Yesterday we had the second remote workshop from this year. It was about application architecture. What surprised me was that some knowledge I picked up the past years turned out to be wrong. In my life, I haven’t had the luck to attend conferences. I simply didn’t have the money for it. As a freelancer in the south of Spain, paying hundreds of euros to attend a conference is just too much, or at least I thought. My knowledge I gained by reading others code, contribute to open source projects and reading books.
Reading others code is a good way to learn and improve your knowledge and learn about best practices. However you miss the logic behind it. No one explains you why something is done a certain way. Is it even done right?
By reading a book you will learn about the background and reasoning why an author choose a specific way of designing code. But do you understand what the reader is writing and trying to explain? A quick example I found a few days ago was a question on stack overflow. Someone quoted a part of a book as he learned from it in reply to a question. In a comment below he got corrected including the page number from that same book why his answer was incorrect. I guess the first forgot about it, skipped it or didn’t understand the part the second mentioned and interpreted it in a different way.
There are also conferences where you can listen to talks. They are mostly short, brief and explain something without going into details, or go in too details about a specific topic. You may pick up new things there and if the host is good he probably triggers your interest and make you think about certain things, making you hungry for more knowledge about it or the bigger picture.
I guess the next level would be workshops. As I mentioned earlier, I attended one yesterday and I learned in a way that you will not experience when reading books or code. For sure it depends on who is giving the workshop and how he or she is transferring knowledge. But if you can’t sleep and your mind is still thinking about what has been said and explained, it definitely must have been good. In the workshop theory was mixed with actually doing yourself what you just learned. For me this works really good, especially when you have the opportunity to discuss what you did and ask questions about the specific parts you don’t understand. I guess it feels a bit like being back at school, with the difference that this is about a topic that I’m actually interested in. It makes me understand the theory a lot faster and I know I can use it directly.
So what is the conclusion? I guess if you have the opportunity to attend conferences, talks or a workshop, just go for it. There are a lot of free open remote conferences these days which you can attend. You can also talk to your superior about organizing a (remote) workshop about topics that might improve your work. It’s really worth it if the speaker is good. With the knowledge I have now, for sure I would have chosen to save more money to attend conferences and especially workshops.