How to keep up with front-end technologies outside of work

Posted on Saturday, April 16th, 2016

I'm trying out a new way to organize my learning style when it comes to staying on top of all the front-end tech and javascript buzz going on. The good news, at least according to my recent readings, is the Javascript ecosystem is slowing down. However, the problem of information overload continues. I often find myself spending hours skimming many, many articles, but not feeling like I'm truly learning on my own.

Learning on the Side

At work, as a platform developer, I am finding that the project I am tackling now is long and arduous (as many platform projects are), which I don't mind, but also dealing with mostly legacy code. This means the months I'm spending on this project are the months I'm not diving deeply into the ins and outs of Webpack or Redux (the 2016 hotnesses).

So, while I may not be able to help having to put in extra time to keep my skills sharp (all developers should, I'm told), I need to do so efficiently when my primary work project doesn't involve new tech.

Yes, Stories and Kanban

So, I've adopted an Agile-esque style of attacking things I want to learn. It's really coming down to a matter of being an efficient learner, as opposed to a casual one where I can read blog after blog for hours but not code a line.

What it really boiled down to was 1) you need to be curious about things, 2) you need to find problems you're interested in learning more about, and 3) you need to code.

So I signed up for a free AgileZen account and, kanban style, created a new project called Professional Development:

agiledev 0

What I've been doing is reading some articles, and then when something piques my curiosity, I create a story. At any given point in time, I'm working on a story and in the "tasks" section, creating items for myself to work on. Any related articles I find or tutorials I need to get through I post in the comments for that story, because they're conveniently auto-linked.

This gives me a great way to just jump in where I left off and continue learning in an organized way. No need to keep tabs open or mess with bookmarks. Everything is organized according to topic and each story has a way of being "done." Not that I'll ever be "done" learning about that particular technology, but at least this way I'm doing more than just skimming an article about it.


As a cherry on top, when I'm done with a particular story, my goal is to write a blog post on the project, reaadings, and what I've learned. The nice thing is the story practically writes the blog for me, due to the tasks and links in the comments. But this is just an extra incentive to keep up a good cadence. I'm also going to try to separate my stories into new frameworks/libraries/specs (CommonJS, ES6), and new fundamental concepts (for example, functional programming).

If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or a way of learning that has worked for you, I'd love to hear!