Knowing and not knowing

cartoon man looking at a painting of question marks

Lewis likes to say that "the more you know, the more you know how little you know". A bit of a tongue-twister, but definitely true.

The reverse is also true: the less you know, the less you know how little you know. I remember interviewing a recent graduate. He told me he knew "everything" about a specific programming language. Cue uncontrolled laughter from experienced developers. 😂 😂

There's more.

In the past few weeks I've been reminded that:

  • Sometimes you don't know what you do know.
  • Sometimes what you know might not be what you need to know.

I admit, I wanted to make your tongue (or your brain) twist a little with that.

You don't know what you do know

One of the joys of experience is all the extra stuff you learn along the way.

In a recent discussion, I listened to someone excitedly share some new concepts and terms. Except that they weren't new. Been there, done that, don't have the t-shirt. Do know where the dragons are.

I responded with care. We take some of our knowledge for granted. It's easy to forget that other people haven't walked the same road. If we have the experience, our job is to guide without dampening enthusiasm. And who knows, we might learn something new too.

What you know might not be what you should know

We are revamping the Incus Data website. (Watch this space - when it's ready, I'd love feedback.) This has led to some unexpected learning.

Most developers today need to know HTML and CSS. It's a core skill in an online world. Even if you never design or hand-code the HTML, you need to understand it. (It's also a good option for anyone involved in marketing and email campaigns.)

I've been hand-coding HTML for a very long time. The first intranet I built for a client was when Netscape was still the browser. (Gasp: I'm so old!) I've taught HTML and CSS since 1998, and rewritten the course manual dozens of times as the technology changed. I still hand-code email newsletters and website updates.

So I've written most of the code on our website for many years. For the last major revamp, we used a CSS framework. Because nobody has the time to test for every browser and device. But I hated that. I hated the extra code that the framework required.

My big question for the new site was what framework to use. And for the first time ever, I added a CMS (content management system) to the list of choices.

I like control. I don't like GUI editors. But I had to re-evaluate my old choices and reasons. So I worked backwards from the results I need, instead of forwards from what I want. Hello, WordPress. (And I still need HTML and CSS knowledge.)

Life-long learning is a real thing. If we don't learn, we go backwards. It's not always uncomfortable, but it's rewarding.

The big question

What are you going to learn this year?

I'd love to know the answer - and it only takes a few seconds to share a comment.

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