The Word Problem
A few weeks ago something pretty unusual happened in my work. An employee in my company sent an email to everyone asking for help with MS Office Word. I looked him up and found out he works in a non-technological department. Worried I wouldn’t be able to help him, I responded to his email and asked what’s the problem. He immediately called me and thanked me for responding, and described to me what’s his problem. I listen carefully, again, a bit worried I won’t be able to help and he’ll need to keep searching for an answer. But after hearing his problem, I realized it was a real simple issue. A quick Google search to be sure I’m right allowed me to help him very quickly. I explained to him, step by step, how to fix it, and he thank me something like five times in a row.
The Google Solution
I don’t remember now what was his problem, or what was the solution, but I remember how grateful he was. It was like when the WiFi stops working and you reset the router. Suddenly you are the “WiFi Whisperer“. That simple thing you did, is like magic to other people.
I’m sure that this person, if he knew how, could search for his problem online and find the same site I found that led me to the solution.
The more people I know, the more I realize that searching the web is still not obvious nor easy to do. It seems obvious to “us” right? We are stuck with a bug, we don’t know how to <enter anything here> in <enter any language here> and we just crack up the old google search and find the answer (almost always…). We even know the answer lies in the first page or it doesn’t exist at all. We know what keywords are better to use to get exactly the answer we were looking for.
By “We” I mean, obviously, developers. Not to hurt anyone, I’m not saying ONLY developers know how to google stuff, duh, but developers MUST know how to google stuff. It’s not an if and only if situation, but a: if “developer” then “knows how to google stuff”. I haven’t many any developer with at least a week of experience that doesn’t know how to look for answers on the web. Oh, and if you use Bing for any reason -> Shame on you.
It’s not something we are taught to do. We see ourselves so hopeless, so many times a day, it’s only a matter of time until we master this doctrine.
Just Google It
I tried teaching my parents to do this. Every time they ask me something I know I’ll just google it, I ask them to google it themselves. It doesn’t always work, but many sometimes it does. And it’s not because I don’t want to help them, on the contrary, I think that’s the best way I can help them. I strongly believe that Computer Science should be taught in school, alongside Maths, Literature and such. Not because I think everyone should be a developer when they grow up (that would surely make me lose my job), but because I think it creates good, logical thinking. Moreover, unlike physics, chemistry and biology, you can experiment everything Computer Science has to offer in the palm of your hands, literally. All the information you need to succeed is out there in the open. With so many free courses, blogs, forums and Q&A sites, there is nearly nothing impossible to do.
The ability to look for answers on the internet should not be something you learn by not having any other choice, but should be an ability acquired to learn better.