I am completely self-taught
Great. Well done. What does it mean? Every individual on the planet is self-taught.
It is an unfortunate expression, or use of the English language, to say that I was taught... It gives the impression that acquiring knowledge and understanding is a passive act. No one can pour knowledge into your brain. The act of teaching is to:
- Explain things as clearly as possible
- Provide good examples, and exercises that help to expand, and test, understanding
- To provide guidance
- If necessary, to explain things in a different way - with different examples, or even just more slowly.
The bottom-line, though, is that it requires effort from the student. Repetition/rote is only useful for simple ideas and facts. Anything of reasonable complexity requires effort: concentration, practice, asking questions.. exploring.. and, yes, some repetition. This is what I mean when I say that everyone is self-taught.
I learn by doing..
We hear this a lot, particularly as an excuse not to read a book. 97% of programming books are not intended just to be read. You have to be pro-active, not passive:
- Type ALL of the examples
- Read them, study them, work out what they are doing, and how
- Run them, test them, try to break them
- Once you understand the example, create a copy of it and.. change it! Explore, Experiment.
If you don't understand the example in a book, find another example elsewhere and read other descriptions of the topic. We have the internet now - let's use it!
The other 3% of programming books are formal reference books, containing language and syntax definitions. These are not tutorials and not relevant to this discussion.
I learn best by taking existing code and making changes to it, deleting lines
If you are referring to examples in a book, and after you have studied and understood the example then, yes, this is the best way to increase your understanding. I recommend it.
But a lot of the time people mean that they grab some random code from the internet and dive into it without studying any accompanying notes or instructions. This is NOT the way to learn. You will only obtain an incomplete, inaccurate and, simply, wrong understanding of the language. You need to take, and complete, a tutorial or read a book.
The idea, in particular, that CSS is too simple to require any study irks me.. a lot. It is detailed, intricate, subtle. It requires study. To be honest, it is where many web-designers/developers fall short. Even in (some other..) forums I notice answers being accepted where css-rules have just been thrown at the problem until it works, without a proper understanding of what the problem actually was, and the correct solution is. The css is then unnecessarily complicated, with too many rules, and the next issue becomes harder to resolve.
To be honest, I find some css questions more challenging, and rewarding, than other more run-of-the-mill programming questions.
The only people who can learn something from a random piece of code (from a language they are less familiar with) are those who are very experienced in more than one programming language. Even for these people, this does not exempt them from formal study of the language.
Are you a genius? Maybe. Even if you are, you cannot short-circuit the learning process. You need to read a book or complete a tutorial/tutorials.
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