I ❤️ Tutorial Hell
It's probably not what you think.
6 min read
You've heard it before, in some iteration like this...
Get out of tutorial hell ASAP. Build your own projects. That's the way you'll learn.
Well, I'm here to let you know that it's okay to enjoy tutorial hell, and it actually might be beneficial to jump in and out of it too! I'll break it down a bit.
Firstly, when you're learning something new you need someone to help guide you. Sure, you can go read the docs, search StackOverflow, or comb through Github repos, but initially, it's difficult to even know where to begin. What question are you going to ask? Let me highlight a few good things about tutorial hell.
What's good about Tutorials?
They're excellent to help you feel accomplished. Usually, they're based on building projects. And once you're done, boom! You've got a project. Accomplishment.
They go over a lot of information. Seriously, every "beginner" tutorial involves way more info than it should. It's just the nature of doing tutorials (I think) when, as a teacher, you're not really getting instant feedback as you would in a classroom. (* this could be bad though too... careful!)
The coding is formatted, sequential, and oftentimes high quality. The good tutorial-folx spend a lot of time getting things correct so they can explain them fluidly and easily. Many times I've learned multiple ways to accomplish a goal. Obviously, each has their preference.
They're easy. Open up VS Code. Follow. Type along and all of sudden you feel like a real dev. It's cool!
However, I made a huge mistake when I started learning Swift. I followed the tutorials and then said to myself "hey, look what I can do now." Currently, my Swift programming knowledge is close to non-existent, but I have about 30 fully completed projects on my hard drive. This brings me to my next point.
Do's and Don'ts of Tutorial Hell
DO... Modify! The difference was that I didn't modify anything while learning Swift. I didn't change the code. I didn't break it and then rebuild it. I just copied. I didn't even try to blindly re-type the code. I knew what was happening, but I didn't do enough. I just followed along.
DO... STOP! When you don't understand something, STOP and go back. Let them explain again. Even better, stop the video and do some research. Now you know what question to ask on StackOverflow. Also, when I mentioned above about "a lot of information," well, if you have no idea how to set up a cloud database and you're only into day 2 of web-dev, then stop the video and find something easier. It's a balancing act of knowing what is just out of reach and trying to grasp it.
DO... go back and DO IT AGAIN. This one's tough, and I don't do it often enough. But, you're going to miss something, everyone always does! But it's good to go back and re-do the tutorial with even more add-ons, fixes, and changes that you implement. As an alternative, what I've been enjoying lately is watching a tutorial all the way through at 2x speed, and then going back again and typing it out at 1x speed. Spaced repetition solidifies understanding.
DON'T... finish everything in ONE SITTING. You need to come back and try to figure out where you left off. You'll come back to work on a Monday and have to figure out where you stopped on Friday, so this is a time to practice. Plus, you're creating new synapses to help connect info.
DON'T... follow ONLY ONE FORMAT. Videos. Blogs. Books. Docs. They're all good. And they all have their place. Plus, you need exposure to different solutions and variations of problems. I recently read and watched 3 different tutorials on JSON Web Tokens, Authentication, and Authorization. Each one did it just a bit differently. It's all about preference, but it is also about filling in tiny gaps of missing knowledge.
DON'T... think you know, when YOU DON'T KNOW. In a tutorial, if you think it makes sense, it DOES NOT make sense. You're going to forget that piece of info quickly, so don't kid yourself. If you don't know, that's fine. You're learning. But now's the time to make a decision. Do you keep going? Read the docs? Or do you take the next steps?
You need to build projects. Yes, I know. This isn't "tutorial hell." I'm sorry for leading you astray. But eventually, you'll have to get out of Tutorial Hell. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy it and learn from it! But don't waste time while you're there. Please LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!
As for learning and getting better, you won't follow a straight line from beginning to end. In fact, you'll likely end up going back and forth from the Dunning Kruger Effect to the Imposter Sydrome. It happens to the best!
Anecdotal Evidence on the Benefits of Tutorial Hell
I've spoken to multiple Senior Developers with 10+ years of experience that have told me that they still do tutorials. I don't know why I was surprised, but they're obviously learning new things and don't know everything. Don't think that tutorials are "cheating," because they're not.
They contain entry-level topics to help you see how to use new technology. It's a hands-on demo. And I don't know about you, but I loved those when I was in school.
And to finish with a non-tech story. I'm a guitar player and have been since I saw a friend's brother play Thunderstruck by AC/DC at the talent show. I made it my quest from that day to be on the stage, playing in the next year's talent show. Anyway, I can also make a lot of other instruments sound good. That doesn't mean I've "sat down and practiced how to play each instrument." But I can jam with no problem.
The reason I tell you this is because I can remember the day that I sat down at the drum set and just started rocking the kit. Our drummer wasn't there, and I wanted a go at it. It was a simple groove, but after hours and hours of watching and absorbing my drummer play I thought to myself, "hey man, it's actually not that difficult." So I sat down and did it. Presto! Like magic. I was in drum tutorial hell for months or years, but eventually I just did it by myself.
That's the thing about tutorials. Eventually, the ideas are just going to click. You'll just know what to do and why you're doing it. It may not be the most efficient path, but life isn't always about efficiency. It's about progress and enjoying yourself. If you're having fun, don't worry too much about making progress. It'll come.
So, please enjoy tutorial hell! But make sure you're also stepping outside and playing by yourself.
If you liked this article please follow me on Hashnode for my latest articles. I'm tweeting my journey on Twitter daily, this way to my LinkedIn, finally you can see my codebase on GitHub
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