Browsing, reading, learning

Last year, I attended my first FileMaker conference. FileMaker is the software that I use to develop databases. I used to think that I was pretty good at it, but at the conference I learned that I needed to brush up and learn more about the newer features that I had been ignoring. I had been telling myself that I did not have the time. Exactly what researchers tell me when I suggest them they should brush up on their skills. Right. Pots and kettles and guilty as charged.

Since then I have been brushing up. I set out to spend half an hour a day on learning new things about FileMaker, mostly on blogs. And it pays off. Well, here I can add a whole blog post about just that, but I will continue the story of this post.

In April, after I had my revelation that I wanted to make more databases for sustainability research, I started exploring. It started with LinkedIn where there are numerous groups, NGOs, ‘pages’ and newsletters (the latter I discovered only today).

Then a dear friend offered to get me in touch with people who might be able to help. And then the snowballing in terms of following and reading took off. I tell no-one something new but once you start following, you get to read more and stumble upon more.

Then someone posted a link to an article in website called towardsdatascience.com which is part of Medium. After browsing the first, I started on the second. Medium is like a ridiculous amount of add-free articles on basically anything that you can buy a magazine about. It’s for free if you read only a few articles and otherwise you pay $5 per month.

I started paying and besides the world of data science, some other new worlds opened up: about programming techniques, about machine-learning, about effective working, and about starting a company. Okay, it is not all very high-brow and there is a lot of chaff, but for the time being there is also enough that is worth the while.

So, that has been my discovery journey so far. If it reads like a from-one-thing-to-the-next, then that is correct. Of course, I realize that such a story can become never-ending. As with all internet browsing, it requires a bit of discipline to keep at least some direction, and a bit of balancing between diving deeper and branching off.

One of the nice things about the sabbatical is that I can spend so much time on this kind of stuff and get completely immersed. However, since I am learning so many new things, I will make time for this browsing-reading-learning when the sabbatical is over.


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