… in trying to understand the technology you use?
It's a constant struggle for me just to keep the leading edge of IT from dropping over my horizon, and even then I can only make out the haziest outlines of what's happening. Moreover, I know that no matter how much I run or how high the stilts I strap on, I'm eventually going to have to watch technology whiz out of sight towards the Pacific, leaving me benighted. The Complete Automotive Analogy, or CAA, dictates that as with my ride, where now I can barely even check the oil though once I used to do stuff with a thing called a distributor, I'm ultimately going to reduced to pushing buttons and hoping for the best from the magic under the hood.
I could become a mechanic — that is, I could learn to program in C++ or even “just” learn PHP — but the gain wouldn't be worth the pain. At the other end of the spectrum, I'm not ready yet to shrug and just kick the tires. Fortunately, the middle ground offers plenty of room for me to push myself just that bit and learn about what's happening, even if I can't craft developments myself.
Which brings me to, among other things, Ajax. You've probably seen it in action: you click on something and with a nifty fading transition a whole section of a website appears; you click and drag a box from this part of a website to that part; you perform a speedy calculation right there on a site. (For a set of examples take a look at Google AJAX Search API samples.) Though it's not everywhere at the moment, it soon will be. So what is it?
Then there's the whole business of RSS. Sure, I know about dragging that feed icon into my feed reader (I use a desktop reader; much prefer it). But what's the difference between RSS 1.0, 2.0, 0.91 and Atom? I've yet to read eventhe Wikipedia piece on it or Rss20AndAtom10Compared. What about XML itself? &cet.
To revert to the CAA for a moment, given that I and most Slawyers are not simply drivers but chauffeurs (I think that's the comparison), we ought to work that middle ground as vigorously as we can — as part of our professional duty — hard though it may be. I think it's easier to do that with good company, and I've found Slaw helpful indeed. But I think Slaw can do more here (as in so many other areas). I suggest we identify those technologies that we need to learn more about and then that we collect material that can teach us about them and help us stay within sight of IT as it changes.