Disposable Knowledge

Pod slurping, stemming, cloaking, biometric authentication, insecure direct object reference, and mashups are a few of the topics I’ve been reading up on lately. Which of these topics will I need? None immediately.

Knowledge comes and goes. Some technologies enter my life and leave after a short stay and years later I can barely recall them. Some technologies enter my life and stay around.

So the questions become … How fast can I learn? What are the resources I turn to when I have to learn something new? And how deeply can I embrace a new topic?

I suppose what’s cool about the chronic change in my life is not just that I’ve become adaptable or flexible but change has taught me to be a perpetual student.

Someone recently asked me if I was frustrated by learning things and having chunks of my needed knowledge go away. Not at all was my response. Given that I purposely look for projects that will alter the technical environment I’m working in and that I don’t specialize in one industry, it’s nearly a given that some of what I need to know today will be unneeded on my next assignment.

Knowing a little bit about a lot of things is pretty typical in testing. I like change. I feel that change keeps me on my toes.

One thing I’ve had to learn about learning is assessing when I need to deep dive on a topic versus when a skim of information is enough. Deeper knowledge may be helpful but it’s unlikely and impractical to become masterful on many topics. And time is nearly always a factor.

Another thing I’ve learned about learning is how I learn. I know for me, small bites work best. I’ll find one article or one book or one resource and dig for a bit and walk away. I go back for the next chunk of information. Learning for me is iterative.

When I go back for more, I’ll collect multiple resources and skim. If I find one resource – an article, book, website that speaks especially well to me, I’ll go through the entire piece. I look for the resource that makes the most sense to me with no preference to whether the “piece” is a book, article, website or person. Format doesn’t matter – clarity does.

The only exception to learning in small bites is when I corner someone to talk to me and then I soak up as much information as I can for as long as I can get the person to talk to me. If I know a person whose time is in high demand then I find a day and time where we’re less likely to be interrupted and try to get the longest session I can.

I suppose I feel I’ve had many masters in my grasshopper life. And for reasons that I believe may tie back to my previous newspaper reporting days, I can nearly always get people to talk to me.

My resources are usually pretty diverse. There is no one book; there is no one website, no one book store and no one person. I’m ok with that. I think this goes back to the way I feel about software testing which is that testing makes me a seeker.

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