Creating Jen 2.0
June 2, 2007 10:49 AM   Subscribe

How can I keep up with internet technology?

Background: I am a very middle of the road freelance web developer. I do mainly production work (HTML/CSS) with some ASP, PHP, database work and design thrown in. I basically like it this way, but I seem to have hit an income ceiling, and not too long ago I began to feel like I was stagnating.

So I started browsing online job postings, and I remember seeing several for Ruby on Rails developers, and I had never even heard of that. It became obvious that I work in a vacuum; I don't browse web sites relevant to my field, and it doesn't help that I work alone. (The only people I work with are my clients and occasionally designers, but not a single other coder.) Last year I created my own blog using Movable Type just so that I could say I had some experience with a blogging platform, but that was the wildest and craziest thing I've done in a while.

My question is, what web sites should I add to my browser's startup home pages (alongside the tabs for metafilter, cracked, cicadamania, and various web comics that I read daily) that will help keep me educated on WTF is going on in web development? Are there any great blogs out there that talk about this kind of stuff, for instance? I've been coasting for some time, and I think I need to end this vacation.
posted by iguanapolitico to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
To mention the obvious:
posted by popcassady at 10:55 AM on June 2, 2007

Response by poster: Hey, obvious is good. Keep 'em coming. :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 11:03 AM on June 2, 2007

posted by jpdoane at 11:08 AM on June 2, 2007

Best answer: Ars Technica, Reddit or Digg, Lifehacker
posted by DudeAsInCool at 11:24 AM on June 2, 2007

Best answer: Make sure you have a decent RSS reader and social bookmarking account... aka Google Reader + only good way to work these days. If you don't have these, theres no way you can keep up to date on these things, realistically.
posted by zenja72 at 11:39 AM on June 2, 2007

Best answer:
posted by jayder at 12:05 PM on June 2, 2007

Best answer: Also, when I worked in the web field, a frequent stop for me was Joel on Software, especially his message board. My impression was that it was a high level of discussion there, and that the participants kept very abreast of cutting edge developments.
posted by jayder at 12:06 PM on June 2, 2007

Best answer: Mailing lists and newsgroups are a great place to familiarize yourself with new technologies. Above all, they help you keep your finger on the pulse and see what kinds of questions & problems other people run into if you don't want to ask questions of your own.

I've been a subscriber to PHP-general, CSS discuss, and Webdesign-L in the past, and if I were starting out now I'd throw in Rails or Django-users for good measure.

It's a great idea to "ride the elevator", so to speak - find some language or platform that looks like it's going big, and get in early so you can experience its evolution firsthand. This was my experience with php-general and css-discuss, and when I outgrew those lists I left with the tools and experience to follow what was going on their respective fields. One area that is currently popping and has a lot of room for newcomers is browser-resident Javascript applications, esp. since Google announced their Gears product and Adobe said they'd tag along.

I'd pass on Techcrunch, Reddit, and Digg - I think these are industry sites that don't offer much in the way of technical context. is great. Also + the technology of your choice (e.g. django popular, ASP popular) is a useful firehouse to try drinking from.
posted by migurski at 12:20 PM on June 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Browser's startup page? That's so 20th century (I'm kidding - the things I'm about to suggest, if you take to them, will probably hammer your productivity into the ground; the leading edge is so broad that keeping up with it can be a full time job).

Use an RSS reader, make the stuff come to you. I use newsgator but I suspect that Google Reader is better. Subscribe to all your web comics so you have a reason to go there daily.

Suggested reading (and every one of these sites has an RSS feed)...,, (really important, this one, as their main focus is emerging tech and where its going). Dear Leader's is new and has had a couple of interesting posts about community sites. for startup/industry news.

Given your skillset it's probably worth being on the PHP mailing lists, too, to keep up with what's happening there. (Does your code pass E_STRICT?)

If you do much ASP you really should be splashing around in the .NET pool by now - it was released 6 years ago. There are a lot of Microsoft blogs out there. (Can't be more specific, not my thing any more).

Skip slashdot, it's eternally two days behind the curve and mostly noise.

More broadly, try, which isn't about programming but is exuberant and inspiring. for general tech news.
posted by Leon at 12:23 PM on June 2, 2007


"Firehose," not "firehouse."
posted by migurski at 12:28 PM on June 2, 2007

Best answer: The community seems a little biased toward Java and .NET, although articles on Ruby, Python, PHP, CSS, etc. appear there frequently.
posted by ijoshua at 12:28 PM on June 2, 2007

It may even be more helpful to subscribe to specific tags. for example, webdesign
posted by chrisamiller at 12:37 PM on June 2, 2007

just because things are so spread out, and quality is so uneven, and there is so much shit out there it's sometimes hard to commit to any particular tutorial, i have to second as the way to find what's up and what people are interested in. after all, success in freelance web development i've found is staying in the conversation and meeting your clients' need for "the latest".
posted by phaedon at 12:44 PM on June 2, 2007

Scrolling through slashdot every once & a while will keep you up to date surprisingly well. Reading comments in a few threads, you'll basically get references to everything that's been going on over the last few weeks.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:13 PM on June 2, 2007

Check out the entire design and programming section of 9rules, which includes the aforementioned Smashing Magazine and another quality website - DevLounge.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 1:23 PM on June 2, 2007

Best answer: A memetracker of industry news. -- I think it skews a bit to the obscure, some of which may be mainstream in 5 years, most of which will never be, but it also has a lot of stuff that is much more short term practical, also, the discussion is generally better than what I've seen on Digg.

Given your client side focus + some programming skills, it seems obvious that you should get further into AJAX & the offline apps that Google Gears makes possible.
posted by Good Brain at 2:44 PM on June 2, 2007

I second O'Reilly Radar... no firehose problem. medium volume, very high quality.
posted by nazca at 4:32 PM on June 2, 2007

Response by poster: If I could mark every answer as "best" and then mark one or two as "double best" I would do so. After I delve into more of the sites/ideas you've mentioned, I'll come back and probably make a couple more bests. But we don't want to overwork poor color #5E7E62.

Thanks, everybody, for the homework. I truly appreciate it.
posted by iguanapolitico at 7:13 PM on June 2, 2007

Response by poster: Good Brain, I don't know if you're correct or not, but AJAX is something that I've been wondering if I should get into. So I'm besting your answer on the basis of confirmation bias alone. Also, we joined metafilter on the same day, which automatically earns you a checkmark.

That's the kind of shiz I waste time on rather than doing homework. Must break the habit.
posted by iguanapolitico at 7:21 PM on June 2, 2007

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