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Andres Reales
Andres Reales

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at becomebetterprogrammer.com

How Frequently Programmers Google? Is It Bad? Is It Normal?

Starting in the programming world is never easy, but it can turn into one of the most rewarding things you can do for a living. If you are relatively new or have a couple of years of programming, you probably had an infinite amount of questions, some of them could be along the following lines:

  • How often pro programmers use google?
  • How often expert programmers use google?
  • Is it ok to google all the time as a programmer?
  • Am I a programmer or am I a googler?
  • Am I cheating if I constantly google as a programmer?
  • Do I use too much StackOverflow to find answers?

Let me tell you something, I’m glad you are asking yourself those questions. That’s often a hint telling me you are looking to level up your programming skillset, and googling is one of those skills needed for those who are serious about programming.

How Frequently Should I Google as a Programmer?

It is funny how we included google as a verb in our vocabulary. This has been due to the impact that Google (and other search engines) has had in our daily lives. Google is our dictionary where you can find just about everything within seconds. On top of that, we use it all the time. Every day, every hour, and even every minute.

Having said that, regardless of whether you are a programmer, an artist, a mechanic, an accountant, etc. We all google all the time.

Why? Because we don’t know all the answers. Our brain can store only so much information. The internet can have an infinite amount of information and Google is capable to find answers to our questions without us having to do research.

Therefore, **programmers should use google as frequently as they need. Sometimes this could be 10 times a day, 10 times a morning, or 10 times an hour. You can google as many times as you want. The important questions to ask are:

  • How good are you at googling?
  • Are you effective at googling?

Is It Normal to Google Too Much as a Programmer?

Yes, it is normal. Enthusiasts, Junior, Mid-Level, and Senior programmers google too much. The reasons can be different: to find a solution to a problem, to learn a new programming language, to learn how to develop a feature, to learn how to improve soft skills, to learn how much money the software development industry pays, etc.

The reasons are infinite and all of them are related to programming. Therefore, there is not such a thing as “too much googling” because chances are you can’t keep up with the number of times you already google in a day unless you code an application that does that.

Is It Bad to Google as a Programmer?

No, it is not bad to google. It is how you use google as a programmer that matters. In fact, googling is a skill programmers should master.

Am I a Good Programmer or a Good Googler?

If you are good at googling, chances are you are a good programmer. However, we need to clarify what is googling. Googling is the process of searching for valid information based on our doubts or lack of knowledge with regards to a topic.

Or in simple words: googling is the act of doing online research.

The number of times programmers spend searching for information is more than the amount of time spent at coding. A common misconception about programmers is they write 24/7 or 8 of the 8 hours of their workdays.

This is not realistic.

Journalists and bloggers spend more time writing articles than programmers. I can validate this point as I am both, a blogger and a programmer. It takes more time to write about relevant content other people are interested in.

Blogs and articles often require an in-depth level of explanation. Software applications might be complex but may not require large amounts of code. Most likely, it will require large amounts of documentation, which in theory is not the act of programming, even though it is part of what a programmer should do.

Google is a Tool

Depending on your level of expertise, programmers know a number of languages: Python, JavaScript, Golang, Java, C#, PHP, etc. If we look further, you can use frameworks or libraries based on the programming language: React, Angular, Vue, Node.js, Express.js, Laravel, .NET Framework, Django, etc. All of them are tools that help you build software, in this case, web applications (there are other frameworks or libraries for game development, machine learning, mobile applications, etc.).

Think about it, just because you have weights and a treadmill doesn’t make you fit. What makes you fit is using those tools to make you fit. Let’s suppose other people have the same gym equipment. However, you notice some of them are not as fit as you are, or some are in better shape than you. It comes down to how to use to their best knowledge the tools available to maximize the benefits.

