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Read the doc !!!

brandelune profile image エラリー ジャンクリストフ ・4 min read

As a follow-up to @jenc 's

and especially item 2. "Don't say something is actually easy or simply provide the solution when someone is stuck."

to which I replied:

Regarding 2. (caveat: amateur experience, not pro) I understand that there are nice ways to say "rtfm" but a lot of times I did read the manual or the doc or whatever and if I did what I did (or did not manage to do it) it's because of a lack of understanding, hence, this kind of reaction can send me again back to something I did not understand in the first place and it's always frustrating.

I usually prefer a few lines of code and from there I can usually figure out what was wrong or ask the proper questions.

Even though is seems obvious, I want to add that in those times of instant access to information and instant (fake) retribution, it is of tremendous importance to read the documentation and all the references available about our tools for whatever we try to accomplish.

Not doing so will result in us making no significant progress in our endeavors at all.

  1. We learned to code in a book, or online, or wherever
  2. We have some real-world experience, and we get paid
  3. Duckduckgo, or StackOverflow, or reddit or whatever is always just a click away

After a while, we hit a wall, and that hurts because that's where the impostor syndrome bites the hardest. Or rather, that's when people who do have real expertise will begin to see through us like a window.

Knowing how to do web searches and copy-paste code found on the web is not a long-term marketable skill. It is a dead end. And it should not even be in the top half of our emergency measures list when we're stuck.

Jen very aptly described the market for our future selves (and for some of us it is now). And the economic shit storm that is currently coming our way is going to make that even more painful. Those who are old enough to have lived through the .com bubble and the 2008 crisis know what I am talking about. There was a before, and there is global-warming-corona-virus-student-debt-do-we-bomb-this-place-now-or-tomorrow today.

In my recent "My win..." (I don't link to it because it was not well written), the conclusion I'm trying to reach is that we do not all need to become world-class experts. It's ok to aim for that, but people who are there have the energy and time to pay that much attention to details.

But what we can't avoid, if we want to be real players in our respective fields, is keep learning and keep trying to understand things that are conceptually difficult.

For that, there is only one way. Read.

  • Read the docs
  • Read the specs
  • Read the references
  • Read the research papers

Read anything so hard that you can't even parse it at first glance, until it makes sense and then move on to something harder.

  • Read,
  • take notes,
  • reflect on what you read,
  • reword it, rehash it, digest it.

Do whatever it takes to understand it, even if that means recursively read other things of a "lesser" level.

All the tools that we use for a living have been conceived by world-class experts. To manage to get a glimpse of what they have in their heads, the only way is to read what they wrote. Even if your skill level is not that different after you read the reference, your understanding and ability to project yourself in the tool will be orders of magnitude greater.

And that's what makes the difference between a rolling stone that strolls online and a beginner (or a veteran) who tries hard to slowly but surely grow roots. When you grow roots, you grow a trunk too, and branches, and leaves, and you get more exposure, and you can provide shelter, and you can help weaker sprouts grow in your shadows.

Everything we do to get a deeper understanding of what levers we can activate will help now and most surely in the long run.

The world is not a trivial combination of cool UI widgets and fancy recipes to brew bio coffee. It is a living entity and as far as we can tell we're the only sentients acting on that at the moment (and not in a good way). So, quit Twitter, or blogs (unless that's in your 5 minutes pomodoro rest period, or they're written by them experts) and make time to exhaust your brain on that brick wall of hard thoughts.

And start today.


Disclaimer: Jen is my official DEV mentor. I don't know what mechanism brought her to me but even though I have not advanced an inch on the road to web stardom, everything she has written here has been a true inspiration and has brought me closer to be a better whatever I am now than whatever web or suchlike interaction I've ever had in the past. Thank you Jen. And keep distilling your wisdom here for the betterment of us all. You rock!

ps: Reading "Soil Ecology and Ecosystem Services" I just realized that now that half the world population has moved to urban areas, we have lost knowledge about the Earth that took generations and generations to accumulate and spread. Progress is not a measure of what cool things the latest gadget can do or how many bourgeois that rocket can ship to space, but a measure of how many people on Earth can understand how that came to be. And we're losing ground to stupid real fast.

Posted on Mar 10 by:

brandelune profile

エラリー ジャンクリストフ

@brandelune

In Japan since '97. Translating and localizing on Mac since 2000. FOSS advocate and user. Super proud that I have some code that's been accepted in Emacs :^)

Discussion

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Oh wow I wasn't aware of this post! I'm glad my writing and dramatic correspondence over the years have been some help and encouragement. I think at some point I gained a tremendous need to know everything (and so, read all the docs) but often this is not humanly possible in the given time it takes to learn and then execute the solution for a client or bug. In which case, reading some but not all doc may serve the purpose of understanding the necessary cogs where it applies. For me, asking questions as a means of clarifying my mental model and understanding is correct helps me move along a ton.