handful of technologies (too often from one Vendor) the Open Web developer is constantly learning new languages and choosing between best of breed open source frameworks to get the job done. The new Open Web developer has evolved from a different age and with different perspectives and in many ways leaving behind the rules/constraints of the Enterprise developer building typical Line Of Business (LOB) applications. I’m not suggesting that Enterprise developers don’t understand these technologies already, I assume many do, but they’re unlikely to be living and breathing them. This is not just about web development technologies and techniques, but more about mind-sets, architectural styles and patterns. Perhaps it can be viewed historically as similar to the evolution from mainframes to distributed computing, and this is just the next evolution. This movement compliments the emergence of cloud computing and one can assume that the social, dynamic LOB applications of tomorrow will rely heavily on the skills and technologies of the Open Web community. To quote Jeffrey again:
"In the next few years, their world is headed straight to an IT shop near you."