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Douglas Parsons
Douglas Parsons

Posted on • Originally published at on

The DRUG of online tutorials

Have you ever felt like you're stumbling in the dark trying to learn a new concept? Like you know where you're trying to get to, but absolutely no idea how to get there?

This is an incredibly common feeling when learning about technology. The field is MASSIVE. It's ludicrously complicated. And to make matters even more difficult, it seems to be changing every few months.

This makes programming tricky to get started in. You have no idea what you should be looking for, what to Google, or how to find information about what you want to learn. At the same time, any information you do find doesn't seem to be trustworthy or dependable. You find a JavaScript article from 4 years ago, but when you apply what it says, people say you're doing it wrong, or "nobody does it like that anymore". Looking on Stack Overflow, all the answers point to jQuery. But nobody has used that since 2015. You feel lost.

The natural reaction is to reach for tutorials. These will hold your hand, and guide you to the promised land of programming literacy. Just study this course on Udemy. Just watch this video on YouTube. Just learn these few things. Then, you'll be set for a lucrative career in software.

They hook you in like a drug.

You spend hours finding the right videos to watch. The right course to buy. The right guides to follow online. You think you're understanding as you watch someone build an application using the skills you'd always hoped for.

And when you're done? You sit down. You think you know more than when you started (because, well, you do). But you still have no idea how to get started. You're still stumbling in the dark. You still have no idea how to get to where you want to go.

The solution? More courses. More learning. It's all a lie. It's not the way to learn. It's a way to waste your time spinning, getting nowhere.

All courses fall into the same trap. They sell you a dream and hook you in like a drug. But they DON'T teach you the skills you need to succeed on your own. They keep you hooked because of this.

What's the solution? Come up with ideas of projects to build. It's tricky I know! Stumble in the dark. Find a mentor who can shine light where you need it. Contribute to open-source projects. Take part in Hacktober. Do Advent of Code when it's Christmas.

But most importantly, enjoy your time there. Enjoy being blind. Enjoy every day being an adventure. Every day being a challenge. Learning new things until your brain hurts. Because this is what learning is about. And being a good programmer is about learning.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please share or follow me on twitter.

Top comments (12)

tomavelev profile image

A tutorial should be 2-5 minutes video or straight to specific use case article. The endless courses shit is a marketing - content selling money machine - that some developers have archived. Good for them. I'm with you on - what to build. Finding meaningful problem that you could and should solve around the environment is hard...

psiho profile image
Mirko Vukušić • Edited

I mostly agree with you but want to be a voice in tutorials defense. A long time ago, when I started, there were no schools for programming, at least not in this region. I even finished high school and college not related to IT. But still, most of my life is around IT. Most of that knowledge was self-thought, via tutorials and other ways. Yes, back then there were also not that many tutorials like today, but there were some.

So, you're correct, but in my opinion, tutorials are not to blame, it's the "instant success" wish so visible in many places today. But shortcuts, speed, copy/paste, etc. hurts you in the long run. The "hands-on" way to go through tutorials is a different story. Immediately implementing it into projects too. Covering the basics before going through the tutorial(s) is also important. Even without covering the basics and hands-on approach, tutorials help to investigate new ways and technologies before diving into them and focus.

So, tutorials are a valuable tool in my opinion. But just one out of many in yout toolset. And like with any other tool, you also need to know how to use it.

dglsparsons profile image
Douglas Parsons

I agree with you here. Tutorials themselves aren't useless. Like you've said, they definitely lower the barrier to entry and provide valuable resources.

It's absolutely the 'instant success' or image that you can 'learn everything in one place' that is really the damaging thing. Even hands-on following a tutorial you're unlikely to experience the same problems, or getting stuck, like you normally would.

Nothing replaces the actual practice and experience of writing code and hitting issues head-on.

andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

It took me a long time to break free of tutorial hell but when I did my programming improved considerably. You go from being a puppet on strings to a real coder. 😎

dglsparsons profile image
Douglas Parsons

That is exactly the point. People need to realise that this tutorial hell is a weird limbo.

harshrathod50 profile image
Harsh Rathod

Yeah, I'm also getting on the same path. 😎

jwp profile image
John Peters

Back in 1990s we always said 'There's no time like lab time'

nove1398 profile image

I hope more persons read this article, I do believe most courses/tutorials lead you down this path. If you have a good foundation already then you can use them to brush up or implement a specific feature but ultimately you need to try your own projects.

alyatek profile image

The twitter link is broken.

dglsparsons profile image
Douglas Parsons • Edited

Oooh, good spot. Fixed that now. Thanks for pointing it out. <3

machineno15 profile image
Tanvir Shaikh • Edited

i can agree coz i was very addicted to them, lot of tutorials i have watche, not every tutorial provides a valuable knowledge,some just teaches very basic stuff in fancy way & charges high.

what i can tell you is don't just watch them like a movie , do along with him, you can pause that video 100 times , replay it , do as he shows side by side.
Build what he builds , even if his giving git repo of that. getting stuck ask others , even if it looks difficult or complex at beginning . Just do it .
you'll instantly realize if you are making any mistakes .

the person teaching has a controlled evnivoment (PC), minor to no errors will occurs in his dev. but on your system it'll.

A project built in hour in a video will definately talke a day or 2 for you.

a suggestion coz that's how i learn.
Don't stop & hit that command.

gawema profile image
Gabriele Westh Mannucci • Edited

I agree. I often feel trapped in the hurry of learning the "new thing" before I even practice the one I just finished learning about. 😅