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Josh Branchaud
Josh Branchaud

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How I learned to Learn in Public

I've been learning in public for most of my career. It has fundamentally changed the way I learn and adds a whole other layer to my credibility. It required some patience, a lot of tiny spurts of effort, and a fair bit of vulnerability. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't hard. This is how I learned to learn in public.

Back in early 2015 I was applying for a job at Hashrocket. During the audition I got to pair program with nearly every person in the Chicago office. I would sit next to these veteran developers as they brought me up to speed on their client project and then I'd try to contribute to these real-world software problems.

There is no doubt it was a bit intimidating, but that isn't what stuck with me. Instead I remember my head was swimming with all these tiny new things I was learning just by working along side someone passionate about their craft. I had all these moments that were something like,

"So, you can hit Ctrl-p and Ctrl-n to go backward and forward through your terminal history? Wow, I've got to write that down somewhere."

It was then that I created my TIL repository on GitHub.

Fast forward a little. I got the job and the "Oh, that's cool" learning-moments continued. I wrote tiny TIL entries nearly everyday. It wasn't easy to do so though. It was vulnerable to write and publicly share these daily learnings.

"Should I already know this?"

"Is this too insignificant to write about?"

"What if I get one of the details wrong?"

Despite these thoughts, I kept doing it. I didn't want to lose track of the things I was learning. I wanted to keep having the small conversations that these posts were inspiring within the office. Soon others in the office were maintaining their own TIL repository. Not long after that was born. I unknowingly had thrown myself into the momentum of a flywheel. I was learning in public, though I don't know that anyone was calling it that yet.

I was writing small things with only myself in mind as the audience. This practice fast-tracked a lot of learning that helped me develop competencies I take for granted today. It gave me a chance to ask lots of questions. It taught me how to say, "I don't know."

Whether it is #100DaysOfCode, building a digital garden, writing daily TILs, or myriad other things, give learning in public a try. After a while, you'll look back and be surprised at how far you've come.

If you start learning in public, let me know what you get up to.


Top comments (1)

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Josh Branchaud

GitHub -- with its built-in support for markdown and code blocks -- made this very easy. This low barrier to entry played a huge role.