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Polish your Google-fu

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Google-fu is defined as "skill in using search engines (especially Google) to quickly find useful information on the Internet." It is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek reference to kung-fu, which is generally perceived as requiring a high degree of skill to master in the western hemisphere.


It is hard to over-emphasize the importance of good excellent search skills for a Developer. In the good old days, we had books. In fact, at school, we typically had one book, two if we had connections. Knowing how to use TOCs and, particularly, indexes were required and encouraged skills. They still are today, or certainly should be.

Programming languages are huge today. You can purchase a substantial C# tome but it will not begin to cover C# or the .NET Framework. (I still encourage you to purchase such a book!)

We have the internet. It is expected and assumed that we can use it effectively. In my opinion, your aim should be to find the information you need - or, at least, a detailed article that you know will provide this information - within 1, 2, or at most 3, searches, and within the first 5-10 results. Performing 1 search and the information being in the first link is the ideal to aim for.

Occasionally, we come across something really obscure, perhaps a property that is deep within an object model. Or something which uses very common words but in a very specific context, making it harder to search. These will be harder to locate information about, but the information is there somewhere to be found.

I think there is a case to make for this to be part of an interview process. "Here's a search engine, find me an example of x"; "what does 'this phrase' mean in simple terms?".

We cannot know everything and we do not have to. We need to be able to find information - examples and good explanations - quickly. Not just any information, good information.

5 Comments On This Entry

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jon.kiparsky Icon

25 August 2016 - 05:05 PM
The flip side of this of course is that you cannot rely on searching alone to do your work. You need to also be able to integrate what you find in those searches and make use of it. Data is not knowledge until you've digested it.

I bring this up because many developers seem to think that the successful google search is the end of the process, which is incorrect for any interesting question. If you're able to resolve your problems with a google search and not much else, you probably need to take on harder problems.

andrewsw Icon

26 August 2016 - 02:19 AM
Yes, the information found is only good if you are able to assimilate it.

aidenkael Icon

30 August 2016 - 07:08 PM
I have given interviews where I give the interviewee a list of 5 questions to google the day before. The ones who can tell me not what it is, but how I would use it in sample scenarios had a better chance of getting hired. You can't know every single thing about programming, but if your google fu is strong you can pretend :P

andrewsw Icon

31 August 2016 - 03:13 AM
Mm I'm not too sure about the word 'pretend'. To be able to put together one or two coherent sentences is a minimal requirement. Pushing it any further enters the world of make-believe and his/her magic beans will no longer work ;). (Some new beans would be required.)

FinalPhase Icon

15 September 2016 - 05:07 AM
In order to use Google, you need to be one with Google. Show your true Googliness
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