My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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Through the last forty-plus weeks, we've explored looking at yourself as a product and service, different ways of positioning yourself in the programming market, ways to invest in yourself, how to execute decisions to be a better programmer, and several options you have for marketing yourself, guided by Chad Fowler's excellent book, My Job Went To India.

Today we'll start looking at the "Maintaining Your Edge" section of the book.

Chad starts off by explaining what can happen if you get too comfortable: Tiffany.

Some Tiffany Engagement Rings

Not that Tiffany, this one:

Do you remember a pop star named Tiffany (no last name) from the 1980s? She was in the top of the top forty, and a constant sound on the radio back then. She enjoyed immense success, becoming for a short time a household name.
Apparently, if she tried, she didn't move fast enough to hold the affection -- or even the attention -- of her fans. When the tastes of the nation turned from bubble gum to grunge, Tiffany suddenly became obsolete.
(However, she's been making headway in changing that, as Chad notes in the book.)

The point remains: you need to stay sharp. You cannot sit back and become complacent. Doing so in this industry can cause you to become extinct. And you'll probably be less famous than Tiffany or the Dodo. However, Didus ineptus may end up describing you well.

One thing you can do to stay sharp is recognize that, relative to information growth, your knowledge and skill levels are deteriorating rapidly. The consequences of what Gordon Moore observed in 1965 is that new possibilities for computation arise at an astounding rate.

Graph showing the observations behind Moore's Law, in log scale.

That graph looks linear, so what's the big deal? Look at the left - it's logarithmic scale. That graph really looks like this:

Graph showing the observations behind Moore's Law, not in log scale.

That slope is so high it's almost negative.

You can't keep up with everything - but you can't afford to be late to the party when it comes to new trends in development either. If you were a desktop application programmer in 1992 and didn't look up until 2002, you'd probably say a few WTFs, and then start drowing in all the information you'd need to get started programming web applications. There's a lot to learn in new paradigms.

So you need to anticipate changes. You might not be able to jump the gun on the next big thing, but at worst you'll have augmented your arsenal, and you can stay close to other trends as well. Reading blogs and staying current in news and even journals can help you find new, up and coming developments. Thinking about how things will change and backing your hypotheses up with evidence from the literature can be a worthwhile activity in that regard.
Looking ahead and being explicit about your skill development can mean the difference between being blind or being visionary.
Know that you'll be obsolete. Don't accept obsolescence.

How do you deal with the pressure to stay current? What new things are you learning?

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