Is Your Web Research Effective?

Welcome to the latest news from TalkIT. This issue will look at how to use the web effectively for research. This is a huge topic that affects everybody. What is the best way to solve problems on the internet? Which websites can you trust? Are you wasting valuable time? This is a brief distillation of my ideas on this. It is based on 16 years of using the web to design software courses.  I would be really happy to hear your thoughts on this. Just add them to end on the blog. Pressure to Keep Up How to Read Websites How to Solve Coding Problems How to Take a Web Course Can you solve this coding problem? Other Bits Pressure to Keep Up ashamed-and-frustrated-man-10079221We all feel the pressure to keep up. How many hours per day do you spend on the web? Do you follow the latest software news or research new developments? Maybe you just browse, hoping to come across something serendipitously. Or the web is just a distraction to kill time.  Let’s not forget paper. There are concerns that the web supplanting our ability to read technical books and magazines. To investigate how people are using the internet, TalkIT ran a survey. In answer to the question: How effective do you find online resources like forums, tutorials, YouTube

  • 40% said highly effective,
  • 53% said effective,
  • 7% said ineffective,
  • 0% never used.

The internet contains a huge and ever growing amount of information. Just think of Wikipedia.  But much of this information is chaotic in nature. It is so easy to put stuff up there.   Twitter provides an endless stream of short messages. We are drowning in information with a vast amount of choice. But how credible and reliable is this knowledge? Today, there is much more emphasis on organising the web. Like a vast art exhibition, we need curators to select, to decide what to hang where. How to Read Websites global-analysing-100249350You know how to read or else you would not understand this sentence. But reading websites requires a different skill from reading text on paper. The eye reads not by smoothly scanning a line of text, but by fixing on a word. The average fixation duration is 200–250 ms. This takes in the word itself, plus 1 or 2 words to the left and right. The average reading speed is 200 words per minute (wpm). Skilled readers show shorter average fixation durations and fewer regressions. Effective and fast reading also involves finding meaning in a series of words. Distraction and interruption hinder the discovery of meaning. Text on paper has a linear structure with a start, middle and an end. This provides a meaningful narrative. So a novel is a long story expressed via sentences and paragraphs, placed in clear sequence. But text on web pages has a non-linear structure. Hyperlinks in the text provide a constant opportunity to branch to new text. The main block of text in this blog deliberately does not contain any links. There is a constant invitation to interact. Images, videos and sounds add interest, but can over-stimulate. The finding of meaning in the text can be reduced. Also concentration and recall can be impaired. How can we improve the effectiveness, speed and satisfaction while web researching? Start by being clear what you want to know. Ask some questions.  Define goals. Make sure you write these down on paper. These questions and goals act as fishing hooks. This will mean you catch the information you need, but ignore the rest. They will reduce the tendency to be distracted.  How to Solve Coding Problems trouble-stop-sign-means-stopping-annoying-problem-troublemaker-100250032While coding we often hit obstacles and need quick solutions. You probably have your favourite and familiar places to look; developers’ forums, YouTube videos, those you follow on twitter. You’ll soon find some sort of solution on the web. This may be a code sample you can paste in to your project, and then edit. A bit of tweaking and the code is working again. But have you understood the underlying principles? Can you solve a similar problem without an internet connection? Software systems are complex, multilayered and constantly mutating. To develop these systems effectively we need to understand their architecture. This is like building a house from scratch. You may know how to lay the bricks, but without an architectural plan your house will end up wobbly. How can we improve the way we solve coding problems on the web? First gain a good understanding of the principles, purpose and limits of a technology or language. Many developers get their code to work, without really knowing what exactly they are doing, or why. That is why having a good understanding is important. Effective software development combines architectural insight with the ability to fix code. That is when you really get results. Take a Web Course If you decide to take a proper e-learning course there is again lots of choice.  The course may take more time and cost you, or your boss, some money. E-learning sites provide huge course libraries. These include certificates, badges, and videos. Some also contain recordings of industry experts. It also assumes that you can block off some time when you can focus just on the course. Recently I delivered a course over the web, to delegates who were in their UK offices. We had to work hard to stay focused. There were all the usual office distractions. But the delegates did make enormous progress and avoided the hassle of travelling. When you get a chance, take a look at the web tutorials on this website Can you solve this coding problem? ProblemsHere is a coding puzzle. The aim is to write a short and elegant program. Write a program in a language of your choice the outputs the prime numbers.

  1. Inputs a positive integer.
  2. Find all the prime numbers up to and including that integer.
  3. Display the results.

A prime number is, of course, an integer that has only itself and 1 as a factor. There is no formula to generate a series of prime numbers. But it is relatively easy to write a program to test for them. Other Bits TalkIT in collaboration with VBug organises monthly Geek Speak talks for techies in Bristol. The talks are aimed at developers and team leaders. We have some interesting talks scheduled for 2014. May 20th 6.30 p.m. Filton, Bristol. Testing in the Business Agility Era  – Matteo Emili For descriptions just click: http://cms.vbug.net/Regions/VBUG-Bristol.aspx New online courses in MVC and C#.Net will be added to the TalkIT site in April. Take an advanced look at what is in the courses: MVC http://talk-it.biz/course/training-in-asp-net-mvc-4-web-development/ C#.Net  http://talk-it.biz/course-products/csharp/ Photos www.freedigitalphotos.net/ David Ringsell 2014 ©

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