Thursday, March 27, 2008

Keep your ear to the ground

I've been asked over the years, how do I know stuff about things (could I be any more vague). My usual answer is "I dunno". With regard to development and testing, I was asked this question last week, so I pondered it and thought to myself "maybe because I keep my ear to the ground". If you're wondering how to keep your ear to the ground, I can give some general ideas.

Read, read, read. But what to read, that depends. I'm not saying for you to start surfing around, but to be more discriminating on how to do it. For example, I keep my ear to the ground by getting my daily dose of what's going on via RSS feeds. If you don't know what RSS is, I highly suggest finding out; its a quick way to aggregate your news/blogs/sites into one neat package. How do you read RSS feeds, well with Google reader of course! This is my RSS list for testing & development related things. Its huge source of inspiration and education and on a daily basis I have about 12 articles to skim through. Since I'm not surfing and only getting the latest materials related to those sites.

Talk to people:
I recently needed some advice that I couldn't get from any internal sources, so I went to a group discussion and met a few people there. Its easy - I went up to the person giving the presentation after the talk and said "Great job, I especially liked....". Being shy is not an excuse for me and what's the worse that can happen? They say "thanks" and the conversation ends. Or, you might spark an interesting discussion. Anyway, meet people who do things like you do.

Blogs are a great source of information because they tend to be from practitioners that do the work and share the experiences. I have found the more I give, the more I get, so my blog here is meant to give as much information as I can. Who knows where that might lead. For me, I have a source set of blogs I started with, specifically from Kent Beck (Agile), Sticky Minds (Testing) and In fact, today's Testing Reflections comments on how people can get information. I'm in the same boat with getting daily information. Blogs in general give you information about the latest on what's going on in the field.

Create your own list. I wanted to do a blogroll here, but I think everyone needs to figure out their own niche. Again, its all about context. I'm trying to learn more about context-driven testing, so my list has a heavy helping of that along with all the TDD stuff I am used to doing. I don't have a lot of "automation" blogs because I found most are woefully unaware of the huge spectrum of testing there is out there. Maybe that's my new niche. :-)

There are lots of resources out there... but its hard to figure out what ones work. So much out there, but which one do you choose. I'm leaving this for future posts since I have a few books I have read and done some reviews for. Books are always a great investment, I have PDF books, but having something that you can flip to, have notes attached, and bent pages can't be emulated with a PDF.