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The most important skill for programmers: Googling

It may sound a bit silly now, but by far the most important skill for programmers and people who want to teach themselves something is how to use a search engine successfully. You may now be wondering whether this is not an important skill for every person in the third millennium - and that is true, without a doubt!

But for us programmers and autodidacts, searching and finding information is the alpha and omega. How quickly we find the right information can make a difference of not just a few hours, but whole days. And if there is one thing we don't have infinitely, that's time. The more efficiently we find the right information, the more efficiently and quickly we learn overall, the faster we can achieve the goals we set ourselves and the more fun it is.

So before you start learning to program, you should ask yourself whether and how you can improve your Google skills. In addition to general operating tips (like here (opens new window) or here (opens new window)), I recommend the following strategies:

  • Just because you can't find any results doesn't mean there aren't any. Rephrase your search, try again from a different direction, do not give up after the first, but only after a handful of attempts. A positive side effect: this means that your Google skill will continue to improve itself!
  • Finding results doesn't mean that they are the best for your problem. Even if you are satisfied: try again, try to find a better, a simpler solution! Even if you don't find better results, you've probably learned something new anyway!
  • Furthermore, it can sometimes be useful take a step back and gain a more basic understanding of the problem: Sometimes you may not have the right words to describe your problem due to a lack of basic knowledge; if you have this feeling, do not hesitate to inform yourself a little more first.

Realize that smart searches can get you further, and your Google skill will keep improving on its own! Even with these tips, you will waste a day or two looking for the solution to a problem. When you learn to program or deal with a new technology, that's more or less in the nature of things.

But let's put it this way: over the years, the time I spend in vain looking for solutions to programming problems has massively decreased; on the one hand because I have more knowledge of programming, but above all because I know where and how to find solutions to my problems.

And at the end of the day it turns out that we programmers can only remember a fraction of what we need in everyday life. We are constantly forced to look up which parameters this or that standard function needs again, or how the new feature in our favorite framework works exactly again.

We programmers don't know exactly how most things work, but we know they exist and where and how to find out how exactly they work. The better you are with a search engine, the more time you will save in the course of your programming life, regardless of whether you are solving a problem that you have never had before or quickly looking up implementation details for something you've actually done it umpteen times.