Help Me Out: How Do You Keep Up with Tech?

Fire HoseIt’s been 25 years since I ventured into the world of computers and technology, and let me tell you… I’m exhausted. How can I claim to be an “expert” about anything when everything is changing all the time? How do any of us keep up?

I had my latest emotional crisis upon the launch of the beta of Google+ last week.

Google what? I’ve spent years trying to keep up with Google’s innovations. Mail, Buzz, Docs, Apps, you name it. And now they have a social network that’s supposedly “better” than Facebook? I still don’t fully understand the power of Facebook, and I’ve never quite mastered Twitter either for personal or professional use. Maybe I should try it on the iPad, but HP’s new tablet just came out, so I should evaluate that as well as I ponder the latest stats on competing mobile operating systems and experiment with new Android features and study HTML5 and future cloud-based deployments of enterprise social networks for business use.

You may feel the same pressure, with the added prospect of having to explain all this stuff to your boss and recommend purchases and deployments in time for next year’s budgeting process.

We need to help each other out here. What are your “best practices” for keeping up with your area of expertise and with the wider world of technology? Do you have RSS feeds from your favorite online sources of information? Do you read trade journals? Do you depend on co-workers to keep you up to speed? Do you attend conferences? Do you read books? (Does anyone read books anymore?) Do you have the time and/or desire to experiment on your own time? Do you build your career around certifications and all the study and testing that go with them?

I’ve seen plenty of IT gurus over the years and I’ve always been impressed with how easily they seem to keep up with environments that are rapidly changing, and with hardware and software product launches that seem to come along almost weekly. Heck, I can’t even keep up with updates to Internet Explorer and  iTunes, let alone multiple versions of multiple operating systems for multiple types of devices. I’m sure there are plenty of Oracle experts out there who have mastered version 11 after spending a couple of decades mastering versions 1 through 10.

On and on it goes. I think I’ve got a handle on development for Windows 7, and now you want to show me the first previews of Windows 8 and ask me to start over? Let me clear a little time on my schedule.

I can’t be the only one who sometimes feels overwhelmed by the pace of technological innovation. Either you’ve conquered it, or you’re dying to know how. Could some of you in the first group advise those of us in the second about how we can be as cool, calm and collected as you are?

My guess is that the answer has something to do with prioritization, learning how to shut out all the background noise and focus in on the information that really matters. The trouble is that the world is noisier than ever, and even when sites like, say, Dice, try to help with tightly focused summaries of what matters most, you’re still going to feel like you’re in front of a fire hose. (We have to acknowledge that the online fire hose is actually kind of fun. Ff you don’t believe me, here are some late-breaking sports scores and talking dogs and movie previews and vacation slide shows and… well, you know what I mean.)

Let’s focus, and let’s help each other. Tell me: How do you stay informed?

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