Coming back to our programming world, what matters most is not the number of programming languages you know, but the way you use them. You might know React, Angular, and Vue. All of them are frontend frameworks. Maybe, you are good at using any of them to develop web applications. However, whenever you start facing slow performance in your application, do you know how to improve this deficiency? This can hurt the business by impacting the number of customers they lose just because the application is slow.

The same way we could think about googling. Many programmers use google, which several of them find information related to issues they are trying to solve, but only a few of them know what to look for to fix the problem they are trying to fix, without the need of copying and pasting code from StackOverflow.

Senior Programmers Spend Minutes Googling, Junior Programmers Spend Hours

No matter how gifted you are, everyone starting their programming journey will spend a lot of time searching for information to help them pass a roadblock in the development process. Googling is a skill not often taught in school or bootcamps. Hence, junior programmers are not the most effective at finding the correct information.

As you keep practicing and googling more often, you become better at recognizing reliable sources of information and finding articles that provide meaningful value making you spend less time researching and more time coding.

Now, let’s say you can recognize a good number of websites where you can find good information. Some of the many popular out there are StackOverflow, Medium, Dev.to, FreeCodeCamp, Hackernoon, etc. Even then, you are still spending too much time doing research. Unfortunately, just because these websites are reliable, it doesn’t mean they are always going to have the answer you are looking for.

It is common for programmers to develop things they don’t know how to do. In this case, even if you have improved your googling skills, and it still takes a lot of time! In this case, programmers spent a lot of time because they are trying to find good information about something they don’t know. Even if there are good websites out there, even if you know how to search, the reality is you are starting to learn new concepts and you are trying to put the pieces of information together to make your search more and more effective.

Sometimes what you need is experience. The more experience you have, the more knowledge you acquire, the more you know what to look for, the more you know how to recognize the correct answers. It’s crazy how something simple as googling can be complex to master as it is perceived to be already simple to do.

Problems Why New Junior Programmers Struggle Googling
With the rise of technological innovations and the more focus on institutions such as schools, universities, and bootcamps that quickly try to educate new engineers to help them land in their first programming job, it feels there is more and more talent not prepared for what a real job could be like. Bootcamps often do a better job at this as their focus is to train engineers for real-world jobs in the shortest amount of time possible.

Even that being the case, everyone who starts their first programming job, will learn a lot of things that cannot be taught. That’s normal and that’s how things work. There is no secret to that. However, trying to rush the learning process creates some failures in the education system. A couple of them is to read and analyze.

For example, many programmers at some point, including myself when I started, google the answer of a problem, find StackOverflow as the first google search, then look at the first answer with some code, and copy and paste that code in hopes that it will be the answer they’ve been looking for.

There are a lot of problems here:

StackOverflow has become first place to go for almost all programmers. Since answers are upvoted in stackoverflow, the first answer is often “best” answer for a question. The problem is it might be the best answer for the question being asked, not the question you have. Even if both questions are very identical.
Since StackOverflow is the first place to go, programmers don’t even read the question asked.

Programmers are reading the title of the search results, but not the description. Reading the description can save you sometime and prevent you from opening a new tab for you to read at the article later. Sometimes the description can give you enough information to decide whether or not it is worth reading the article.
As you noticed, the main issue is reading. Yes, there is a lot of copy and paste in the programming world. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t know how to read. It’s crazy how something “simple” such as reading is complex. The true issue for many who struggle with their googling skills is failing to read. Don’t confuse skim reading and failing to read. Skim reading allows you to be efficient at finding information, even if you compromise a little on the depth of the information you are looking for.

Senior programmers are good at googling because they read what they are searching for. They have experience googling effectively. If you think about those programmers who started their journey when there was no StackOverflow, or not even internet, the only thing they could be to read books about the programming language, read the logs of the application, debug their code. They were forced to read the documentation and analyze how truly their code worked. No wonder why there were not many programmers before the internet was a thing!

I hope this article gave you insights and reasons why you need to master the art of googling as a programmer. Do you have different opinions? Let me know, I would want to hear your thoughts.

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