How do you learn? For most of us, our education came from formal degree programs as we sought to launch our careers, supplemented by things like boot camps, conferences, and classes to help us gain new skills.
But today’s developers don’t just learn through lectures and classes. They learn by doing – and they’re doing more of that live for all the world to see.
In addition to her work as a developer advocate at New Relic, Ali Diamond regularly streams on Twitch as she works on projects and learns new skills. On our latest episode of the Decoded podcast, Diamond shared her experience as a developer who prefers to learn in public to discover what it's like to grow, succeed, and sometimes fail in front of a live audience.
Making Knowledge a Performance
If you go on Twitch right now, you can find thousands of developers live streaming as they write code, banging their heads against bugs, and creating new projects. While streaming was popular before the pandemic, Diamond says that she found it really took off once the pandemic put the kibosh on things like conferences and live coding events.
“People were looking for opportunities to see coding in action. People were looking to take that in-person interactive experience and move it online.”
But this isn’t a one-way performance; Twitch lets the audience chat with the streamer and each other in real time, allowing the developer and the audience to work together to learn and create a shared community.
Teaching Others While Learning
Livestreaming the learning process is something many developers choose to do to not only become better coders, but to share what they learn in the process. While some developers bring a lesson plan approach to their stream, Diamond prefers to run her stream the same way she would approach a project offline: going wherever it takes her. As she explained:
“To maximize absorption, I want to go where I want to go. There’s no fun in just showing up and being like, ‘Okay, here’s this book, let’s go through it together.’ I allow myself to roam.”
This approach lets Diamond be her most authentic self, a critical trait for Twitch success. For some streamers, creating a curated experience that feels closer to a formal presentation is their way of demonstrating authenticity, while others like to be more organic. Similar to how we have scripted and unscripted content like podcasts or TV shows, neither approach is superior; it just depends on what works best for the presenter and the audience.
Just as conferences and live events were important in the past for keeping skills sharp, learning in public allows developers to quickly learn the day-to-day practical skills that aren’t necessarily taught in the classroom. Diamond said:
“The education you get from a traditional engineering background is not the tools and skill sets that you're going to actively use in a job. Instead, you’re thinking about a much higher picture of technology as a whole.”
Learning in public helps both the streamer and the audience to learn together – all that’s required is drive and motivation. By overcoming a fear of failing in public, Diamond says that streaming can help developers accelerate their education in a way they might not be able to do alone.
“At first it was really hard for me to get over not being perfect in public, because I had this monster on my back that was like, ‘You’ve achieved these things, why can’t you do this?’ But Twitch has given me the confidence to say, ‘I don't know how to do this thing. Y’all are way smarter than me, and you like helping me. So here’s what we’re working on. Let’s do this together.”
Tune in to hear the rest of the conversation with Ali Diamond, and be sure to subscribe to the Decoded podcast.