What Does a Noob See?

One of the biggest myths in learning is that people read and understand documentation. Here's an example.

After a futzing around in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for a while, you'll run into code with "-webkit-" in it. What's webkit? You google and click the second link, which is Wikipedia, which means it is more efficient to read than the WebKit site itself even though that's the result on top. Wikipedia says:

WebKit is a layout engine software component for rendering web pages in web browsers. It powers Apple's Safari web browser, and a fork of the project is used by Chromium-based browsers, such as Google Chrome or Opera.

That's the first paragraph. Chances are, you'll barely finish the second, and your attention trickles away on the first sentence of the third.

Finally, your brain makes a decision and rearranges all the words into this:

WebKit is a thing inside browsers that deals with layout. Just learn code and don't worry about it right now.

Is this ideal? Does it matter? No, it's not ideal, but it's the way our brains work. Yes, it matters because many times experts forget that noobs can't deal with this cognitive load and insist that they read up and understand all of it at once, right now, and remember it forever. If noobs can't do it, experts mock them, belittle them, tell them to fuck the right off. Way to go, experts, especially those of you who've forgotten your own beginnings. And you don't even know what other personal factors might be affecting learning. Family problems, financial stress, clinical depression, etc. All these things come into play.

This isn't even a particularly difficult thing to read and already we can feel the cognitive load weighing us down. Just imagine the harder stuff. Stress, anxiety, panic, all your fear-mongering hormones shoot up and strangle your brain immediately. So, don't simply tell people to RTFM. That's one of the quickest ways to kill learning dead until death.

This is what beginners have to deal with. Noobs deserve a pat on the back for slogging through.


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