Wednesday, December 8, 2010

staying current

For the last few years I've been on a quest to find out what other Agile/Lean practitioners are doing, saying, and thinking about, so I can learn more myself--and to do so I've accumulated quite a daily reading list: I'm on 15+ mailing lists, 23 blog feeds, and follow 30 people on twitter, not to mention the books I read. I really try to minimize this reading list, but I also have this unquenchable thirst to find something I've missed--something that will help me work smarter, to improve, to do better. I've often said that as a professional and practitioner, it's my job to study outside of the workplace--to learn about how other people are solving similar problems in different contexts. I think that all this reading gives me a lot of ideas in the workplace of how to approach problems, so I keep reading more.

Yet reading isn't enough. I need feedback--I need to hear how others perceive my words, and to see how they respond. So I also write, here and on twitter, but primarily on mailing lists. I post whenever I have an opinion that hasn't already been stated by someone else on the list. This helps me learn when other people argue in favor of or against what I've written. Here are my favorite mailing lists:

Extreme Programming (LinkedIn)
Agile (LinkedIn)
Agile Alliance (LinkedIn)
Agile CMMI (LinkedIn)
Agile Philly (LinkedIn)
Agile Tour (LinkedIn)


Other Regional:

Writing isn't enough either. I need face-to-face, peer interactions. So I go to user group meetings and conferences whenever they're local, and a few that are remote, as often as possible. This always poses work/life balance problems for me--I'd love to go to even more events--but I also really enjoy time at home with my kids... Still, these face-to-face events are a great way for me to talk about work outside of work, to get other people's opinions on how I might apply my learnings more directly, and to practice my skills in a 'sandbox'.

User groups/conferences aren't enough either. I need a place to apply my craft on a daily basis. I need an environment where I can apply all these ideas I'm absorbing, then to watch to see how the seeds I planted will grow. I've been very particular over the years about what kind of environment I'll work in--and it's given me a good base to practice and learn even more.

What are you doing to stay current? Do you have ways to stay current that I've missed?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

mavens and The Tipping Point

There's a great quote from Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point that just has my mind reeling. I can only paraphrase it right now: in an age of information overload, we rely on word of mouth to deal with complexity. The word of mouth we rely on, this primitive communication, all comes from specialists in our network. These specialists, who Gladwell calls mavens, can provide the best kind of product referrals, distilled information, and advice because they're simply obsessed with data in one or more niches. He says that it's a certain kind of person--but I'm inclined to believe we're all vessels of trivia in some category or another. This becomes important when we think about how to promote learning / competency / agile skills / decision making / etc. If we could use a networking tool and nominate our friends as mavens on one category or another, we might benefit better from our networks... is there something that already does this?