The Secret Most Programmers Won’t Tell You!

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In this module we will cover the secret most programmers won’t tell you! This is the fourth module in the How to Make Your Own Website Tutorial.

If you have jumped straight into this section, make sure to start at the beginning and read through from module 1! If you jump straight into this module, it will probably not make sense and the secret will be a total waste!

Last time, we covered the key HTML5 tags used when building web pages. We also saw an example combining all the newly learnt HTML5 tags in a single page. In this module, I will introduce you to the secret most programmers won’t tell you! This module is a bit different because we are going to focus on the process of learning a new language. And believe me, you will love it! OK ready?

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The Secret

Google will almost write the code for you


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Yes You Read That Right!

When learning a new language, learn the very basics and how it all fits together, take time on this step, then jump straight in and start coding. Then, this is the secret – Google will almost write the code for you! I can feel your doubt…

Let’s Address The Doubt With An Example

Allow me to demonstrate.

So far in this free beginners course, we have learnt most of the HTML basics. We learnt to write HTML code using an advanced text editor. Additionally we found out how to adhere to the HTML standard. We covered the basic structure of an HTML document. Also, we can now use HTML tags and attributes. We can view the results in a web browser. Then we edit, save, view the results and repeat this loop until we are happy with the result. Remember this is called iterating in programming speak. We got this process locked down! As a result, I would argue, we now know HTML!

“Ah but we only learnt a few HTML tags”, I hear you say! “I don’t know HTML at all! For example, I want to make my text bold and you have not shown me how to do that!”

Yes that is true. BUT you understand the process now! The rest you can figure out by yourself easily as long as you know how! All we need to do, is find the missing piece and fit it into our code.

This is where Google comes in. Just search “how to make text bold in html”. Pick a result that looks like a good match. Stack Overflow usually provides the best results because the best answer has the most up votes from other programmers!

Using Stack Overflow to learn
Using Stack Overflow to learn

We just learnt that the correct tag to use is <strong>! It is so simple! We don’t even need to remember anything and believe me even the best programmers who juggle multiple languages sometimes forget simple HTML tag names or attributes. In this example, the answer had over 80 up votes on Stack Overflow which gives us confidence that the answer is correct.Let’s try it out:

<strong>WOW - I just learnt a new tag!</strong>

And the browser will show you…

WOW – I just learnt a new tag!

A Word Of Warning

It won’t always be this easy, especially when you are looking for answers to more complex questions. However, as long as you got the fundamentals of the language understood and you have your iterative loop locked down, you can learn how to do incremental things in a breeze!

Crowd Programming

You simply need to provide the context to Google by supplying the language you are using, in this case HTML and then what you want to do in plain English. Then you need to find an answer from a reputable source like Stack Overflow, take the answer, plug it into your code and test it out!

In fact, the rest is just practice and learning how and where to plug things! I kid you not!

As long as you understand the language fundamentals, you can do this. Trust me, the best programmers do this all the time. It even makes sense, if I want to do something new, I want to see how other programmers are doing it and look at best-practices to find the most efficient way possible! What better way to find out then to consult the best programmers from around the world? It’s like crowd-programming!

However, if you have not learnt the language basics and do not fully understand what is going on, do not have your iterative loop setup, you will likely not be able to join up the dots and will end up guessing and getting into a mess.

The Process Of How To Learn

It may feel like cheating, but it is not. It is just a good way to incrementally increase your knowledge of the language you are learning. The best thing for a beginner to understand is the process of how to learn.

I’ve lost count how many times I have applied this technique over the years as a programmer! I still do it today.

As your experience, knowledge and confidence grows, you can feed back into the community by posting your answers to Stack Overflow (or another programming forum) to more complex questions and help other people out. Programming is about sharing and it is also about the journey. As you go from rookie to guru, you will experience this. Programmers are hippies at heart really! 🙂

Another big mistake new people often make is they learn the whole language. They read all the theory, all the examples, all the intricate details. And then, they say – “now what?” They are stuck! On the one hand, they have learnt the language but are now facing a wall. They don’t know how to apply the knowledge they have gained. The best way is to learn the basics, have a small project in mind and then let the creativity drive you, learning what you need along the way!

The Pace Of Change

It may feel like a cop-out, but it’s not. It is actually necessary to learn this way. We learnt the most common HTML5 tags in the previous module and there is little point learning more at this stage.

Technology is changing at a staggering pace and the days where you read a manual and became good at a language are over. There is constant change and keeping up with the latest and greatest has become part and parcel of being a good programmer.

Another example, I use WordPress for this blog. When I want to add a new piece of functionality, I do a bit of research and see if there are any cool plugins with good ratings I can use. Then I might customise them a bit. Because I know HTML, CSS, JS and PHP fundamentals I can make a few changes to get the functionality I want, learn something new along the way and get up and running very quickly.

New Terminology You Learnt In This Module!

The Secret

Learn the basics, get coding and learn what you need as you go! Leverage other programmers’ knowledge in what I like to call crowd-programming!

Summary

That’s the end of “The Secret Most Programmers Won’t Tell You” module. The key point, there is no point learning EVERYTHING about a language. Just understand the big picture, get something basic working and learn what you need as you go along by drilling down into the details. The more you use a language in practice, the more of an expert you will become. You can then dive deeper into particular areas that your project requires you to become knowledgeable about. There is no point learning every tiny detail because it is not necessary. Moreover, it is almost impossible.

Learning programming is a continuous journey of keeping yourself up to date too, so you will never sit back and say “right I know everything about programming now”.

Next Module: How To Make Your Web Pages Look Cool

If you have any questions or comments please use the form below!

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