Do Experienced Programmers Use Google Frequently?

Umer Mansoor Umer Mansoor Follow Apr 30, 2016 · 2 mins read
Do Experienced Programmers Use Google Frequently?

Software developers, especially those who are new to the field, often ask this question or at least wonder whether they are good developers or just good at googling up solutions.

“Do experienced programmers use Google frequently?”

The resounding answer is YES, experienced (and good) programmers use Google… a lot. In fact, one might argue they use it more than the beginners. Using Google doesn’t make them bad programmers or imply that they cannot code without Google. In fact, truth is quite the opposite: Google is an essential part of their software development toolkit and they know when and how to use it.

A big reason to use Google is that it is hard to remember all those minor details and nuances especially when you are programming in multiple languages and using dozens of frameworks. As Einstein said:

“Never memorize something that you can look up.” - Albert Einstein

Aside from that, good programmers also know that they cannot be the first one to have encountered a problem. They use Google to research possible solutions, carefully evaluating the results and consciously separating the wheat from the chaff; they don’t blindly follow or copy-paste any solution they come across. Expert programmers are also paranoid, living in self-doubt and questioning their competence. Whenever their spidey senses start tingling, they know they may be going the wrong hole; they rely on Google on validate their logic.

Going by the definition, I would be considered an experienced programmer. Recently, I had to write web server using Netty in Java to handle persistent sockets from mobile games. I had never used Netty before. Here are my Google searches I did:

1. netty tutorial 2. netty maven dependency 3. netty bytebuf to string 4. netty bytebuf release 5. netty 4 changes 6. setOption("child.bufferFactory") netty 4 7. ByteBuf netty 8. opensource projects using netty framework 9. netty 4 examples 10. netty 4 adding json encoder 11. netty channel pipeline 12. netty 4 messagetomessage encoder 13. netty serverbootstrap childhandler 14. ByteBuf netty 15. lengthfieldbasedframedecoder netty 4 16. netty 4 client examples 17. netty 4 bytebuf to bytebuffer 18. netty 4 endianness 19. netty channelhandlercontext 20. netty channelhandlercontext thread safe 21. netty user authentication 22. netty heartbeat handling 23. load test netty with 10k concurrent sockets

I wrote 255 lines of code that included a working server and a client. I queried google 23 times mostly landing on StackOverflow, Netty 4 website, GitHub, and JavaDocs. If you do the math, that averages out to 1 query every 10 lines of code! I had no idea. Let me know in the comments what your average is.

So sit back, relax and remember that Google is software developer’s best friend.



Umer Mansoor
Written by Umer Mansoor Follow
Hi, I am Umer. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and it is where I work. Since 2011, I have worked at startups, mobile gaming and internet companies. If you have any questions, feel free to message me.

Comments (50)


Yohann Paris

I completely agree with this, and it is my immediate answer to new developer when they tell me they are not real developers because they spend too much time on Google and Stack Overflow.

I only remember what, how, and where can I do things, Google reminds me the syntax of whichever language I'm using.


TJ Biddle

I'd love to see the term "newbie" found in some ancient Chinese scrolls


Vinit

Agree. Good programming is about making good software design and architecture, not about knowing the exact set of parameters for some obscure library function in JAVA


digyaldemsuga

Especially helpful when the accepted answer is not an actual answer, rather a deflection "you don't wanna do that, ever. do this thing that doesn't help you out at all instead"


Beobachter

Oh, you're right. I shouldn't call people "Javascript developers". That's too hard. ;-)


Anjum Rizwi

I search the google to get the validated code from community members. So that before using the code we know the pros and cons.


Beobachter

I use DuckDuckGo instead. It automatically displays the correct answer from Stack Overflow. Google is for Javascript coders and other newbies.


BW

I hate seeing that kind of answer.


disqus_CwbOU8f6Ef

It's Java, not JAVA. It's never been JAVA.


Vinit

OK :D


Christopher Angulo Avila

Great! Good job by the way! :)


akhil katpally

I can't agree with you more.


James Treworgy

Most of the work of mentoring junior programmers involves teaching them how to use Google effectively. http://lmgtfy.com/ and eventually they get the hang of it :)


Soner Gönül

So do I. Specially I like their "Instant Answers" helps for programmers. https://duck.co/blog/post/2...


Kai Middleton

Typo: "they rely on Google on validate their logic."


Random Stranger

"Google is for Javascript coders and other newbies" - this is the problem of lots of coders.. arogrance. you find your workflow superior, that's fine, but don't trash other ways. you might find something that's inefficient today that will turn your old workflow obsolete, that doesn't mean you are "javascript developer" or "newbie". don't be a dick.


BernieCanStillWin

Great engineers know how to formulate good queries. Yet interviewers expect walking dictionaries.


Greg

1. Do you have an urge to bookmark every awesome answer, especially if it took a few minutes to find?

2. Do you now have thousands of bookmarks?

3. Do you ever look through those first, before Googling?


Jukbo

Nowadays, I can't live without Stack Overflow


Daniel R. Przybylski

I don't always use Google, but when I do, I use Bing #searchengine


Dmitri Nosovicki

You guess a master by his walk, a pupil by his blow and a newbie by his arrogance. -- a chinese saying


cr0sh

Knowing what to search and how to search it out is a definite thing; I know one time I was implementing something which as far as I could tell, hadn't been implemented in the way I was going about it before. However, parts of it were implemented - though not necessarily in the language I was using.

