I was washing my hands the other day and waved my hands to summon the soap-dispensing spirits to aid me in my quest for hygiene. This is a ridiculous description of a mundane situation, but if you’ve read science fiction, you are likely familiar with one of Arthur C. Clarke’s laws, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Thankfully, my familiarity with modern technology gives me enough insight to know that I do not need to dabble with the arcane to activate a hands-free dispenser; I only need to get close enough to trigger the sensor. But as simple as this example is, today’s technology is advancing so rapidly in capability and complexity that it can feel like a Herculean task just to keep up. Coming across a slew of technical jargon might be intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Outside of hiring an 18 year-old intern to give you daily reports of what is trending on Twitter, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty. Don’t be scared, though! Here are some tools and tips to dispel the magic of the ever-changing technical landscape:
- News Aggregators – Something as simple as browsing the Technology section on your favorite news aggregator (Google, Bing, Yahoo!, or Slashdot for advanced users) can provide you a comprehensive overview of topics both familiar and new. Additionally, the different news sources deliver various degrees of technical complexity, so if you see something that catches your eye, drill down to get more info.
- Tech Publications – Dedicated publications offer more insight into topics than a generic news feed, so look to the experts to discuss topics in greater detail. Your mileage may vary, but you can get started with Ars Technica, Infoworld, or Computerworld. If it feels like information overload, consider subscribing to their RSS feeds or following them on twitter instead of visiting the main web page.
- Skip Around – There is a lot of information out there, and it can be overwhelming sometimes. Don’t waste your time if you aren’t going to fully understand a brand-new concept in a single pass. Feel free to jump to a new topic, skim through a particularly weighty article, or skip any other topics you want.
- Look it up! – If you run across a term you haven’t heard before, or rely on a vague definition, look it up! Wikipedia is a great resource and integrated in many browsers’ search bars. SHORT CUT – If you type “Wiki” in the address bar, Chrome will prompt you to hit <Tab>, and it will switch the search to Wikipedia, so you can just type in what you’re searching for directly.
Hopefully these suggestions will help to pull back the curtain on some of the mysteries of unfamiliar tech concepts. You don’t need to invest countless hours researching these topics to stay on top of things, but if you commit an hour a week – you will improve your high-level view of complicated subjects.
Even if you don’t grasp the intricacies of a cloud-based service bus that handles secure B2B web requests, tackle it in bite-sized chunks. Spend some time learning about cloud computing. What’s a service bus? With a little diligence, you’ll soon have a better grasp on the underlying technologies and will be able to piece them together into something that makes a lot more sense. We all started somewhere, and it’s never been easier to discover new things and learn more about them.
Good luck on your journey!