There’s a lot of good, free Rails information around. But as you improve your development skills, it can be hard to find knowledge that’s useful to you.

If it’s too basic, you’ll just read about things you already know. Too advanced, and your eyes glaze over and your brain shuts off. Three paragraphs in, and you don’t even remember what your name is anymore!

You can’t just type “intermediate-level Rails blogs” into Google and hope some good sites pop out. To get the information you’re looking for, you’re going to have to do some digging.

Finding & filtering

First, look wide and shallow. When you use social sites like reddit, twitter, and Stack Overflow, click on every link that looks interesting to you. Skim an article or two on each site, and if the site seems interesting, keep it around.

Next, you can filter and curate. You should build a place where posts find you. If you use an RSS reader (I use Feedbin), subscribe to the site. If you prefer email, sign up to receive email updates. You just want to be sure you see new articles as they come in.

If you skip more than a few articles from a site, unsubscribe. Eventually, you’ll find a small group of people that you enjoy hearing from, who post things you’re interested in, and that you can learn something from.

They’ll grow along with you, and the articles will get more advanced at a rate you can handle. Plus, they’ll often link to the people who they find insightful, which is a much faster way of finding people to learn from.

It’ll take a while to build this group. But you’ll get a little bit more of a benefit from every site you find.

Learn serendipitously

This doesn’t completely solve the “at your level” problem. But I have a little secret: Finding people at just the right level for you isn’t actually all that important. Many of my favorite writers write things that are way more basic or way more advanced than my current skill level.

How does this work?

When something is too basic, you can think of it as a way to review your fundamentals. The first time you learned something, you might have formed bad habits or internalized some ideas incorrectly. When you review basic information you get a second chance to think about and improve those things.

I had this happen when I read Eloquent Ruby as part of the RubyRogues’ book club.

The first few chapters were really basic–I almost stopped reading it, because I didn’t think I’d learn anything interesting. But I went through it, I focused on it as if I was learning Ruby for the first time. And I came out of it with some Ruby tricks and conventions that I had totally forgotten about.

What about articles that are too advanced? You can get a lot out of those, too:

  • You get introduced to more jargon and patterns. Even if you can’t understand what the terms mean, you can search for the ones that sound interesting. You might find some better descriptions, or other good sites to subscribe to!

  • The more often you see an advanced idea, the less you’ll be intimidated by it when you have to learn it for real. It’ll also be easier to learn, because you will have already learned a little about it from seeing it in context.

Just for fun, I subscribe to some CS and math blogs that assume my math skills are way beyond where they actually are. Sometimes I only get a paragraph or two into the article before I give up. But the paragraphs I do read are some of the most interesting and insightful things that come through my feed reader.

You do have to come into advanced blogs and resources with the right mindset. You can’t let them intimidate or overwhelm you. You have to remember that it’s not a reflection on you if you don’t get it. And getting anything out of an article that’s beyond your skill level is a big accomplishment.

So, find some interesting articles. Follow some blogs. If they stay interesting, keep them around. Even if they’re not quite at your current skill level.

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