11 July 2019

Tutorial Purgatory

By null

Ever went through a really nice tutorial for some time only to find out after finishing or at least going a long way that you're not actually learning anything? That's what tutorial purgatory is about.

What is tutorial purgatory?

Tutorial purgatory is defined as the act of going from a tutorial to another without practically learning anything. The tutorials themselves may be the best in the field, but you're still not learning anything. This is not limited to coding only, but since I am a web developer, I'll stick to the coding part of the equation.

Don't get me wrong, tutorials are nice and helpful, but to limited extents. You can't just follow tutorials and act like you own a certain programming language or framework, it's deeper and harder than that. People often misinterpret tutorials and think that by watching videos or reading an article they're learning and gaining experience, but that's not true.

Watching videos or reading articles without building real-world applications that utilise what you learn is granted to make you forget just as much as you think you're learning. But is there a solution? Short answer is yes.

How to escape tutorial purgatory

People I know would go from tutorial to another just because they're still in their comfort zone and think they can't build this tool or that app. They forgot the essence of experience which is trial and error. You have to try, fail, and try again to learn. That's how it is. Don't know how to implement that certain feature? Try. Failed? Google the correct solution.

By actually diving into code and trying out different ideas your mind will get acquainted to thinking in code, knowing its real limits, and gaining experience based on trial-and-error. Don't be scared to try to build something. Anything! For instance, think of a todo list. All you need is a text field and document.createElement() to attach the new to-dos. And start adding extra features afterwards, like checking a to-do as complete, deleting it, restoring the to-do list history, saving the session to localStorage, etc. Step by step you'll realise that you're leaving your comfort zone and escaping tutorial purgatory.

Ask questions

A lot of people are afraid of asking questions for many reasons, let their reason be the fact they're afraid of being judged, the fear of looking ignorant, or whatever other reason they might have. This is not good, and it's usually too personally-centric to be real. It's a type of negative thinking that people need to get rid of. Asking questions will make you look ignorant for a split second, until you're given a clear, concise answer, then you're no more ignorant of that subject. And it's not even 'ignorant' in the bad way that people choose to refer to, but rather the "curious person who's learning and trying to achieve greater things". Never be afraid of asking questions, and don't rely on a single person to answer all your questions unless he/she is your mentor.

Understand that people are busy, they have their own lives and problems. Sometimes even your mentor might be having a bad time that prevents him/her from answering a question or two. Understand that when you're asking someone you're taking from their time whether he/she can spare that time. You have to respect others' decision whether to answer or not.


Tutorial purgatory is an infinite loop of tutorials and no experience gain at all. Build things. Push your boundaries. Make new boundaries. Break records. Do whatever you have to achieve what you want. Get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.

Written by Nabil Tharwat

Nabil Tharwat is a software engineer and mentor who's super in love with all things accessibility and performance. He's host of The Weekly Noob podcast and his content has reached thousands of people around the world.

Learn more about Nabil.