I've been debating asking this question for some time. Based several of the comments I read in this question I decided I had to ask.

This feels like I'm stating the obvious, but I believe that regular reading (of books, blogs, StackOverflow, whatever) and/or practice are required just to stay current (let alone excel) in whichever stack you use to pay the bills, not to mention playing with things outside your comfort zone to learn new ways of doing things.

Yet, I virtually never see this from many of my peers. Even when I go out of my way to point out useful (and almost always free) learning material, I quite often get a sense of total apathy from those I'm speaking to.

I'd even go so far as to say that if someone doesn't try to improve (or at least stay current), they'll atrophy as technology advances and actually become less useful to the company.

I don't expect people to spend hours a day studying or practicing. I have two young kids and hours of practice simply aren't feasible. Still, I find some time; perhaps on the train, at lunch, in bed for a few minutes, whatever.

I'm willing to believe this is arrogance or naivete on my part, but I'd like to hear what the community has to say.

So here's my question: Should I expect (and encourage) the same from my peers, or just keep my mouth shut and do my own thing?

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    I guess it depends on if you actually think such expectations could effect change. Otherwise you might just come across as annoying. – Eric B Nov 27 '12 at 17:14
  • @EricB I don't preach to hear my own voice. If nobody is willing to set these expectations, then definitely nothing will change. I'd rather not annoy people but I'd consider it a small price if the team is elevated even a little. – Joshua Smith Nov 27 '12 at 17:22
  • The "almost always free" is missing the time cost on finding these materials, finding a way to assimilate this information with one's internal database of knowledge, and how useful will this be? You do realize the fallacy of your argument, right? – JB King Nov 27 '12 at 17:37
  • @JBKing: I made the 'almost always free' remark based on a comment from the question I linked above. The comment in question indicated that the financial cost of the materials was a barrier (which isn't the case at my current gig). That aside, I agree with you. – Joshua Smith Nov 27 '12 at 17:48

I'd even go so far as to say that if someone doesn't try to improve (or at least stay current), they'll atrophy as technology advances and actually become less useful to the company.

That's not your problem. How (and whether) you choose to grow intellectually is your business; how (and whether) your colleagues choose to grow intellectually is theirs. How'd you like it if the guy in the next cube decided that because studying music or a foreign language or mathematics changed his worldview in a way that helped him professionally, you should do it too?

If these folks work for you rather than with you, and if you decide to make continuing education one of the boxes to be ticked at a performance review or just something that you want to encourage, that's one thing. If these folks work with you rather than for you, then you should feel free to say: "hey guys, look at this great article I found -- I think the ideas in here could work really well on our project," but leave it at that. Beyond that, if you don't like how your coworkers maintain their skills you should consider finding some coworkers that are more compatible with your values.

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It's illogical to expect the improbable. Most professional developers do very little outside reading. You should encourage your peers to read more, but most won't. You can stay in this group and accept your colleagues as they are, or try to find employment with a company or team that hires more selectively.

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    Most professional developers do very little outside reading Can you back that up? You state it like it's a fact, but my experience is the opposite. Furthermore, it doesn't make much sense: people who go in to software development by and large do so because they're interested in software development; it's illogical to think that they suddenly lost interest. – Caleb Nov 27 '12 at 17:41
  • @Caleb In my (admittedly limited) experience, most devs don't do a lot of reading. That's why I asked this question in the first place. I'm wondering if my experience thus far has been an unfortunate roll of the dice or if this is the norm. – Joshua Smith Nov 27 '12 at 17:55
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    @JoshuaSmith I think it's a fine thing to ask about, but when it's presented as fact by a high rep user the idea deserves to be challenged. Judging by the reputation leagues there are > 1.3 million active SO users, and as big as it is SO is only a part of the online development community. Judging by O'Reilly, Apress, etc. the tech publishing industry seems pretty healthy, and there are countless developer-oriented blogs. If "most" developers aren't reading, what's supporting all that? – Caleb Nov 27 '12 at 19:37
  • @Caleb I think you may have misunderstood the answer. Kevin didn't claim that most developers don't read. He claimed that most developers don't do much outside reading, or that they don't spend a large amount of their day reading. In other words, a good amount of people may read articles and go to Q/A sites, but fewer read actual technical books, contribute to open source projects, do coding exercises, or start hobby projects. I know I am that way, and I don't even have kids yet. – Phil Nov 27 '12 at 21:09
  • @Caleb: unscientific sample from many years in shops in multiple industries. For a while I had a habit of requesting that candidates "Tell me about some technical book or article that changed the way you work." I didn't get many responses beyond college textbooks. Maybe your experience is different. – kevin cline Nov 27 '12 at 23:51

It is reasonable for a programmer to practice and learn above and beyond one's "day job", but if you work at the average company, it is not probable that many programmers will do so.

My experience is that I am grateful to those who encouraged me to go above and beyond "average".

If you have not already read it, I recommend Robert (Bob) Martin's Clean Coder book.

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You should certainly encourage it. Consider the position pretty much any teacher is in: a roomful of students, most of whom don't really want to be there, just hoping to get by. Some may be enthusiastic on your subject, but they are the minority.

That said, teachers are valuable--you will reach some of them. If you're really enthusiastic about something new, it can wear off on people. So keep trying. Just know it's an uphill battle.

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