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How to escape from Tutorial Purgatory?

jcsmileyjr profile image JC Smiley ・5 min read

I asked the above question to my local tech community. The following is a curated list of their answers:

Cory McCarty
Make a project in GitHub with your tutorial. Don't just use the exact code that is given to you. Tweak it, and see if you can apply all the principles to a different application. This gives you a reference to come back to. You can get creative with how you use it. There can be a branch per language or just a directory per language where you do proper PR per tutorial with commits on specific working versions of the thing at different points in the tutorial.

Remember: you don't have to invent the wheel. Make a project for experience. If that project is another URL shortener, then do it. You can figure out how to achieve the functionality of a tool that you use every day.

JC Smiley
After you have finished a tutorial, add more features to it. Think of a problem to solve similar to the tutorial and build that problem.

My advice to avoid becoming trapped by tutorials is to find two tutorials based on a technology or concept you want to learn. Immediate following the tutorials, build something solving a problem with that knowledge or redevelop both tutorials while adding additional features. The purpose is to use the preceding tutorials as a guide, test your knowledge, and to find gaps in what you learned. Use those gaps as guides for the next round of learning.

George Spake
There are some tutorials that are reliable. If you're learning front-end, Frontend Masters is expensive but it's all pretty much guaranteed to be high quality. All of the courses are live workshops taught by industry leaders. For JavaScript, I'm a big fan of "You don't know JS" by Kyle Simpson and I still refer to it all the time. The whole series is free on GitHub. For React, I just do whatever Kent C. Dodds and Dan Abramov says.

Lawrence Lockhart

Keep the end goal in mind while building a tutorial and then add it in your personal portfolio.
First thing before I start a tutorial I have to have a result in mind. These days I never start a tutorial because it's neat or someone said it's a hot technology nor anything like that. I've had to completely rid myself of running after every shiny thing which if you look at my 100 Udemy courses it's hard to tell but yeah, have a result in mind. "When I finish this, I can go back and add this piece to my old portfolio" . "When I finish this, I can build X that will be great to talk about in my next interview. "When I finish this"..... You get the point.

Don't worry about the listed time
The next thing is I've had to rid myself of paying any attention to the time listed on a course. Or if I do pay attention, I have to put it in "Lawrence" context. Example, let's say I'm starting a course and it's says 28 hours. That's typically 28 hours of content. I double it. Every time, I double it because for me to deep dive, to practice spaced repetition, to build things along the way, it will at minimum take me twice the time listed to get through it and NOT have to go back to it. This is critical. I've spent way too much time in my early learning days redoing the same content over and over. What that means is I didn't give it enough time to sink down deep into the gray matter. Take your time. Read all the things, do all the things, make no attempt to rush through with any regard to the listed time.

Spaced repetitions and special ability to recall it without looking at material
Last thing I'll add for now, let's say I'm learning JavaScript for the first time and let's say the lesson is now about conditionals. So there's the video, probably some reading, then there's a part you do very often in an embedded IDE right in the browser. If that's the case, EVERY TIME, when I finish that section, I close the browser, open my IDE, then make sure I can replicate the same concept on my own from scratch without looking. This has proven fool proof for me when it comes to retaining material, not having to go back, and not getting stuck in one tutorial after another. Now a person might say, "But that means it's going to take FOREVER". TO which I answer, learning in software development is a forever concept anyway so you might as well make that forever a progressive exercise in acquiring new skills rather than repeating the same old ones. This slow deliberate repeating on your own method just reeks in a positive way of all the VAK model of learning you can imagine. Finally, the added time from doing it this way IN MY EXPERIENCE is nowhere near as long as the time I've lost going back and repeating tutorials or doing new tutorials that go over the same concepts.

I mentioned spaced repetition but didn't mention the "how". Anki cards are flexible enough to learn definitions of things or even code syntax snippets. I've used the free version and gotten what I needed from it.

In conclusion

  1. After you have finished a tutorial, add it to GitHub, and used the lessons learned in another application.
  2. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, make a project just for the experience.
  3. After you have finished a tutorial, add more features to it.
  4. Some great tutorials is Front-end Masters and "You don't know JS" by Kyle Simpson. For React, anything produce by Kent Dodds.
  5. Keep the end goal in mind while building a tutorial and then add it in your personal portfolio.
  6. Don't worry about the listed time. Take all the time you need to learn what the tutorial is teaching.
  7. Spaced repetitions and special ability to recall it without looking at material. Focus on practicing what you have learned by immediately replicating the material.

Please help others learn by leaving a comment on how you escaped tutorial purgatory. Thank You!!!

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Chris Bongers

Very nice, it's easy getting stuck in tutorial land indeed.
But some decent tips above.