One of the points I make in Driving Technical Change is that expertise constantly decays. Every piece of technology out there today is evolving and changing. If you stop paying attention to areas of your knowledge, then you will lose expert status.
The author disagrees with me. He states:
I think this is a sweeping generalization which I believe is wrong, and I know is wrong for me. I regularly go on sabbatical for 3-6 months where I don’t or hardy use a computer, with hardly I mean I checked my mail once after 3 months. In this time due to the fact that I’m traveling I don’t read computer books or magazines. Coming back after this time I notice one important thing, nothing has changed except the version numbers. New features have been added to old software, new design patterns have been thought up and new frameworks have been created, whole sections of the linux kernel have been rewritten. And with in a week I am at my expertise level, and a week later I have covered most of the important things I’ve missed.
Impressive that he is able to do so. I, of course, think he is an outlier. However, I agree that 3-6 months off won’t kill your expertise, assuming the rest of the time you are working on it.
What I do agree with him about is the idea that there is a lot of noise out there, and following it doesn’t add to expertise. He’s right that following every single release note, or bleeding edge build of your tools won’t help your expertise.
But I still believe you need to keep up to date on expertise maintenance information. I also believe tuning it out for long periods will cause your expertise to atrophy.
The hard part is to judge what is noise and what is signal.
For me, it, like many things, is like pornography, “I know it when I see it.” If I had to categorize what fits that bill for me, it usually comes down to source. Certain sources–bloggers, publications, companies–seem to always put things out that expand my thinking, illuminate choices, and convey tough concepts in easy to understand metaphor.
So, sorry no easy answer, but I can at least tell you it’s not in the release notes.