when you set out to learn a new technology (language, framework, protocol, whatever), I normally recommend reading a book about it. That is a physical book, not an article, not an e-book.
So my advice consists of a sequence of actions:
1. go to a decent book store, so you can see and compare a number of relevant books;
2. browse through the available books, trying to figure out which ones you like and which ones you don't like; that will be a matter of personal taste, and strongly depends on your prior knowledge, your earlier experience with similar technologies, your need for elaborated examples, your want for exercises, etc. That is why I typically do not recommend specific books: what looks great to me, may be too simple, too complex, or just not right for you; and vice versa.
3. I recommend buying at least one introductory book or tutorial; that is something explaining the philosophy and providing the essential knowledge without diving right away into all the gory details.
4. And I suggest to also consider buying a reference book, something that explains all the gory details, so you can look up anything you need as far as syntax and semantics go. For a reference book it is essential to include a decent index; just read one page, and any new terms you encounter must be present in the index. If they don't, don't consider buying the reference book. You may argue a reference book isn't essential as all the information probably is available on the web anyway; that is probably correct, however you will become more familiar with a book you own, than you would with different answers from different people you would get when searching the web regularly. Anyway, IMO there is no alternative for buying a tutorial book.
5. It isn't enough to own a good book. The hardest and most rewarding part is studying its content. So set out to read it from front cover to back cover; on a first read you may decide to skip some chapters, if and only if they are specializing in a topic you don't need right away (say database access when you plan on creating a game).
6. Start using the new technology, experiment as much as you want. Make sure to browse the reference manual and/or the documentation (MSDN or other) anytime you feel a need to. And read around the specific topic of interest, the page before and after the current one probably are relevant too.
7. After some period, say one year, study the tutorial again; read again everything you have read before, and skip fewer or none of the chapters you did skip earlier. You'll be surprised by how much you did not discover (or plainly forgot) in the first pass.
The advantage of a book is it attempts to teach you a lot, in a logical order and using a consistent language, explaining and illustrating the rationale and the strong points; as such you will gather much more information than you could by just experimenting at random, and/or asking questions on some forum. Working your way through a book really is the most efficient way to systematically acquire new knowledge in a short period of time.
Luc Pattyn [Forum Guidelines] [My Articles]
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modified on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 11:03 PM