A week of training
I spent last week in Ottawa, taking five days of training from Ken Holman on XSLT and XSL-FO. I had plenty of job-related reasons to take the training, from growing use of XSLT in my work to re-connecting with users in the field, but I'll admit it was a pleasant luxury to take a week to look at a complex technology up close.
I blogged each day over on my O'Reilly blog (1 2 3 4 5), but it's interesting to look back at the course as a whole. Three days of XSLT and two days of XSL-FO is a lot, but even that's kind of a forced march through the technologies, really only scratching the surface. Ken did a great job of covering the overall story, making us think our way through exercises on key features, and pointing out potential problems. Actually having worked through the details (and coming back with a handout covered in post-it notes) should help me remember what I did.
I haven't taken a formal training course in years, though. I've been mostly self-taught, with the occasional conference tutoral supplementing books, specs, and email. Face-to-face has some huge advantages, I have to say. Immediate interactions and immediate gratification are wonderful, as is having a pre-built set of exercises really intended for this kind of back-and-forth interaction.
I already knew (and heck, disliked) a good deal of XSLT before I went in, but this was an opportunity to check and expand on what I knew. Fortunately, the course was structured so that different users could get what they needed - including those of us who'd already been over a lot of it. (The XSL-FO class included at least one attendee who knew a lot more than I did about any of the material.)
Training isn't always an option for everyone, but after the past week, I'm thinking it's something I'll be encouraging a lot more.