Staying up-to-date in Java is no easy task. Here’s a 5 step guide for making it less painful.
Staying up-to-date in the tech industry, and specifically in Java, is a lot like baking homemade bread. It’s easy to get stuck on the why or the how, and to never get around to actually doing anything. But, both require only a few simple tools and ingredients and can be done by following a basic recipe (of sorts).
Rather than getting lost in the expansive Twitter-verse or being overwhelmed by the sheer number of developer blogs out there, follow this simple 5-step recipe for staying current in Java.
5 Easy-to-Follow Steps:
- Dusting/Keep it Light
- Kneading/Put it to Work
- Fermentation and Baking/Lifelong Learning
1. Equipment / Tools
Bread bakers use special stones to get a crunchy crust and pans to create the right shape, but our tools here will be the media that we use to get the right information onto our screens.
There are practically unlimited resources that can be used to learn about new features or developments or to simply stay engaged in the Java community. Don’t worry if you don’t use all of these or if you prefer using one to another, this recipe is all about making it work for you.
Twitter: A great tool for engaging with the Java community. Connect directly with the people designing the next version of Java; ask questions and get answers. This is the ideal place to start a conversation directly with the people behind the libraries and tools you use.
Blogs: These are the resources that you most likely end up finding in the midst of a Google search or through someone’s Twitter. Many developers use blogging as motivation to do unique and compelling research of their own and to share new ideas with the community. Collect your favorite sites into an RSS feed or simply save them in your bookmarks bar to easily catch up in between tasks or on the bus to work.
Newsletters: Subscribe to weekly or monthly newsletters to see the latest posts, interesting updates, and upcoming events. This is a good option for those wanting to receive a clean, organized collection of updates periodically, without the hassle of curating an RSS feed.
Webinars: Participate in webinars or other kinds of online training courses or simply to learn about new products or tools, new techniques and much more. OverOps has a new webinar each month covering different topics related to Java and production monitoring. Find out about other webinars through the many other tools included in our recipe.
Conferences/Meet-ups: This is a tool that especially fuels the exchange of ideas and community engagement. You can use conferences and meet-ups as a way to broaden your horizon and make in-person connections.
Plus: Don’t forget how useful it can be to spend some time throughout the week checking out open source projects and community discourse on sites like GitHub, StackOverflow, and Reddit.
2. Ingredients / Resources
Your ingredients will be the specific resources that you use from each of the tools that we previously covered. We’ll list a few of our favorites to get you started, but the best part of this recipe is that you can choose your own ingredients based on your work and what interests you.
The official Java twitter account
Chief Architect, Java Platform Group, Oracle
RedHatter, Drools developer, Java Champion, Milano Jug coordinator
Programmer, Author & Speaker, Chief Scientist at ThoughtWorks
Freelancer: Author, JavaONE Rockstar Speaker, Consultant, Java Champion
Java Developer Advocate @ JetBrains, Java Champion
- Java Code Geeks
Java developers resource center
Spreading of knowledge and innovation in professional software development
The Javalobby, a curation of guest blog posts
Best practices and lessons learned from writing awesome Java and SQL code
A ZeroTurnaround think tank with Java posts, technical reports and whitepapers
- Takipi Blog
Shameless plug: Keep reading our blog for more about Java, Scala and more!
- Java Specialists
Hardcore Java in the depths of the JVM, not for the faint of heart
- Oracle’s Java Magazine
A bi-monthly magazine with the biggest stories around Java right from the source
- Java Performance Tuning
This newsletter’s sole purpose is to cover all aspects of Java performance issues
A free, once-weekly email roundup of Java curated news
- Software Lead Weekly
A weekly e-mail about people, company culture, and leadership for people in tech
- JavaOne – San Francisco
All Java, all week – Held by Oracle
- QCon –San Francisco & New York
Important topics, covered by the experts
- Velocity – New York, London & San Jose
Experts talking about modern systems and applications
- AWS Summit –Global
Designed to educate and provide deep technical content to AWS users
*Find out about more conferences related to topics you are interested in here.
3. Dusting / Keep it Light
When baking bread, it’s important to “use a light hand when dusting your work surface with flour.” Similarly, when delving into the online world of Java blogs and Twitter accounts, it’s important to keep it light. Subscribe to resources sparingly (especially at first) and don’t pressure yourself to read everything in sight. In baking, excessive flour leads to dry bread, and in our case, excessive reading leads to burning out.
As Trisha Gee advises on this, “”Don’t Panic! You don’t need to be an expert in every new technology that pops up every 2 seconds. Pick a couple of topics that are either relevant for your current job or future career aspirations, and/or topics that interest you personally, and stay reasonably informed about these. And it’s OK to change your mind about what interests you.”
4. Kneading / Put it to Work
Kneading is the part that joins together the flour and liquid elements, helps the dough to rise and establishes the bread’s final texture. There are different techniques for achieving the desired results, just like in our analogous recipe.
Some good ways to exercise your knowledge include participating in Java User Group meetups and starting or participating in an open source project on Github.
Because I know that many of you are already active on Github, you don’t need me to tell you that joining open source projects is a great way to work on your skills and stay up-to-date. Let me just quickly explain another method that you may NOT be familiar with, “conference-driven learning”.
I first heard about this technique when Matt Raible shared some ways that he keeps himself up-to-date on Java technologies and best practices. What he does, and I’m sure he’s not the only one, is submit talks to conferences and user groups about a topic or technology that he’s interested in learning. Then, before he presents his talk, he’s forced to learn it and understand it well enough to teach it to others.
5. Fermentation and Baking / Lifelong Learning
Here, the dough begins to rise, much like the breadth (pun intended) of your knowledge. Too cheesy? And then, we finally get to the last step in the bread-making process, putting it in the oven.
The thing is, even if you’ve mastered everything that leads up to this step, you can’t just get comfortable and blindly fall into a routine. Keep working hard and asking questions, of course, but part of staying up-to-date is keeping your tactics updated as well. Staying current in Java, or any other programming language, is a lifelong process and you’ll never really be “done”.
Staying current in a programming language like Java is not really the same as baking bread. We know that, but it can be approached in a similar way. For both endeavors, you need to identify what tools and ingredients you’ll need and you need to make a plan.
Hopefully this “recipe” gave you some new ideas for how you can stay relevant in this rapidly evolving industry. Let us know if we missed anything or if you find something here particularly helpful or interesting!