Lifelong Learning

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

Beg to differ (ZOMG a blog post!). Don’t know quite what’s happened to my brain recently but it’s started being able to take on and learn new things in a way that hasn’t been possible for several years. The poor health and illness of recent years must have subsided enough for some shreds of normal learning to take place. In the last couple of months have got my head around:

  • Amazon Web Services.Ooh there’s still a bit of a tingle when you fire up a new service and then you realise…

    darn, guess I’ve got to start paying for this now.

  • EC2, Route 53, Elastic IPs, EBS, S3,.. a whole alphabet soup of acronyms and different services but somehow, somehow they all seem to be straightforward to learn and get working quickly. I’ll give a massive hat tip to whoever organises the developer documentation. Now we have a tendency as a profession to moan about the quality of docs, poorly written docs are sometimes worse than having no docs at all but the Amazon Web Services documents are written very clearly. Lost count of the number of times reading them when I’ve thought, “I wonder what happens if you want to do X,Y,Z…then in the very next paragraph/section they explain exactly that. Spooky, but exceptionally nice.
  • Git
    No there’s no missing ‘old’ prefix 😉
    All the cool peeps seem to be using it for version control these days and has become the go to resource for new projects. Shame to see how seems to have lost its way issue queues and project discussion forms get quieter and quieter.
  • Markdown
    This is a simple way of formatting text documents so that they are readable just as plain text but also become formatted with headings/bold etc. when uploaded to a markdown renderer (such as the project descriptions on This is one of those things that is such a simple idea and yet so helpful.

And what next? What next indeed. Something I seem to trip over on almost a daily basis is the ‘R‘ language. Really think I should try this next for manipulating and visualising data sets. I have a pet project on the go that involves data sets from various organisations. Such a bewildering range of layouts, conventions, no two seem to be alike, it’s just about impossible to come up with uniform ways of processing all these so I think changing tack to have lots of little processing jobs – each one tailored to just that data source is going to be a more fruitful way to proceed.The key will be that it should be quick and easy so I think time spent learning about these analysis tools should be helpful.

Past that RDF(?) Think much like trying to learn Gaelic I’ve many times started enthusiastically but have shrivelled back when my brain which is less than the size of a planet melts down wondering “why am I doing this again?” What usually happens is that I love the idea of RDF it’s just in practice you never really seem to see Scottish examples of anyone using it, providing yes but being used? No. Yes as a developer you can go to the trouble of exposing endpoints for your own data but if no one else utilises it, what’s the point? Might as well give this another go, see if there’s been any improvement, need to work on my cynicism.