The Do's and Don'ts of Developer Learning
When it comes to picking up new skills or improving old ones, here's how developers go about it.
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Our colleagues over at Devada (DZone's parent company) have just compiled some data from 800 surveyed developers. The survey they launched focused on how developers learn, and I thought I'd share the results with you all. If nothing else, it'll be interesting to see how your methods line up with the community's.
Want less data and more resources? Read Ways to Learn a New Technology, Programming Language, and Frameworks
Resources for Developer Learning
Broadly speaking, the learning methods that the Devada team surveyed fell into the following categories:
Visiting developer communities
Tutorials, blog posts, and articles
Multimedia (podcasts, infographics, etc.)
Social media channels
But before we dive into how devs learn, let's take a look at what you all said makes you curious in the first place.
Why Devs Learn
First, let's look at what causes problems.
"Thank you, Commander Data."
Alas, management has made the call and you need to fix the problem. Obviously, everyone always learns COBOL and assembly before anything else, so — wait, what? It's 2019 and you didn't pick up REXX or Perl before tackling Java and C++?
Anyway, let's look at some more granular options of why developers turn to the internet. This data was more tailored to developer communities and what they offered, but most of the options could be just as easily applied to learning in general.
Developers search for resources in order to learn new skills or grow your current ones, find new solutions to problems, get answers to their questions, improve code quality, and increase productivity.
Interestingly, our data shows that you don't seek out communities to show what you know or build yourselves up. I'm curious as to whether that's just not a high priority or if other options simply serve that purpose better, but that was beyond the scope of this survey.
Anyway, if you're on DZone, those reasons should make sense to you.
How Devs Learn
All right — let's get down to business.
According to Devada's research, when it comes to learning new skills, developers want the densest material available.
When devs want to learn something, you look for people who have done it first. To form new skills or build old ones, developers generally learn from blog posts and in-depth tutorials. Shorter articles are also popular, as are videos of the teaching in action. Lastly, more than half of developers said books were worthwhile resources.
To the bane of marketers everywhere, white papers, ebooks case studies, social media, and infographics ranked pretty poorly.
The only result I'm really surprised by is how low SDKs ranked. I would think that getting to play with the software in question would be incredibly useful. On the other hand, if you're just looking for an answer to a problem, you probably don't want or need an entire SDK to explore. This could also be a symptom of the context — these questions were trying to measure the effectiveness of communities and the tools at their disposal, not necessarily learning methods in general.
Regardless, if you're a marketer or a community manager and you come across this post, one thing is clear: If you're trying to reach developers, then skip the marketing copy and have your own devs and evangelists write blog posts.
How Do You Learn?
So with the data presented, the question remains: When you run in to trouble at work, how do you learn? What resources do you turn to? Does this data line up with your experiences? Let us know in the comments below.
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