My newsreader currently contains 60 feeds from blogs and news sites that cover programming and technology. There are some weeks where I refresh these feeds several times a day, combing through them carefully. And there are periods when I ignore them completely because I’m occupied with other things in life.
I’ve discovered a pattern. When I scour the feeds frequently, the information I learn doesn’t tend to help me all that much with my work or non-work projects. Once in a while I will learn about a useful library, or some programming language feature I didn’t know about before. But mostly, what happens is that I end up feeling anxious, like I am not productive enough. Just as Facebook connects us all while making us lonelier, discussions about coding on the Interwebs make me a bit smarter while also paralyzing me to the point of not being able to use that knowledge.
For all that I complain about technology (and I complain a lot), I do love coding. Becoming a more seasoned (I do not say “good”) programmer, for me, means learning the different ways of thinking embedded in various languages and tools: that is, understanding what makes something powerful and expressive, and what, in that same thing, makes it limiting. You create worlds when you write code, and these are fun and interesting to inhabit, to understand, to make grow.
Reading blogs and news sites usually doesn’t make love coding more, but less. Egomaniacal jerks abound. There is so much fluff in the latest trends. Even halfway decent web content is usually driven by shameless self-promotion. Github, as revolutionary as it is, sometimes feels like the Facebook of coding culture, a way to show off rather than genuinely collaborate. And don’t even get me started on ridiculous sites like Hacker News, where Silicon Valley is the promised land and every founder of a silly startup is Jesus. (Although if we could crucify them…)
All of this fuels a culture where people focus on one-upping one another, where the pace of change is so fast you are always playing catch up, where hyper-productivity overshadows questions about what that productivity is for…
These days I skim my tech feeds no more than once a week. My time is just better spent in other ways, like actually solving problems in the code I’m working on, instead of reading about the trendiest or most marketable ways to do it. There’s good knowledge out there, but it’s far and few between, and everything else damages rather than nurtures The Love.