The Information Technology (IT) landscape is constantly changing and evolving. Before the Internet and social networking, I relied heavily on computer publications like InfoWorld, Computerworld, Digital Review, Network World, PC Week, PC Magazine, PC World and the ever voluminous (400-600 pages) in-depth Byte magazine for information on the latest computer technologies.
During the pre-Internet era, I was very proactive in keeping abreast of the latest technologies. I read every issue of the venerable printed computer magazines from cover to cover, regularly mailed off product literature request cards and routinely reviewed the literature I received. This wealth of knowledge helped me to have a great deal of influence over IT decisions made by my employers and my consulting clients throughout the early 1990s.
Some of these print magazine successfully moved to the Internet and continue to publish “digital only” versions. A few, in addition to their digital version, still publish thin incarnations (<50 pages) of the once-thick content-filled magazines of the 1980s and early 1990s while others like Byte magazine failed to make the transition to digital media.
While all of the online computer magazine and IT communities are useful, they have failed to leverage the true power of the Internet and modern web development, content delivery and search technologies. Where is the engaging, interactive, targeted user experience? Most of digital magazines are poor versions of their former hard copies, overloaded with annoying and distracting advertising, inadequate search capabilities and unintuitive navigational tools. The content also seems to lack the in-depth coverage once reported in earlier print magazines.
“What we got here is… failure to communicate.”1
My popup blocker works overtime when perusing these sites. While I understand advertising generates revenue, which in turn funds these sites, does it make sense for it to be so intrusive that it drives potential viewers away? But, the worst offense of these sites is the article that ends the first page with, “To continue reading please register …” Really? Imagine, reading an article in a printed magazine on a plane and at the end of the first page you read, “Call 1-800-The-Rest to receive the rest of this article.” With many of these sites, once you submit your registration information you unknowingly, unless you read the fine print, agree to receive email communications from the site and its advertisers. If registration is a requirement then at least allow me to create a detailed profile that could then be used to target the content displayed to my specific areas of interest.
Today more than ever, IT professionals are inundated with unprecedented change from all directions. Some of these are quite sweeping and pervasive like cloud computing, virtualization, mobile computing, social networking and the consumerization of IT. Others like Big Data, along with data and application integrity, reliability and security will continue to be major concerns in the coming years. These technology trends and major shifts (e.g., NDS to Active Directory, Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange, Blackberry to iPhone and Android, etc.) can be career altering for the IT professional that falls behind on the trends or is reluctant to embrace a new technology. Even with the Internet, it has become ever increasingly difficult to keep up with the pace of IT innovation and the latest trends.
The Internet has allowed IT professionals to become more lackadaisical and less proactive when it comes to keeping up with the ever-changing IT landscape. Why stay well-informed when you can conduct a Google search and quickly learn about the latest products, trends or the latest buzzword your boss asked you about? Today’s IT professionals have a plethora of information instantly available via the Internet yet accessing the most relevant information is still a conundrum. A Google query of “Hyper-V” returns 36,500,000 results (Bing returns over 7,000,000). A more specific Google query of “Windows Server 8 Hyper-V” reduces the count to 9,700,000 results. So, how does one stay current and keep up with the technological changes that are most relevant to their role within their organization without spending endless hours perusing the frustrating online IT magazines, communities and blogs?
Social Networking Era
For me the solution has been a combination of methods. Like most, I do rely on Internet searches for information, but these are more ad hoc type queries. I still read a few printed magazines like Windows IT Pro and Processor. Over the past few years, I also used a variety of methods and resources like Google Alerts and email newsletter subscriptions to keep abreast of IT trends, but found these to be little improvement over regularly perusing the digital magazines noted above. My current favorite method of filtering the IT information overload down to the technologies, vendors, products, blogs, pundits and thought leaders relevant to my job is to use Twitter and an iPad app called Flipboard.
Flipboard is a social magazine application that was awarded Apple’s “App of the Year” award in 2010. The application collects the content of social networks (e.g., Twitter) and other websites (i.e., CNET) and presents them in an “elegant” magazine format, that puts to shame all online digital magazines, and presents it on the iPad, iPhone or iTouch. Using my Twitter account, I simply created several Twitter Lists that follow the Twitter accounts relating to specific technologies relevant to my job. Most digital magazines, communities, bloggers, thought leaders and vendors have Twitter accounts and some have several that are specific to particular technologies or groups within their organization. Then, I associated my Twitter Lists with my Flipboard and voilà, instant personalized IT magazines showing just the content from the resources that I’ve chosen to follow.
If you’re not using Twitter or other social networks to monitor IT trends, I would strongly recommend you consider taking the plunge. Twitter is not about Tweeting your personal status, but a method to connect with digital media, vendors and other IT professionals with similar interests. I also use Hootsuite, a social media dashboard to view and manage my social networking accounts. I would love to hear from readers how you are leveraging social networking to keep pace with the ever-changing Information Technology landscape.
1 Gordon Carroll (Producer), Stuart Rosenberg (Director). (1967). Cool Hand Luke. [Motion Picture] United States