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The curse of staying up to date with new technology

Keeping up to date is a major part of the job of a software developer and why we love it. Most developers are curious and love to tinker, so learning a new technology pushes all the right buttons.

Still, trying to absorb all the news from your source of choice, be it Twitter, Reddit or Hacker News can be a curse in itself. You’ll learn about all the new cool tools from browsing those sites, but on the other hand, the sheer amount of information to handle adds stress and confusion to your life. Are you really keeping up? Can anyone keep up?

Nobody really keeps up with everything, even if we wish we had time to learn it all. New technologies are created as you sleep: you have to give up some things or you’ll burn out from the frustration and overwhelm.

Nobody will come to tear apart your programmer’s card because you took a break from all the hype. You can’t hope to be a specialist in every little thing. Choose a few areas you would like to focus on and don’t worry too much about the rest. Loving to learn and wanting to grow doesn’t mean that you must be at the mercy of every new fad.

If you focus on the soft skill that really matters, like understanding the needs of your user and communicating with your team, technology is an implementation detail. You’re the one in control of what you’re coding, not Hacker News. Take the time to think for yourself about what’s best for your project instead of worrying about what the world thinks.

Core technologies such as CSS or HTML move surprisingly slow if you compare them to the neck-breaking pace at which JavaScript frameworks and libraries comes out. If you focus on what stays the same and on mastering the basics, you won’t be as vulnerable to change. True experts are not the ones that hurry to follow the latest trends: they blaze their own path.

The technology you choose when you got started on your current project is good enough for a while. You’re allowed to complete a project without migrating a library every two week because a new version came out. You need to focus on what’s really important: making software that works.

When you’re ready to catch up again, the world will still be there, and there will always be new fascinating skills to learn.

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  1. I have found that there are a few ways to stay aware of what is changing without trying to always learn the new tech. In some cases, you can read a link aggregator or link blog (like mine). That allows you to limit how much you need to read. Or you can follow HN, but not read every article. This allows you to keep up with what is being talked about. You can see trends in the number of posts about a topic and that can lead you to have a better understanding of what might be useful.