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Google Programming in 2022

As I came of age in the programming community circa 2007-2010 it was a running joke that programming is basically knowing just enough to be able to Google for the answer. Perhaps it’s nostalgia, but now that I’m revisiting that greenfield programming life in 2022 I’m finding my work as a Google programmer to be way less successful.

My weapon of choice is still Ruby on Rails, but returning to that land 15 years after I first visited is quite a different experience. Back in 2007 all the conversation around Rails was fresh and recent. After all there were only three years worth of search results to be indexed. Granted, if you found a solution from 2004 or 2005 it probably would be out-of-date in 2007, but the discussions were fresh enough to likely be updated with new pointers to the proper solution.

My last significant Rails programming came during Rails 3 and Rails 4. Launching today’s new Rails app means Rails 7. That’s quite a distance! Now when I search Google for “has_and_belongs_to_many”, I generally get results dating as far back as 2011. Naturally I have my doubts when I pull up a Stack Overflow answer from over a decade ago. It probably won’t answer the question accurately, but will it even answer the question conceptually? Who really knows?! (And, no, I don’t find DuckDuckGo to do any better here.)

On top of that, Google results are so gamed by the machines serving information to the algorithm. In general search just stinks these days, which is part of why I am enjoying finding the indie web underneath the web we know today. (I know there is also an upper-case IndieWeb, though I don’t really know what that means.) Generally terrible search on top of this historical mountain of information makes things less than good. I think they’re related as the search engines are not learning to prioritize the freshest answers to programming questions. In the old days I would have written posts about the things I couldn’t find, knowing the algorithm would help others find these answers later. I no longer have faith that the search engines will be that helpful.

The good thing about all this is that I’m doing better in stepping away from the Google programmer mentality. I’ve spent a lot of time on Rails Guides. I bought the latest AWDwR (though it is disappointingly in an incomplete beta). I’m doing good at reading the docs.

Though I can’t help but wonder if trying a newer framework, like Phoenix, would be more productive since it has a much shorter history to index. Maybe then I could become a productive Google programmer again.