Learning A Programming Language

Published Date
01 - Apr - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Apr - 2006
Learning A Programming Language
After several auditions, the lucky candidate was XSLT: the eXtensible StyleSheet Language Transformation. Since the purpose was personal,   classes didn't make sense (there aren't any institutions that will teach only XSLT anyway), so it was between using a book and going online.

Nimish Chandiramani (nimish_chandiramani@thinkdigit.com)

Out Hunting for a good book

The most daunting task-hunting down a good book. After reading loads of reviews online, I short-listed a few books that would probably suit my needs. Next step: running around the city in the sweltering heat to find them in bookstores. The books start at about Rs 300, but some of them actually come for around Rs 1,500. Ouch! I settled for XSLT: Working with XML and HTML by Khun Yee Fung, which was quite pocket-friendly at Rs 500.

Twenty per cent of any book effectively covers over eighty percent of the XSLT I'm ever going to use, so a goodish number of those pages are probably wasted on me. Still, it's heartening to know they're there-I can browse through them on the train journey to work.

On to learning. Reading is quite convenient-after all, it is a book-easy on the eyes and what-have-you. It's also expectedly well-organised and cross-referenced, so finding the information I need isn't much of a hassle.

I find the bundled sample code a tad limiting though-there just isn't enough to satisfy random curiosity, so I need to go online to check if my weird ideas are actually feasible.

My first XSLT! Pity it doesn't work properly. This is the book at its most useless. I can't see anything wrong with my code, and leafing through the book over and over again trying to find out what's wrong achieves nothing.

Ease:    3/5
Total Cost:    Rs 500

And surfing from my chair

One simple Google search is all it takes, and I have everything I need right in front of me. It did take me some time to wade through sites to decide which one seemed the best, but I could do it in the comfort of my chair and without having to pay anything, too. I settled on W3Schools.org.

It's all free, so there's no guilt about wasted investments on books that are bigger than I'll ever need.
Of course, the time I spend in the train will be wasted twiddling my thumbs.

The site is organised quite like a book itself, and I need to just click on the link for the chapters I'm interested in, without having to think about the others. What's more, I can keep cross-referenced items open in different windows, so when I read something like "refer this," the "this" is just an [Alt] [Tab] away.

There are millions of online forums and help sites for any language-each of which have about a thousand users just waiting to solve my problems. They even pitch in with tips of their own based on their own programming experiences.

Ease:    5/5
Total Cost:    Rs. 0

And TheWinner Is...

One needs to realise that this is a programming language we're talking about and all the information available couldn't fill just one book-getting connected is the fastest way to expand your knowledge. Finding information you can digest is a task in itself, though-you'll need to do plenty of dirty work before you can begin learning. If you are just a hobbyist, online is the way to go. Whether you do so before or after you invest in a book depends on whether you feel you'd learn better from a book.

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