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I feel like when I am not writing, I am reading. When I come home from my programming job I write and read software and about software.

The problem is though, both reading and writing requires my eyes to be focused. That doesn't work when I'm biking, cooking shopping for groceries.

Sometime I use text-to-speech programs to listen to blogs, but I feel like there could be more. What ways can a software developer learn more without requiring eye focus? How to blind coders learn the craft?

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Have you tried looking for a podcast for your chosen language or platform? For example, the if you're .NET-focused there's .NET Rocks and Hanselminutes, both interview-oriented podcasts. –  JohnL Dec 9 '12 at 19:42
There is a podcast for swedish programmers you might want to listen to called "Kodsnack" that is quite recent. –  Spoike Dec 9 '12 at 22:13
@JohnL My work and main play programming is kind of web-oriented, and most podcast on the subject (js, ruby, web, etc) are kind of not much info, but it's a great idea. –  Martin Josefsson Dec 10 '12 at 0:54
@Spoike Tack! (Thanks in Swedish) –  Martin Josefsson Dec 10 '12 at 0:57
@MartinJosefsson: The Big Web Show, Javascript Jabber, The Javascript Show are the main ones I'm listening to in the subjects you've listed. But sometimes it's just good to branch out into other topics and learn something new. –  Spoike Dec 10 '12 at 8:32
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1 Answer

It requires concentration: but note that being actually in front of a keyboard and a monitor requires concentration, too, since it's so easy to be carried away from the problem at hand.

I find it possible, and usually practice it when needed, to go through the steps of the problem at hand when I am offline (for instance, when I am commuting). It helps me to see the "essence" of the problem, without being distracted by the ";", the "->" or whatever syntax details are requested by the program. I have the freedom to actually check if I know what's going on or if I am lost in the implementation details and I am missing a larger picture.

In the majority of cases I apply this technique to a "current problem", but I also use this to think to something new (I did it when I was learning Haskell: thinking while commuting is a very good check to see if you have really grokked something). So first I read something new, and then, commuting or preparing the milk for the kid or washing the dishes, it was time to freely think about it.

Last, but not least, don't forget the beneficial aspect of thinking to something not directly related to your problems. This is "learning" too, since the disjointness may be only apparent. In the words of Irving Kaplansky:

spend some time every day learning something new that is disjoint from the problem on which you are currently working (remember that the disjointness may be temporary), and read the masters.

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Good info (something I actually do), but I think the OP referred to something else, an alternative learning method to reading books. –  rae1 Dec 9 '12 at 18:11
I interpreted "refine one's skills" in a broad sense. I feel that along the years I have developed a mean of refining my programming skills and I tried to describe it :-) Maybe I was unclear or I misunderstood the question! Or maybe what I wrote is not helpful (I do hope it's not that way) –  Francesco Dec 9 '12 at 18:27
Oh, not at all. Like I said I actually practice that all the time. But is hard when you actually want to learn something and don't have time to read (if you commute for two hours every day, you might understand). But great info, though. –  rae1 Dec 9 '12 at 18:31
@rae1n I tried to refer to that case in the third paragraph: first I read something new (a blog post, a paper, a section of the c++ standard, a chapter of a book, ....) then I spend some time without the paper in front of me attending some "mechanical tasks" and I continue to elaborate on what I have read. Works for me, at least :-) –  Francesco Dec 9 '12 at 20:06
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