I’m a veracious consumer of information, particularly reading and podcasts. When I’m gearing up to write a bunch of new code in an area which I know little about I try and read up on it as much as possible. This is especially true at the moment as I can’t do any real coding until I’ve left my existing job, but I can do a lot of thinking and on-paper design.
After the latest batch of web-surfing around a new topic I got the idea for a way of filling my weekly blog posts: Reading Lists. So this is the introduction to a series of posts which will give you a batch of reading around a small topic, generally about the architectural design decisions that I am making.
First some background about how I do my reading and the essential tools.
Tools of the trade
A web browser – Well, duh. Most of my reading content is from the web. A significant proportion is blog entries, but also papers, Q&A sites and commentary ( from sites like Hacker News ). I use Chrome most of the time and a Firefox every now and again.
Instapaper – An invaluable tool for those with an iPhone. Instapaper is used to save web pages to be read later. It caches them on a server and then you can download them in a handy readable format to your iPhone for offline reading. I use it almost everyday on the Tube into work.
Evernote – Another page bookmarking / caching tool, a bit like instapaper. But with this I can clip the whole page to their server, tag and store them in categories. Mostly just so that I remember where I found something.
Generally I start with a Google search on the topic, sometimes this is harder than it sounds, for example, I didn’t know what multi-tenancy was called until several searches into the topic. Then usually I bounce through the links in the first 10 or so results. Often this will bring up some real, paper book references. I’ll usually bookmark these, and occasionally pick them up from Amazon if the topic looks deep enough or the book looks good enough. Some topics seem to lend themselves better to a print book than others. For example, there is a ton of content on the web about CSS, but it is all but lost in a sea of spam and articles from 1999 which aren’t much use to anyone. However, one book, is practically all you need.
A couple of other places worth looking if they don’t come up in Google:
Stack Overflow – you can’t beat if for programming questions in the right sort of areas: web programming, databases, C#, and .net. But you’ll find something about most areas of programming on there.
Hacker News – It’s tougher to find a specific topic, but keep and eye out and technical discussions are of a very high standard.
First reading list is coming up in a day or two. Stay tuned.