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Learning in Public

Odysseas Lamtzidis
Developer Relations at Netdata
・6 min read

TL;DR

Just visit the Symposium graph.

Learn Solidity, in Public

Building in Public

The building in public movement is something that I only recently discovered. You pick a medium, like Twitter, and you treat it as your personal "building" journal. You log as you build, thus you build in public.

There a lot of very successful startups and founders who have perfected this art. For example, @shl from @gumroad shares his insights from running a startup and being a creator. Not only I get to share the thrill of doing something with a sense of mission, but I also learn about startups.

In a lot of ways, building in public shares a lot of attributes with open source projects. You get to build in a way where everyone can see your victories and defeats.

The first upside of all this is that you gather a following which is rooting for your success. Because they care, they will provide feedback, creating a virtuous feedback loop. We can largely group the positive effects of this constant back and forth into 2 categories. Firstly, it is invigorating for the spirit and secondly, it's a source of inspiration. Lastly, I am certain that it's a necessity for effective rapid iteration. It's rocket fuel 🚀 for learning.

With that in mind, today I am announcing an experiment of mine. A system to Learn in Public.

Learning in Public

It's an effort to bring all my learning efforts out in the open. Make them available for everyone to leverage.

I spend a considerable time of my every day learning new things. Instead of learning into a vacuum, I will be logging my thoughts, insights, and "Aha!" moments as I research a particular subject.

Every subject will have a corpus of knowledge, like a **tree trunk **which is the foundation of many insights. Think of them as branches. Each insight clarifies some part of the trunk and offers links for further reading.

That way, you should be able to speed up your learning on the particular subject. This effort should accumulate into a rich repository of interlinked knowledge. I hope that people will enrich it, creating a community in the process.

Learning is fun, especially when you share it with other people. This mental tango is so much more useful and productive than banging your head against the wall. Feedback is a crucial ingredient of learning.

The idea is that it will beneficial to everyone. For starters, it will force me to approach learning in an even more systematic manner. Moreover, it will benefit others by laying out a path for learning a particular subject.

Why learning?

I have always been good at learning new ideas, new concepts. It's something that I enjoy and I suspect that is the very reason that I am good at it.

Everyone knows a person that always seems to know a Wikipedia-style fact about a subject. Well, I am that person. I literally read Wikipedia about everything that poked my interest. I remember vividly that once Russia was mentioned in a discussion and I was baffled because I didn't know anything about the country. I thought to myself: "Awesome, let's spend the next hour learning some facts about Russia".

  • How is it organized?
  • What is geography?
  • What about the economy?

You see, this love of learning about things was not visible to me. It was a natural part of my psyche, distinct but invisible. Like a pane of glass, it exists but you don't "see" it, you see through it. It served me well, as I was able to excel in school and later in the university, without studying too much. Given the number of irrelevant projects that I did, I was gliding through courses.

But, there is no such thing as a free lunch. This "aptitude" to learn things was only available when I wanted to learn something. My discipline was is terrible. It was particularly terrible when I had to do something that I considered unimportant.

For that reason, I was never great. I was good if and whenever I decided to be. I assume this is because I never observed my inclination in learning. This ability to learn and place knowledge in a mental map, retrieving it at will.

For me, a big chunk of learning how to learn has been the ability to quickly find the right content. Being able to leverage the power of the internet to identify and consume the next piece of the puzzle.

A revelation

In a way, this is still the way that I am operating, working day and night for the things that I feel passionate about. Thankfully, life is malleable. I am able to work on what I love, doing what I love, and learning about the things that I love.

I do not need to remember the content of a piece of information. I only need to remember the fact that it exists and the metadata that will help with its retrieval.

With google always being at arm's reach, I can vastly increase the amount of available data that I have. I need only to remember the metadata to retrieve them. In essence, I compress the entirety of the information into a handful of keywords.

The thing is, that I was completely unaware of this system until pointed out by a colleague and friend.

During a discussion, he mentioned that I always seemed to have at hand material to support my thesis. He thought that I had a library or something.

I was puzzled. For me, finding things on the internet has always been so normal and easy, that I thought it was trivial. Well, apparently it wasn't.

I spent a couple of days reflecting on that fact.

Everything fell in place. I decided to start taking detailed notes while researching or learning about things. It was hard because taking notes is far slower than just doing™️, but it was well worth the effort. After a couple of weeks, I had a log of all the things that I had learned. All these insights, nicely stored, filled with comments and links to resources. It was magic really, as you could see both the main corpus of knowledge, but also dive in a particular insight at will.

Sharing is caring

Having compiled a "learning log", I thought to myself: "that could be useful to people!". Chances are that I am not the only one who had these questions while reading that article or tutorial.

You see, I have a thing for tools for knowledge. Others are into BDSM, I am into Roam Research.

Why not create a living, breathing graph of knowledge, I thought to myself.

Instead of creating static artifacts, I will create an interconnected living repository. This interconnection is particularly important, it is knowledge on steroids.

On top of that, we could even bootstrap a community. A community about learning, spanning many different topics. Humans are multi-dimensional beings. We can read about Solidity and at the same time reflect the writings of José Ortega y Gasset.

Enter the Symposium

We start with Learning Solidity but more will follow.

Over the next weeks I will be transferring over the bulk of my notes, both from various learning domains and books that I have read.

Follow me here or on Twitter to be up to date!

I opted to name this public space after the Symposium, the famous work of Plato. As we read in Wikipedia,

It depicts a friendly contest of extemporaneous speeches given by a group of notable men attending a banquet

Well, you can think this space as our banquet, where we chat and share our learnings about the things that we are interested in.

I feel that I have written enough. Just visit the Symposium graph and
I will see you there ✌️

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