Mark Needham

Thoughts on Software Development

Twitter as a learning tool

with 4 comments

About 8 or 9 months ago I remember having a conversation with a colleague where I asked him where he had got his almost encyclopedic knowledge of all things software development.

His reply at the time was that he read a lot of blogs and that this was where he had picked up a lot of the information.

While subscribing to different blogs remains a useful way of learning about different aspects of software development, I think Twitter is now becoming a very useful complementary tool to use alongside the RSS reader.

I originally thought of Twitter merely as an extension of Facebook status, but several bloggers, most noticeably Roy Osherove, have been using Twitter almost as a cutting floor for blog articles or upcoming books.

Several blog aggregations have also started posting updates onto Twitter including Los Techies, Elegant Code, Code Better and Planet TW, which I set up at the end of last week. While this doesn’t remove the need for subscribing to the feed it provides a constant stream of blogs to read rather than the batch reading process I tend to use when reading posts from Google Reader.

Following software development authors is another way to keep in touch with what the best in the field are working Jurgen Appelo has removed the need to find them all by creating a top 50 list of software development Tweeters. This use of Twitter is also encouraged in the upcoming book Apprenticeship Patterns.

Since I started using Twitter I have come across quite a lot of interesting content that I may not have come across otherwise:

  • Frequent conversations about REST and DDD between serialseb and colinjack. I’ve not used REST as much as these guys have but it’s interesting to follow the conversation and it provides a potential future reference if and when I do work in this area.
  • Jeremy Miller explaining the ‘one in one out’ part of his Thunderdome approach to using ASP.NET MVC which I did not quite understand from reading his blog
  • A link to a post about natural talent by Guy Kawasaki – I find theories of learning intriguing so it was interesting to read an angle on the subject which talked about how being good at something might actually work against you.
  • Learning about Malcolm Gladwell’s new book Outliers from following Steven ‘Doc’ List and Jason Yip’s Twitter feeds. I probably would have come across this eventually but the process was shortened thanks to Twitter.

There has been some discussion on the Alt.NET mailing list with regards to whether Twitter is killing its use. I haven’t followed it for long enough to say whether that’s the case but one of the more valid cases against Twitter is that it is hard to follow message trails after the event – you tend to need to be there at the time the discussion is happening to get the most value from it.

Trying to find the right balance of noise to signal ratio is also something that has to be managed but overall I think Twitter is a useful platform for learning and getting to know what is happening in the rest of the software development universe.

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Written by Mark Needham

December 7th, 2008 at 10:30 pm