A list of good and bad learning resources

A list of good and bad learning resources

The Internet is full of free content to learn about computers and programming in general. However, not every place you learn from will teach you the best and oftentimes, they will leave you in a position where you can do things but not sure what it is.

Many of my friends, mentees, colleagues and strangers seek my advice on what source is best to learn and what is not. As a general rule, I always suggest reading the official documentation and avoiding videos. But it is not so straightforward. There are so many good video tutorials, hands-on boot camps, vlogs and interviews etc which are good. So this article aims at giving a list of good and bad common places to find learning resources. Take the good list as a recommendation while the bad list as a precaution and avoid them as much as you can.

Good List: What I recommend

  1. Official Documentations - The one who makes stuff knows best about their product.

  2. Reputed Boot camps and MOOCs - Boot camps can be costly but some are pretty good.

    • Cyber Security: Offensive Security, INE, ISC2, SANS, Pentesterlab, Portswigger, Altered Security (previously Pentester Academy),

    • Programming: Coursera, edX, Youtube Channels of universities and institutions, OSSU, hackster.io, Laravel Daily, Baeldung, FreeCodeCamp

  3. Blogs by Professionals - Blog posts are a great way to learn about a topic quickly. I would suggest building one for yourself too.

    • Blogging networks like Hashnode, Dev.to, Medium and Substack.
  4. Books - Books are hard to write. People spend quite a lot of time researching before writing, so always prefer a book when you can. Some good publishers are:

    • O'Reilly, Leanpub, McGraw Hill, Wiley, Sybex, Packtpub

    There are a few things about books you should consider.

    • Tech is a very fast paced career and books get older very soon.
    • Also affording books can become hard over time if you are a hardcore reader like me.

    As a solution I suggest you should get a membership of an e-library. If you are a student, very likely your university already provides one. Publishers these days also have a subscription plan to their books. Unsponsored honest opinion, I personally use Packpub's subscription which gives me access to a vast library of technology books but sometimes the books are subjectively average compared to other publishers. Buying books instead of renting also promotes hoarding behaviour and once you have read the book, it does not adds more value so best is to either rent it from a library, or get a subscription.

  5. Reputed Link Aggregator Websites - There are some very reputed link aggregator websites where users vote on which link is a good read and which one is bad.

    • Reddit, Hackernews (YCombinator), Lemmy servers
  6. Reputed Social Media - Reddit is a better option than Twitter. Similarly, Twitter is a better option than Instagram. Mastodon is a better option than Twitter, Linkedin is a better option than Facebook, and Discord is a better option than Messenger. Telegram is a better option than WhatsApp and Signal is a ghost town (at least for me). It all depends on where people with the similar interests hang out. So pick a social network where people with similar interests hangout like /r/netsec (if you are into cyber security) and its sister subreddits, discord servers, or Lemmy servers. Also consider the discourse and Mastodon servers hosted by your interest groups. Some of my suggestions are

    • Official servers/groups of communities like DEF CON, RSAC etc.
    • Any group of your friends having the same interests.
    • StackOverflow and sister websites.

Bad List: What you should avoid

  1. Video Tutorials - While there are lots of good video tutorials like Laravel Daily, I generally advise against watching a video tutorial to learn. Watching videos to do something is a sort of monkey way of learning. If the situation is different, you will struggle to adapt as you are just copying others with no mental effort at all. So avoid watching random Youtube tutorials for learning. Watch them like a movie or reality show for fun only.

  2. Generic sites - Some websites are trying to teach everything from HTML to Assembly. These websites, often hire cheap writers who compile a bunch of stolen content from here and there and sell it for money. Most of the time, you won't be able to spot bad content unless you already know about the topic. So avoid generic websites.

    • Tutorialspoint - Avoid at all cost. Low quality, irresponsible staff. I once pointed out a mistake and even confirmed it from the developers of the PHP language, but the team of Tutorialspoint was arrogant and did not fix the mistake.

    • w3schools - good for quick copy-pasting, but I won't recommend it for learning.

  3. Cheap books - With the ease of publishing, there are now pretty cheap ebooks and books everywhere. Especially the ones on Kindle Store. Made for the money, these authors have little to no authority on the subject yet they are writing books with plagiarised content.

  4. Edutech boot camps and generic MOOCs - Especially when offered by some companies giving 100% job assurance. It might seem like a good deal but the price tag is not worth it. Also, when they mention ex-MAANG faculty, run away.

    • Simplilearn - Low-quality compared to a full-fledged degree. If you are going for Simplilearn after doing a degree, you are wasting your money.

    • Scaler - Better than others but still, too costly and you are better off doing a certification from a good university than studying in Scaler.

    • Udemy Courses - Low-quality content by people seeking money.

  5. Social Media that focuses on videos and dating - This should be a no-brainer. Any app focused on dating and funny videos will be full of people who are interested in, well dating and videos. So avoid these:

    • Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Threads, Tiktok, Tumblr, Reddit (memes and other noisy subreddits), LinkedIn (Yes. Low-quality content, good only for showing off your stuff to employers), WhatsApp (joining unknown WhatsApp group is a threat to your privacy), Tagged

    • Prefer StackOverflow over Quora because of the low-quality answers in general on Quora.