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Let me start off by a little background. I am currently a 3rd year pursuing a BS in Computer Science at a small Christian school in San Diego. I have take a good chunk of the courses offered to me, and have received an A/B in every class so far without too much stress.

Now, I want to expand my learning a little more, so I have come to communities like this to learn new things. Here is the problem. I glance over all the questions asked here, and become extremely discouraged. Sad to say, but I don't even understand a majority of the questions posed here.

I guess my question to you (Stack Overflow community) is:

  1. Did it start like this for you?
  2. If so, how did you conquer it?
  3. Is this normal?


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migrated from stackoverflow.com Aug 4 '09 at 23:00

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I will share some of the best advice that I got one time. It was given to me by a physics prof regarding physics but it is true for any speciality really. "Physics is like music. You have to just listen to it for a while before you can start to understand it." –  EBGreen Feb 25 '09 at 19:50
Also important: Don't be discouraged by SO if this question gets closed. Really. –  BoltBait Feb 25 '09 at 19:55
@EBGreen this isn't slashdot, we are not doing Formal Logic Debates(TM). Appeal To Common Practice(TM) can be a legitimate point to raise when the community has a hand in defining said practice. –  Rex M Feb 25 '09 at 20:38
@OIS - For anything that is even close to borderline like this, one time only. For something really egregious and troll like, until I run out of votes. –  EBGreen Feb 25 '09 at 20:44
Ugh, the reputation people get for these questions is absurd, even if it is marked community wiki. It makes you feel like "why bother asking good questions and providing good answers, when I could just ask a culture question and rocket my way to admin privileges" –  m4bwav Feb 25 '09 at 21:01
Because, you weren't really helping anyone with a programming related problem. I mean why should someone get the reputation and status of a programming expert, if there expertise is really in programming culture. –  m4bwav Feb 25 '09 at 21:51
High rep does not give you the ability to answer harder programming questions. It gives you the ability to participate with the community in different ways. –  EBGreen Feb 25 '09 at 22:13

71 Answers 71

Don't be discouraged. StackOverflow can be viewed as a good mirror for where you are at and what you can learn, and there are many, many helpful people here who have started from all sorts of backgrounds. I look at it as a chance to test your knowledge and find areas where you can improve. Along the way you'll see areas where you have something to contribute, and as long as you are good willed with your input you'll get something back.

Don't worry about the badges or reputation. I have had very authoritative yet amazing false answers from people, but overall the majority of answers have been great. In the end, it's just dudes and dudettes who love software development. Jump in, get ready to learn and give it shot. Just remember, we really can't see you, so be bold and participate, and don't be concerned with your knowledge level. Yeah, there's a lot we all don't know, but that should only spur us on.

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Absolutely Not! I'm sure most of the people here can't answer 10% of the questions. It's not our fault, it's because you can't know everything. There aren't enough hours in the day to learn everything. Specialize in an area you feel passionate about, only then, will you feel more confident.

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Nope, you shouldn't be, first of all, the questions here spand such a wide area, so theres unknown areas for everyone. Secondly, when people give up troubleshooting, the problem is or kind of has to be non-trivial for anyone. I've been in java-development/architecture for 8 years, I find most questions here to be in other areas than my profession. Questions within java are seldom easy ones, rather complex and related to a particular tool/framework. Often if you haven't spend a lot of time with that framework, you can't answer the question.

So it's perfectly normal, cheer up! Get some experience and you'll start understanding more every day.

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There is no need to be discouraged, first of all I dont advice you to visit this kind of forums to learn things.This place is for discussing issues/show stoppers that one encounters in work. Here nobody knows/understands every thing and moreover people ask questions here because they dont know how to solve the problem. So everyone here is almost same. Today you have asked a question and tomorrow you might answer other's queries :)

You can start learning things with something which is very easy.

Like: Take an excel macro, learn different things that you can do.

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It's hard to top work experience (if you're not actively involved in your own or an open-source project) for giving you the know-how to answer some of these questions. A lot of things you'll just never encounter on your own, or in a classroom. I remember doing Java work for my CS degree before i had a workterm and not knowing about Eclipse (or any IDE for that matter) or even how to reasonably make use of abstract classes and interfaces... but you work with people who know more than you do and you learn from them. That's where i find the best stuff comes from - mentoring. Some people are very driven to learn things themselves, but not everyone is like that. So getting into a software job where you can learn from experienced/talented people will really make a difference. Then one day you'll be reading an article like this and remember when you asked a similar question... It just takes time... Good luck, don't give up.

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You shouldn't be discouraged that you don't understand the majority of questions here.

A lot of the questions on Stack Overflow are very specific programming questions that are relevant to a particular problem. If you've never had to deal with that particular specific problem before, and would never have reason to in your career, there's no need to understand it.

Another thing is that a lot of the questions here are very specific to a particular framework, and if your day-to-day programming is in a different language, you won't understand it. A programmer will often specialise in a specific language and perhaps framework/environment, rather than trying to know everything about every programming tool for every language.

As for me, a lot of the questions about .NET or Visual Studio, or in some respects Java, are gobbledy-gook to me, as I usually program in other languages like C++, C, PHP, Python.

My tip would be to use the search feature to find questions that are more relevant to the types of programming you do.

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Questions on here are extremely specialized. It would be almost impossible for one to know the answer to most things.

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Well, since this is where people go to ask questions that they don't know the answers to, no. I wouldn't be. I'm not. We both are young and still learning a lot.

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The day I stop learning (should I ever arrive at a place in time where I would know everything :-P) is the day I quit my job. The whole thing that makes my job fun IS learning new things!

I wonder if Jon Skeet is still working...

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  1. This site can be intimidating, definitely. However, you can either leave or roll up your sleeves and get into what the site has that may help with something you want to learn. There are tons of different questions here and I'm not sure anyone knows all of them.
  2. Persistence, learning about different things, and recognizing that in some cases I'm sharing knowledge and in other cases it is my experience that can be shared and be useful to others, e.g. how do I like Scrum or how do I handle some ASP.NET thingie.
  3. It could well be normal because how many other people could say that they visit this type of site and know it like the back of their hand? Not many, IMO.

Just as something to ponder, what kind of coursework have you taken involving Oracle or ASP.NET or other very large things that I'm not sure CS courses cover this material in great depth. I remember well my 6 3rd year courses well: Data Structures and Algorithms (CS340), Concurrent Programming (CS342), Digital Design and Architecture (CS351), Operating Systems (CS354), Theory of Finite Automata (CS360), and Numerical Analysis (CS370).

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No, do not be discouraged. Be challenged, and strive to live up to the challenge. If nothing else, it's a lot more fun that way.

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