Digital Knowledge

"Either you know it or you don't!" Have you ever heard that sentence in a technical discussion? A specialist is quite often considered a person that just knows stuff. No matter what question you throw at him, he knows the answer. Or so it seems, because he can more than often recognize the question, put in a context and give a satisfactory, if not complete, answer. And for the rest of the answer, he can produce a web page, an article or some page in a book that just happened to be standing in his office.

And here's the secret:



In the area of Information Technology there is no digital knowledge. There is no "either you know or you don't". But there certainly is "oh, I've heard about this", there is "yeah, we had this problem last time we used that framework" and finally there is "I know where to look this up". And none of these are bad.

It's really just another way of thinking about knowledge. And not so different from the rest of the world. Let me explain.

Finding your way
Remember the last time you went to visit that aunt/uncle/high school friend that you do not visit very often. You know where he or she lives, but you only just remember the way. "Turn left after the yellow building with the funny sign, and then I will recognize the rest from there" you might tell the driver. But if you had to explain every detail of the way, like distance and road names, you would be at a loss. It's the same way with knowledge. Someone asks a question and a conversation ensues. During this forgotten knowledge is retrieved from the depths of our memories. A peek in a book or at a certain website gives the direction and the rest of the answer is familiar ground from there.

Doctors know everything
Have you ever been to the doctor and been amazed at how quickly he comes to a conclusion to your ailment? While it is true that doctors read books on all bodily functions and know many, many diseases by heart I refuse to believe that they know everything. Instead, they have a system. By listening to the explanation of the symptoms they are guided to the general area of the issue - and either they have then seen it before or they know where to look it up or send the patient further into the health system to some specialized physician.

And here's the point
The same methodology can be used in IT knowledge. Don't think you must have every answer on your fingertips. Instead acquire as many bits and pieces anywhere you find it: In books, on blogs, on news websites, in magazines or even by the proverbial water cooler. Save the knowledge, share it and connect it to what you already know - this will make you remember it better. It will make you a specialist for sure!