Avoiding Tutorial Hell

A psa about why too many tutorials can be a very bad thing

Thu Sep 22

Written by: Chris Pohlman

Pick of the week image:

logo image for the website/app Bitwarden, a password manager





What is Tutorial Hell?

If you spend much time browsing learn to code subreddits you may have seen this term before, but if not here’s a quick definition. Tutorial Hell is when you keep going through tutorials, feeling good like you know what to do, then try doing your own thing, and realize despite following the tutorial easily enough that you have no idea what you are doing. So you look up another tutorial, and another and another and continue to repeat this cycle forever. While this certainly isn’t limited to learning to code I do find it to be a bit more common there. So what causes this cycle and how to we break out of it?


Your experiences may of course vary, but for me I think one of the biggest causes of getting caught in Tutorial Hell is that those tutorials are teaching you the wrong things. They might be great at showing you what sort of tools you might need to download, the syntax of the language you might use, and walking you through the process of entering code into your machine and running it, but they mostly miss the biggest part of all. How do you decide what code you need to write? Say you follow a tutorial about how to make a web based to-do list. You finish it up and then you decide you want to make a recipe book app. Well you might be able to reuse some of your to-do list code but what do you do when that isn’t enough?

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Some other examples of Tutorial Hell problems outside of coding would be learning to cook and trying to make the leap from following recipes to improvising your own, or even just learning to move away from following exact times and temps for every dish. After all how do you decide whether you want to cook something at 350 or 375?

How to Escape

Breaking out of Tutorial Hell isn’t the easiest task in the world, after all following tutorials is how you got here, so finding one more isn’t going to help you any. I will however attempt to give you a few steps you can follow to start learning at a deeper level, and make the move to the next level.

  1. Write down your roadblocks/questions
  2. Turn your roadblocks into questions and research the answers
  3. Experiment using those answers
  4. Reflect
  5. Repeat

If this looks familiar its probably because this is basically a restating of the scientific method. Always steal from the best (more on that in a future newsletter). It’s a proven method that works to solve any problem, its simple and easy to remember. Start by simply trying to do something you can’t do, and whenever you run into something you can’t do or aren’t sure about, write it down. If they aren’t already reframe those problems into questions and start researching those questions. If your question is too broad to easily research then break it down into the smallest chunks you can manage. Take what you learned or think you’ve learned and try them out. Reflect on how it went and repeat this process until you have reached your goal. Above all embrace your failures and celebrate your successes no matter how small.

Do this and I can almost guarantee you will learn at a deeper level and retain that learning for far longer than you would from any tutorial.

Pick of the Week - Bitwarden

Bitwarden is an open source password manager. It has a free tier that will be plenty sufficient for most people using it for everyday basic stuff or you can pay to unlock even more cool features. If you aren’t using a password manager you should be! Password managers make it easy to create complex hard to guess passwords without needing to remember them yourself.