Rapid Ramp Up – getting up to speed with free online tools

2009 April 12
by Steven R Jones

I spent the bulk of my professional life as a technology consultant which took me into a wide variety of industries (e.g. health care, telecom, insurance, banking, options trading, etc.). I was expected to quickly learn enough about each new domain to be productive and to help solve the problems for that business.

But you don’t have to be a consultant to be faced with the challenge of getting up to speed in a new subject as rapidly as possible. Maybe you’re looking to switch careers, maybe you are trying to start a new business on the side, or maybe you just got turned on to a new hobby and can’t wait to learn everything there is to know.

By now, its probably safe to assume everyone starts off any new information search by first trying to “Google it”. But there are many more online tools that go deeper and produce better results than your favorite search engine. I put this mind map together to illustrate a number of the tools I use when I’m trying to ramp up on a new topic. The best thing about these is that they’re all free!

Rapid Ramp Up Overview

This is not an exhaustive list by any means but you should find plenty of options to get started. If you are a savvy web geek, then this is likely old hat. I’m speaking to the other folks who have probably never spent much time with Delicious, who don’t regularly subscribe to RSS feeds, or haven’t spent much time in online communities: these are amazing resources that should be on your radar and part of your strategy for getting plugged in.

Some disclaimers before I deliver the goods (link is below for the impatient):

  • I don’t regularly use all these techniques, and certainly not all at once. Even for a single topic, this would result in information overload. I suggest you begin with the tools that are the most familiar and then move on to the foreign ones.
  • You should feel comfortable exploring many of these without risk of embarrassment.  You will likely make some blunders early on as you try out these techniques (I know I did) but in most cases, this won’t go on your permanent record.
  • This particular list is being culled from a number of great tutorials out there – I don’t claim to have discovered all this on my own. I encourage you to seek out these other sites to strengthen your knowledge on a particular tactic.
  • This mind map is a work in progress. I will be making updates to it and may post/share new iterations with those that are interested. For those unfamiliar, mind maps are tree-based charts for organizing information and are typically read in a clockwise order.

Here is what the current version of this mind map looks like when its all unfolded. You can click on the thumbnail image below to download a copy of the full PDF (1.2 MB).


Click to download PDF version

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