Knowing what to search for, in order to find the discussions on those parts, and the algorithms being discussed - was essential to me being able to assemble all of that information into a whole piece. For many, they will simply stop when they can't find the implementation, or when they find some of the parts, but not everything.

In this particular case of mine, I had to rack my brain - as well as google "side areas" - in order to find the terms I needed to search on - just to find the parts and discussions. In other words, I had to google stuff, in order to google other stuff - meta googling, I guess.

In the end, it all finally came together and the project was completely successfully - but had I not gone the extra step of googling stuff I didn't know in order to google stuff I didn't know, I either wouldn't have succeeded in my implementation, or I would have had to re-formulate my approach and re-factor what I had previously done. Fortunately, it was a personal project, so time wasn't of the essence ultimately.


thedoginthewok

Thank god I'm not the only one who feels that way. When I look up some of the old stuff I did and I don't immedietelly figure out what the heck I was thinking back then I often feel like I've become an idiot.


mfarrall

The other thing I keep thinking about related to this is how much code completion in the big IDEs kept me dumb. Since I've moved to simpler tools I not only search for the actual code, I also search for the underlying patterns and paradigms related to the actual code.

So now I might use pub/sub or actor models, or whatever, but with code completion I just used tab and arrow keys.


Pierre Clouthier

The Internet has accelerated and propelled human knowledge to a degree unprecedented in history. I can look up solutions to programming problems in minutes, that would have required trips to the library or the purchase of books just a couple of decades ago. Books and libraries are great, but not available at 2:00 AM.


Adam Bishop

I feel better now, ufff... As a beginner I thought I have to memorise everything, and I was pissed-off because I forgot some detail I used month ago.


Jaime Lopez

Very true. Even most of the times the answer I'm looking for is on the first result. Maybe I should do more "I'm feeling lucky" searches.


Genos

No need to feed the troll. DuckDuckGo has its uses, like surfacing specific answers quickly.

But professional development (including JS) requires deep understanding of systems, theory, and context. For this, I find Google to be superior in ranking, and indexing as a whole. It lacks a few power user functions but makes up for it with breadth of information that is accurate, timely, consistent, and reliable.

BTW JS has evolved into a beast of its own nature. Don't let its loose grammar and cavalier syntax prevent you from digging deeper into a potential of a language :)

You might find more junior coders because of JS prevalence and low entry barrier, but everyone has to start somewhere right?


Francisco Presencia

Also, this looks awesome and trying to replace google for many of those searches: https://kite.com/


Daniel Main

How old are you?


Alberto Restifo

18. WHAT HAVE I DONE


Dmitri Nosovicki

Well, the rest of the words you'll not be able to find either. But it's unlikely that self-assertion at the expence of others is a recent invention


akhil katpally

Man, i do the same, i bookmarked many but somehow my natural instinct goes with google.


bernie

OMG. Finally someone GETS IT.


Francisco Presencia

In case you are not aware, this is on Hacker News front page: https://news.ycombinator.co...

And the first thread is hilarious:

koolba: "I not only use Google frequently, I use it to search for things I myself have written in the past.

I can't count the number of times I've Googled for a programming question where the answer is found on a Stack Overflow page I've written. If it's a particularly old answer that I've completely forgotten, I've even thought to myself, "Wow this genius sounds just like me!"[1].

[1]: ... as well as "This idiot has no clue what he's talking about!"

[...]


Murukesh

i think it's bow


Muntoo Meddler

Same here. And if past me turns out to be a moron, I fix things up.

(Usually, however, I feel like I'm getting dumber over the years...)


JWolf_PDX

Similarly, I'll look at code I've written thinking "This is pretty good" and ask myself, "Did I actually write this?!"


Daniel R. Przybylski

Because we're all just trying to make the world a better place.


VR News Cloud

Like you said it's a skill to know <what> to search for as much as anything. The only things I find difficult to search for are algorithm issues, and even then enough close keywords and I sometimes find someone on Stack Overflow with the same question!


Daniel R. Przybylski

I like to say that I majored in googling Stack Overflow... with a minor in Intellisense.


Johan CHOUQUET

A good developer really is like a detective: requires so much analysis skills, experience and patience...! Google is one very useful tool to find what we need.


Kenneth Fisher

I'm a SQL Server guy and I'll agree with this 100x. I'm working on tuning a query for someone and while I've actually written maybe 10 lines of code (modifying someone else's) I've created 1 forum question, referenced my own blogs 10+ times and run google queries 50-60 times. To be fair this is a difficult one so it's requiring more resources than some stuff I've worked on but I will say I hit up google/Stack Exchange multiple times on most days.


Ben C

You realise it's the troll you are talking to, right? Otherwise, totally agree :-)


Jukbo

Hehehehhe.... Good one!


wcurtis

12 Google searches for 20 lines of javascript code.


Tøde

So i got the paranoid part covered.. now the rest


Leon Boshuizen

I find google more spot on for developers then DDG. Mentioning newbies is also a point I consider wrong. If I do R&D on whatever topic then I am a newbie. No matter the experience in other fields.


Chenyu Zhao

so true


Siderite

I feel great both when I see that the first answer in Google is worse than I can cook up and when it is better. In the first case I have the opportunity to improve the world, in the second to improve myself.


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