I was rather concerned to discover this week how little I know about socks. I have a colleague who is a sock expert - even to the extent of knitting her own in a most startling range of textures, colors, and styles. But it's not a topic that I personally considered to be vital information for life. OK, so I've been wearing them for more than 50 years, but - other than when playing rugby or being a boy scout - I've stuck with just plain boring black ones on the grounds that the daily foot adornment process then consists of simply grabbing any two from the sock drawer and putting them on.
So you can imagine the shock when I watched my wife pairing up a pile of freshly laundered socks to see her carefully examining each one for the almost indiscernible "Pringle" logo and then dividing them into two separate heaps. Fascinated by the process, I eventually had to ask what she was doing. "I'm separating them into left and right ones", she informed me - with one of those "isn't it obvious" looks. Oh dear - it seems that I've I've been wandering around the world blatantly displaying my hosiery ignorance to all. Image the embarrassment when I realized that everyone has been able to see that my sock logos were facing the wrong way.
But I suppose it's only another indication of all the stuff I really ought to know about, but haven't managed to keep up with. I've been reading about some of the exciting new features being punted for future (post 4.0) versions of ASP.NET and the .NET Framework, and with horror realized that I know almost nothing about many of the exciting new ones that were introduced in version 3.5 - never mind version 4.0. In the years I spent as an itinerant author and conference speaker, I specialized in ASP.NET. But since becoming a full time p&p-er, and spending what seems like my whole life delving into the internal workings of Enterprise Library and Unity, I've trailed way behind. Yes, I know about AJAX and MVC, though most of my practical experience with them was creating custom implementations to achieve the same result before .NET 3.0 even appeared.
This fear of being left behind is common in our industry, and often the "new and scary stuff" turns out to be reasonably easy to grasp when you actually come to play with it. Most is evolution rather than revolution, and existing knowledge generally smoothes the path for getting up to speed. As an example, I've been somewhat slow in learning about WCF, but a requirement to implement some services with custom instance contexts for a recent project meant that I had to catch up quickly. Expecting to spend a frustrating week on it, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had something working after only one day's concerted effort.
Maybe it's just an irrational fear of being overwhelmed. If you read Scott Guthrie's blog, you probably saw this post that, amongst other topics, discusses the constant changes occurring in the technology industry. It's certainly worth reading - even if his group is one of those responsible for the irrational fears! Make sure you read points "d" and "e" in the first section. And I especially liked his comment that "you will rarely win a debate with someone by telling them that they are stupid".
Even if you are a sock expert...