%% date:: [[2021-06-04]], [[2021-02-22]], [[2021-02-09]], [[2020-12-22]], [[2020-12-22]], [[2020-12-14]], [[2022-05-15]], [[2023-03-18]], [[2023-06-21]], [[2023-06-22]] %% # [[Learning in public]] Learning in public is the production of [[Learning Exhaust]] as a byproduct of educating yourself. Learning in public is a form of [[Anti-marketing]], in which content is viewed as an end in itself (as a way to draw attention and clients to a business). Learning in public views content as the necessary byproduct of true learning, in the same sense that [[Writing does not help us learn - it IS how we learn.]] You can think of learning in public as an extension of [[Observability]]. Here's a video of me rehashing a talk I did at [PKM Summit 2024](https://pkmsummit.com) about just that: ![](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-uNtkre1aE) I'm also writing a book in public about learning in public, with the same name: [Doing It in Public](https://doingitinpublic.com). ## Benefits of learning in public ### It's the fastest way to learn. Learning in private usually means learning on your own. In that case, you're responsible for figuring out what you don't know, finding quality resources to use for learning, and actually trying to make sense of things. All of those things can be extremely difficult to do, and can take a lot of time, when you're a beginner on a topic. When you learn in public, throwing out a single simple question and listening to responses helps you skip a lot of the trial and error in those steps. You are taking advantage of an entire community's knowledge and wisdom instead of relying on your own (or lack thereof). In tech, there's a movement called [[Shift-left]]. It's applied to many activities: shift-left testing, shift-left observability, shift-left performance. Shifting left means doing the activity earlier in the process. The premise is that the earlier a bug is found, the cheaper it is to fix and the more time you have to make sure it doesn't happen again. Learning in public is shift-left thinking: it is a way of testing out ideas, getting early constructive feedback, and fixing those bugs in your thinking before they become issues. ### It helps you become an effective thinker. Publishing what you're thinking, and your current thoughts on things, encourages people to critique you and challenge you-- and that's a good thing. [[Diversity]] of thought and experience from critics not only enhances your current work but also forces you to consider different perspectives in future work. Learning in public is like the [[Pair programming]] of knowledge work. Having someone else give you feedback *while* you're creating something enables them to point out flaws in your work and in your thinking process. In the traditional model, where you publish only when your work is "finished", whatever that means, they're only getting to see the final result, and can only critique the final result rather than the assumptions you had while you were coming up with it. There's something magical about thinking out loud. Humans naturally avoid rejection, so saying a thing out loud to someone else forces us to structure our thoughts, even if no one responds. [[Rubber ducking]] in programming is the practice of metaphorically talking to a rubber duck about a solution you have in mind - something that can't respond - and still getting value out of it. You don't need the duck to respond; the duck itself serves the purpose of forcing you to puzzle a plan out to its logical conclusions. ### You end up with a portfolio of your efforts. There are career implications to learning in public, because the learning exhaust you create speaks more about you than a CV could. It's one thing for someone to *say* they are an expert at something. It's another to find their whole body of work online, hyperconnected to other topics and explained in their own words. Published work communicates commitment, time, and effort: it means that someone is more than just someone with a shallow interest in a topic. This impression occurs even if the work is "unfinished" or incorrect in parts, because in many industries, including tech, someone's thought processes, the clarity of their communication, and their attitude or interest in a topic are more direct indicators of whether they'd be a good hire than sheer knowledge. ![](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0g38K_DtxFI) ### It helps you [[Be a guide, not a guru]]. One of the biggest problems in doing almost anything [[Creativity|creative]] is fighting [[Impostor Syndrome]]. You might think you're not the best person to be publishing anything about a topic that you don't know that much about, one that you've just begun to learn. You're not a guru. Learning in public subverts that, because if you're open about the fact that you're just learning in public, it sets everyone's expectations lower. Learning in public is more about leaving a trail of breadcrumbs or [[Learning Exhaust]] for others to follow-- being a guide who's just spent a bit more time thinking about something than the average person, instead of a guru who knows it all. ## The philosophy of learning in public - [[Prefer visible work]] when choosing a job. - [[Wear your noobiness on your sleeve]]. - [[Working with the garage door up|Work with the garage door up]]. - [[The basis of anti-marketing is authenticity]]. - ## Practical ways to learn in public This boils down to publishing your [[Learning Exhaust]]: - [ ] Write blogs, tutorials, and cheatsheets. - [ ] Speak at conferences. - [ ] Ask and answer things in public places like Stackoverflow and Reddit. - [ ] Make YouTube videos and Twitch streams. - [ ] Start a newsletter. - [ ] Draw cartoons. - [ ] Reach out to content creators that helped you. Thank them, and ask questions. - [ ] Make PRs to libraries you use. - [ ] Make your own libraries. - [ ] Clone repos just to see how they work. - [ ] Teach workshops. - [ ] Summarize what you've learned from conferences. Here's a video about practical ways I use my notes to learn in public: <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4zrs_vVRwD4" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe> ## [[Public Learners]] ## Criticisms of learning in public - It's not for everybody. This methodology is very much oriented towards [[Developer Relations|Developer Advocacy]] in tech, which is not a field everyone is well-suited for. - It's impossible, and sometimes unwise, to learn in public 100% of the time. - There are real benefits to [[Learning in private]]. ## References - [[Learn in Public - The Fastest Way to Learn]] - [[Learning in Public - Mickey Mellen]] - [[sources/Book/The Coding Career Handbook]] - [[Shawn Wang]] - [[Show Your Work]] - [Doing It in Public](https://doingitinpublic.com) - my in-progress book on learning in public, written in public