studying by candlelight

How do you keep up with technology?

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One of my favorite interview questions is, “How do you keep up with technology?” The answer to this question shows a lot about a candidate. Do they use down time at work to read up on the recent blogs? Are they asking for new assignments to stretch their skillsets? What about the thought leaders are in the space — are they connected?

But we do have to face that there are more new technologies and news about technology than anyone could possibly read about in a day. In my chosen slice of technology, what is a small slice of open source databases, there seems to be a new major database every 6 months. That’s not even counting feature updates, security bugs, and the broad ecosystem around databases. My inbox has been full to overflowing of invitations to review, attend conferences, notice this hot new feature in a top technology, etc.

Using Obsidian as a Personal Knowledge Manager

I was recently turned on to Obsidian (a personal knowledge management, or PKM, tool). The idea of having both a second brain for reference and a process to translate the firehose of information in my field into insights was appealing.

You can find a million tutorials about how to use Obsidian itself, so I won’t repeat those here. What I do want to share is a little piece of how I tame the influx of information.

RSS Feeds

Remember RSS feeds? They went by the wayside in popularity when several popular RSS readers shut own. But with all the WordPress and other blog sites out there, RSS feeds are still available. I had to search around a bit to find an RSS reader I liked, and settled on a FOSS option for Mac, NetNewsWire. It’s not very fancy, and it works for my needs.

Folders

I set up a lot of folders for my various interests. This includes all the open source databases, ecosystem tools like Ansible and Docker, as well as a few non-technical feeds for literature and cooking sites. I even found a way to keep up with things that aren’t blogs, like Indeed job listings. At first, I was searching sites for their RSS link. Then I realized I could just put in the website URL and NetNewsWire figures out whether or not there is an RSS feed.

This way, I keep my email inbox free of newsletters and other updates, relegating my news reading to one place and one time a day.

When I open up the RSS feed tool in the morning, I can quickly scan the “Today” updates, or view by folder if I only have time to do a small bit that day. Because I currently follow 76 feeds, and adding more all the time, I scan past a large number of posts for any given feed. Then I go ahead and read short bits (like Types of Acting Still Permitted Under SAG-AFTRA’s Strike Rules or OpenTelemetry in 2023).

Filtering

After this initial filtering, about 8-10 posts will be left. These go into Obsidian. I use the Obsidian community plugin ReadItLater which saves the content of a URL into a temporary folder within Obsidian. I don’t read the posts at this time, just save them for later. This all seems like a lot of work, but the whole process so far takes about the time of one cup of coffee in the morning.

Deep Reading

Then, usually later in the evening, when I have time to read the full text of my saved posts, I take notes on the docs within Obsidian. There are a ton of ways to do this. I like the simple way of opening the doc, opening my daily note, and writing bulletpoints of key ideas and insights. Then I have the original doc as well as my notes, linked together and tagged, and available in my second brain at any time.

There are more levels of processing of my notes and insights that I do on a weekly and monthly basis, but I’ll leave that for next time. If you use Obsidian and want to share a plugin you use, or if you have opinions about RSS feeds, comment below or email me. I’d love to hear your process.

Author: Valerie Parham-Thompson

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