The importance of surveillance
for people who work on the interwebs…
Beg your pardon?
When I first started working on the interwebs, a whole 5 years ago I still used an iPod, had a phone that could do little more than call and send text messages (it did have a calculator…) and watched TV on a huge black cube that weighed more than 1 tonne.
Does that seem like a long time ago? If you remotely like techy stuff, it should seem like an eternity.
I know it’s a cliché, but the internet really is a fast moving entity, if you don’t look around you, you WILL get left behind.
I don’t have time
Fair enough, not everybody does have the luxury of having enough time. As the old (and annoying) saying goes, you need to make time. Well, to be more precise, you need to optimise the time you spend. The advantage of smart phones is that you can surf the net when and where you want. In the metro, in a lift, waiting in a queue, on the toilet, you can read stuff EVERYWHERE. Instead of doing what most of us do (me included), look at a mind numbingly boring Facebook wall, check out what the hip kids are doing with the latest tech.
What should I?
I have to admit, when I first started, I only occasionally looked at new stuff and new techniques. My excuse at the time was that my agency still supported IE6, so why waste time doing fancy CSS stuff (p + p / nth-child / etc).
Thankfully I woke up one morning and decided it was in the best interests of everyone to stop doing this, and to push forward. We stopped all this IE6 nonsense (and IE7 soon after) and haven’t looked back since. My job is more interesting and as long as you check on the level of support for your new wonderous technique and are able to, if needed, use a fallback, it’s all for the better.
Ok, good point, where should I look?
Well to be completely honest, everywhere. You should start with googling your subject of predilection. An RSS reader is an excellent tool to have. I was a regular user of Google Reader (R.I.P.) and mourned its death for months before finding a new kid who has since gone on to do great things. Feedly. I have pinned a tab in Chrome for Feedly and also have it on my phone (I don’t have a tablet…). It’s a great way to centralize your research.
The next problem is how to feed your new feedly account. Well, allow me to make a couple of suggestions, based on my own account.
All things web
The first two are, by far, my favourites. Smashing magazine is a fountain of knowledge for everything web. Awwwards is an amazing place to look for inspiration, to find new techniques, to try and recreate cool stuff and also to try and understand why that new website is sooooo cool.
Code / Tutorials / Inspiration
These three little beauties have helped me along the way more than once. CSS Tricks is an amazing place to look when struggling to get something done or trying to learn about that new fangled technique that everyone’s been talking about. I discovered scotch.io a while ago, and love what these guys post. I recently spent a little time reading their great tutorial on angularjs, which I can fully reccommend. Codrops is simply brilliant. I have learned countless techniques from these guys, and have found inspiration when trying to find how to pimp that contact form or that nav element.
All work and no play makes Neil a dull boy. An important part of working on t’internet is knowing your memes, and having a bit of a laugh. These 4 sites will fulfill that mission easily.
Where do you stock all that shiny new info?
Good question. I don’t really have an answer to that one. At the agency, we use Yammer, which is kind of like a closed off facebook for you and your colleagues. Everytime we find something cool, we post it on Yammer using tags, to make finding it again a little easier. But it’s not perfect, it means using yet another service and so not everyone plays the game, and certainly after a while, most people have stopped using it.
Optimize your time, look in the right places, learn stuff, share it, save it and more importantly try and use it if you can, because stuff that is not supported across browsers today will be tomorrow.