The Trouble with ‘Tutorial Hell’: A Call for Back-to-Basics Programming Tutorials

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The Trouble with ‘Tutorial Hell’: A Call for Back-to-Basics Programming Tutorials

My Introduction to ‘Tutorial Hell’

Like many others, I first came across the term ‘tutorial hell’ on social media platforms and forums. Initially, I didn’t pay it much attention.

Having gone through a wide range of tutorials, from the simplest ‘Hello World’ examples to highly complex projects, I initially thought I was immune to the pitfalls of “tutorial hell.”

However, a recent attempt at learning Python for data science made me reconsider my views on this issue, and I can’t help but think we need a change in the way tutorials are made.

The Allure of ‘Cool’ Projects: More Harm Than Good?

The Flashy Tutorial Trend

The first thing you notice when you look for programming tutorials online, especially on YouTube, is that they tend to focus on helping you create something ‘cool’ right off the bat. While this approach seems engaging, it can be overwhelming for an absolute beginner.

Case in Point: Python Data Science Tutorial

Say you’re learning Python as a first language, and you stumble across a needlessly complex Python data science tutorial. The tutorial might guide you through an extensive project that uses Pandas, NumPy, Matplotlib, and complex Python functions to perform complex data analysis. Sure, if you follow the steps diligently, you might end up with an impressive-looking data visualization. But will you understand the underlying concepts? Probably not.

The Problematic Cycle

This leads to a vicious cycle where beginners hop from one tutorial to another, building impressive things they don’t really understand. It’s like telling someone how to construct a spaceship before they even understand how to make a paper airplane. Ultimately, this doesn’t help in gaining a solid foundational understanding of programming concepts, which is essential for independent problem-solving and creative coding.

What Beginners Actually Need: The Bare Basics

Lessons from a Tutorial Enthusiast

I credit my grasp of coding basics comes from a diverse range of tutorials I’ve encountered—ranging from incredibly simple to excessively complex. Through this experience, I’ve learned that the most educational projects are often the least glamorous ones. Here are some examples that, while not headline-grabbing, offer invaluable learning experiences:

  1. Temperature Converter: A program that converts temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius and vice versa, which serves as a great introduction to user input and mathematical operations.
  2. Word Counter: A simple script that counts the number of words in a given text, teaching you the basics of string manipulation and loops.
  3. Simple Alarm Clock: A basic alarm clock that you can set to beep at a certain time, which provides a solid introduction to time and system functions in programming.

These projects won’t win any awards, but they are designed to teach you the core principles of coding without overwhelming you. They serve as a starting point for understanding more complex programming tasks.

The Scarcity of Simplicity

Unfortunately, there’s a lack of these simple, ‘back-to-basics’ tutorials online. The few that exist don’t get the attention they deserve, which is a disservice to learners who genuinely want to understand programming at its core.

A Call to Action: We Need Change

This issue may be due to various factors—YouTube’s algorithm, the content creators themselves, or even the viewers’ preferences. Regardless, as a community, we need to focus less on ‘making something cool’ and more on ‘here’s what you need to know.’

Your Journey Matters

If you’re starting your journey in programming, don’t be discouraged by flashy but complex tutorials. It’s perfectly okay to start small and work your way up from there.


What is ‘Tutorial Hell’?

‘Tutorial Hell’ refers to the phenomenon where beginners get stuck in a cycle of continuously following tutorials without gaining a solid understanding of the fundamental concepts.

Why is focusing on ‘cool projects’ a problem?

While these projects are engaging, they often introduce too many tools and techniques at once, which can overwhelm an absolute beginner, leading to shallow understanding.

What should I focus on as a beginner?

Start with basic projects that teach fundamental coding principles. These might seem uncool or too simple, but they are crucial for building a strong foundation in programming.

How can the community help?

Content creators can focus on making beginner-friendly, fundamentals-first tutorials, and viewers can support such content to help it gain more visibility.

Is formal education the only way to escape ‘Tutorial Hell’?

No, self-learning is entirely possible and often effective. The key is to start with the basics and progress methodically, rather than jumping headlong into complex projects.