Prior to Sifter, I was a specialist. I needed to keep up with two or three high-level topics in order to stay current and not be left behind. I had a few RSS subscriptions and kept up with a few topics on Twitter. It wasn’t easy, but wasn’t impossible either. Life was simpler then.

Since starting Sifter, I’ve tried to stay current on every piece of our business from the complete technology stack to the business and marketing side of things. As a solo founder, keeping up with everything that I need to create the best possible product for our customers is truly impossible if I also want to build anything.

Let’s just look at front-end development. HTML5, CSS3, animation, transitions, SASS, Compass, LESS, CoffeeScript, jQuery, Ajax, web fonts, HiDPI displays and Responsive design, a proliferation of devices, screen sizes, and resolutions unlike anything we’ve ever seen. That’s a full-time job right there. As a related aside, when Sifter launched, it only had about 50 lines of JavaScript. It simply wasn’t feasible for me to build the application and add all of the advanced interaction that was starting to appear. JavaScript wasn’t a strength of mine, so I focused elsewhere.

It’s easy to get swept up in staying current and forget that the whole point is to create something. These days, I’ve accepted that’s a bad idea. Instead of trying to know everything, I focus on simply staying aware of what’s happening. Then, when the time is right and the advances might be useful, I can set aside time to learn.

As a solo founder, time is limited. You don’t want to be left behind, but you don’t want to spend all of your time keep up either. Prior to starting Sifter, I used to believe that running my own business would give me flexibility to aimlessly explore new technologies. I was half right. There’s plenty of time to use and learn the technology, but there’s not much room for aimless exploration.

When you need to learn something, take the time and do it right, but if you don’t need it yet, file it away and move on. Worse case scenario: it will be there you when you need it. Best case scenario: newer technology will make it obsolete and 10 times easier by the time you do need it.