Expanding your toolset

The world of web development is growing at an ever-increasing rate, and every week I read a blog post or an email exclaiming how it’s such a struggle to keep on top of it all. It’s not hard to find a similar number of articles telling us how to go about staying up to date, though they are more often than not a little unrealistic in their expectations; we are, of course, only human (well, most of us), and the day, no matter how hard we might try, has only a limited number of hours.

Web development has certainly changed over the fifteen odd years that I’ve been doing it — and while I don’t agree with the sentiment that the barrier to entry is getting too high (HTML is still HTML), there is definitely a lot more clamouring for our attention. It is hard deciding what to focus on, and what to pass over. There are technologies that would make like so much easier if only we knew more about them (though many will have been forgotten by the time we get around to investigating properly!), but there are plenty more that we just have to decide to ignore. Making those decisions is not easy, and is ultimately a process you need to work out for yourself. (Failing that, find someone you trust to do it for you!)

All too often though, I think we restrain ourselves too much. We tell ourselves we don’t have time to learn, but honestly, it seems more like a lack of inclination. It’s much easier to blame our busy schedule than it is ourselves. Which is why you’re going to hate me for suggesting you go learn something else. I mean, we’re allowed to pigeon-hole ourselves if we want — sorry, find our niche! — but will you still be doing that next year? Five years? In a decade? Regardless, it’s good to keep ourselves on our toes!

Victor Meldrew - Lord High Chancellor of Grumpiness
Channeling my inner grumpiness

Ultimately though, this was all prompted by a comment on Twitter (private, in this instance) advocating FEDs attend a class on building Command Line Tools with Node.js. Like Natalie Imbruglia, I’m a little torn. While I applaud any effort to expand your skill set, I do wonder if you shouldn’t be adding the appropriate tools too? Perhaps I’m being na├»ve — or maybe I’m just not representative of ‘normal’ — but I’m inclined to think of old Maslow and his hammer!

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