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Once I heard that a good book on any programming language cannot be short, so the number of pages is the first criterium when choosing a tutorial.

The statement was half a joke, but it has some truth in it. There are tens and hundreds of books available for most popular programming languages, frameworks and technologies, and it is hard to choose one. So that dummy condition is the first one to check.

Are there any criteria to help choose the "right" tutorials? What is the first (or probably the second) thing to pay attention on when choosing a technical tutorial?

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These days there's so much good info available online that "is it free?" tends to be a useful criteria for me. –  Dan Pichelman Oct 10 '13 at 13:03
    
I realise this is stating the obvious, but what about reading reviews? –  Baqueta Oct 10 '13 at 14:03
    
You should go look up Programming Pearls –  MichaelT Oct 10 '13 at 14:30
    
@Baqueta, if a book has reviews (many do), those reviews are nice stating that the book was really good, etc. But to trust a review I need to have some information about the person who reviewed it. And it is not always the case, especially when I try to enter a relatively new field. Though it's a good hint to see WHO has reviewed the book, or collect some information about reviewers and judge the book by that too. –  superM Oct 10 '13 at 14:31
    
I normally refer to the documentation and source code from time to time as a resource. Though this normally only works if your framework/language is opensource. i.e. ruby –  Maru Oct 10 '13 at 15:58
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marked as duplicate by MichaelT, gnat, Kilian Foth, Alex Feinman, World Engineer Oct 23 '13 at 18:40

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There are various metrics that can be helpful:

  • Does the resource make absurd promises? If the title is “Learn X in Y days”, it is probably crap.
  • Does the community of that technology maintain an index of especially good (or bad) resources? It is worth listening to such opinions.
  • Is the author well known in that field? If so, this can be a positive indicator, but be aware that brilliant people aren't necessarily good teachers.
  • Is the layout and formatting of that resource professional and geared towards easy understanding? I shit you not, I have seen language tutorials that don't even use code indenting. If a website looks like it's from the 90s, there is a chance the content may not be up to date either.
  • If there are many orthographic and grammatical errors then the resource probably wasn't reviewed. On the other hand, the content may be excellent, but the author just isn't a native speaker.
  • Does the resource ignore or embrace best practices of that technology? Does it use deprecated functionality? Of course, these questions can only be answered when you already know that technology.
  • How old is the resource? Best practices evolve constantly. Some resources have a timeless quality, but more often anything > 5 years old will be out of date in some respect. This is a proxy indicator for the previous point, not an absolute rule.
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I think that instead of searching for tutorials and buying book, reading language specification is your best shot at gaining a complete understanding of that language.

For example:

The same goes for understanding certain technologies. I know dozens of web developers who have never read HTTP1.1 specification (http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2616)

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without an explanation, this answer may become useless in case if someone else posts an opposite opinion. For example, if someone posts a claim like 'searching for tutorials and buying book, instead of reading language specification is your best shot', how would this answer help reader to pick of two opposing opinions? Consider editing it into a better shape –  gnat Oct 11 '13 at 6:54
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I look for:

  • The ones that build programming languages obviously have the information and a vested interest and sometimes publish books.

    • For example, If it's C, then look for the authors Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson.
  • If it's a Microsoft programming language such as C#, look for books by Microsoft.

  • Well known publication houses. For example, I generally like the O'Reilly books.

  • Sites like codeacademy.com and khanacademy.org.

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how does this answer the question asked? –  gnat Oct 10 '13 at 13:46
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@gnat It reads to me as "choose a book written by the authors of the language/tool, since they have a vested interest in its adoption" (not that I agree with this answer, but at least it is an answer). –  Andres F. Oct 10 '13 at 13:52
    
@AndresF. your reading makes sense to me but I can't tell whether it really matches to what is written in the "answer" –  gnat Oct 10 '13 at 14:42
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