Googling for answers costs you time

When I’m learning a new language, I tend to take a very dumb approach (and I don’t mean that in some enlightened way). I’ll usually try out a tutorial or two, but if the language is similar to another language that I know, I’ll basically just start coding without investing a lot of time learning the language features. This leads me to often googling how to do extremely basic things. Stuff like ‘python iterate over dict’. ‘javascript get object keys’. ‘elixir keyword list to map’. In the past, I’ve felt extremely adept at finding exactly what I need, but recently I’ve noticed that it’s been taking me longer and longer to really find the answers I’m looking for.

For example, looking at the results on Google for ‘python iterate over dict’, I see the following results

google results
Seems reasonable

Notice that StackOverflow is the third response. I am not sure what is, but clicking on that link shows the following page

google results
a whole lot of nothing

Notice that there’s literally no content visible. Lets scroll down one page

google results

Hmm still no content. Well there’s a table of contents, but no actual content. Scrolling down to the content, it goes on and on and on and on about why dictionaries are important, what you can use dictionaries for, what are valid keys for dictionaries… The title of the post is quite literally ‘How to iterate through a dictionary in python’, but it takes NINE PAGE DOWN keystrokes just to get to the section called ‘the basics’.

How is this the number one link on Google? Specifically when looking up how to do basic things in Python, I get more and more of this filler content. I think it’s because Python attracts a lot of bootcamp and college students, people who would pay for training in order to learn Python. I remember one of the arguments I heard about why we were adopting Python at a previous company I worked for that was a mostly Rails (and some Elixir) shop was that Python was very easy to learn and search for on Google. I don’t think that’s true.

I don’t know if this is actually getting worse over time, but I’m noticing filler content more and more. It also seems to happen whenever searching for anything cooking related. For example: converting 1 cup flour to grams. To start, this search has a featured snippet that’s just wrong. But when you click into a few of the other links, the answer is obscured in some way (burried in a list of charts, answer is not made very apparent). Another cooking example - recipe sites. It’s not a recipe unless there’s some excruciatingly long preamble, asking me to scroll at least 5 pages down before the actual recipe is available.

And I know the reason - ads and SEO. In order to be a good candidate for any ad revenue, you need enough ‘content’ before you can actually make any money. All this pointless content is posted just so people will spend longer on a site, which makes things more appealing for both ads and SEO. Except… well SEO should be optimising for content people actually want to see, and instead it’s optimizing for the amount of time spent on a site, regardless of whether the time on the site was actually productive.

But to me, the user, it feels like I’m paying for my answers with my time pointlessly scrolling around the page to find the answer I came to the site for. I can’t stand it; I feel like I am being duped, misled, being taken for a ride, just so I know how to make pancakes, or how to do a simple thing in common programming language. It feels like watching Dragon Ball Z back in the 00’s. Watching 5 episodes week after week, just for five minutes of time to elapse in the show.

Written on March 11, 2020