When you are a newbie at something, you will try to follow the ‘manual’ as closely as possible. The basic knowledge slowly sets in your head and you refer to the instructions less and less. But is it okay for pro-coders to turn to online solutions even after 5 or 10 years of experience? 

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Key Takeaways:

  • Contrary to the belief that experienced programmers know everything, they often turn to the internet for complex algorithms and specialized solutions.
  • Professional programmers utilize online documentation and examples, especially when delving into new domains. This approach isn’t just about convenience; it’s a strategic method to quickly understand new technologies.
  • While the internet is a valuable resource for programmers, over-reliance on it can hinder the development of fundamental programming skills. 

There’s a common belief that experienced programmers, equipped with years of knowledge and expertise, rarely need to look up solutions. This perception paints them as walking encyclopedias of coding, always ready with an answer. However, the reality is more nuanced. Even the most seasoned programmers find value in utilizing online resources. Their knowledge base is indeed impressive, but the ever-expanding and changing world of programming means that no one can know everything.

One of the users on Quora decided to pose the question of whether even the most experienced programmers turn to outside resources.

“Do experienced programmers also look up solutions for their code?”

Let’s dive deeper into the issue and explore the different opinions mentioned on Quora.

Managing Routine Tasks

In the world of seasoned programmers, looking up complex algorithms or seeking optimized solutions online is not a daily routine, but it is certainly a part of their professional toolkit. This practice tends to occur just a few times a year. It’s not because they lack knowledge; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. These experienced coders have a vast reservoir of foundational knowledge that they draw upon regularly. However, the field of programming is vast and ever-evolving, making it impossible for even the most skilled programmers to hold every detail in their minds.

“Why chance a mistake in a known algorithm, when my effort and attention should be on solving bigger, unsolved problems? I’m not being paid to relive my Data Structures and Algorithms course daily.”

When faced with particularly challenging problems or when a need arises for highly specialized solutions, these programmers turn to the internet. This could be for cutting-edge algorithms or the most recent advancements in a specific area of coding. By doing so, they ensure that their work remains at the forefront of technological innovation. This approach highlights a key aspect of their expertise: knowing when to rely on their own knowledge and when to seek external, advanced resources. It’s a balancing act between self-reliance and resourcefulness, demonstrating not just their depth of understanding, but also their commitment to delivering the best possible solutions in their work.

Efficiently Using Both Basic and Pro Resources

When professional coders venture into new domains, they often turn to online documentation and examples as vital resources. This approach is not just about convenience; it embodies a strategic method for efficient learning and problem-solving. In the diverse and rapidly evolving world of programming, new technologies and frameworks emerge constantly. Rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel, seasoned programmers understand the value of leveraging existing knowledge and resources.

“Doing research is good. Saving time is good. Memorizing tons of trivia solely to avoid needing to use the internet is bad.”

Utilizing online documentation and examples allows these experts to quickly grasp the fundamentals of new programming languages, tools, or frameworks. It’s like having a roadmap when exploring unfamiliar territory – it speeds up the journey and reduces the chances of getting lost. This method of learning is particularly effective because it combines theoretical knowledge with practical application. By studying real-world examples, programmers can see how abstract concepts are applied in practical scenarios.

This approach does not diminish their expertise or creativity. Instead, it streamlines the learning process, freeing up time and mental energy for innovation and custom solution development. In essence, the use of online resources in new domains is a testament to the pragmatism and adaptability of professional programmers. It underscores their commitment to staying current and effective in a field characterized by constant change and innovation.

Internet Research vs Practice: What Should You Rely On?

In the dynamic world of programming, finding the right balance between online research and the core learning of programming skills is crucial. While the internet is a treasure trove of information and solutions, over-reliance on it can be a double-edged sword for programmers. The convenience of finding quick solutions online may lead to a superficial understanding of programming concepts, potentially stunting the growth of a programmer’s foundational skills.

“It depends what you mean. I might look for an existing library that appears to be well made and well supported. I might look up examples of how to use a library or a new tool. Beyond that, I don’t usually look up how to actually implement things because A) I already know how, and B) I’ve already implemented it and can just import my existing code.”

The danger lies in the habit of copying code from the internet without fully understanding the underlying principles. This approach might offer immediate fixes, but it doesn’t contribute to a deeper comprehension of programming logic and methodologies. Just as learning to cook involves more than following recipes, becoming proficient in programming requires more than just implementing ready-made code snippets. It’s about understanding the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind the code.

“But actually learning to program is good. Getting every solution from the internet to every task you’re given means you’re not actually learning to program. And that means you’re not fully understanding what you’re doing. And if you don’t fully understand, you can’t intentionally design solutions; all you can do is pile up Lego pieces without regard to architecture. And that’s bad.”

True mastery in programming comes from tackling problems head-on, applying logical thinking, and experimenting with different solutions. This process not only reinforces fundamental concepts but also encourages creativity and problem-solving skills. While online resources are invaluable for guidance and inspiration, they should complement, not replace, the hands-on experience and exploration that are essential in learning to program. Thus, maintaining this balance is key to developing as a well-rounded programmer, capable of both leveraging existing solutions and innovating new ones.

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