“No, I don’t use tool X. I do it manually with tool Y, because then I’ll have more grip on what’s happening.”

Examples of this are:

  • using git on the command line instead of a GUI
  • using vim instead of an extensive IDE like IntelliJ or VSCode

Yes, you’ll understand the lower level part of the problem you’re solving better. But logically this must cost brainpower, otherwise there wouldn’t be more understanding. However, no matter how smart you are, brainpower is a finite resource. So if you spend it on understanding a low level thing that could have been hidden from you using a high-level helper, you can’t spend it on something else. Spending your brainpower this way can be the right choice, if that low level thing is the important part to understand. But it hardly ever is.

“But I’m faster that way!”

Are you really? Did you compare (after acquiring a reasonable familiarity in both methods)? Or does it feel faster because you’re literally doing something with your hands. Is it the coding analog to driving around a traffic jam because it feels better to drive, even though the jam would have taken less time in total? Sure, if it is more efficient then that’s a good argument. But be honest.

And then there’s the reliability factor. Doing things by hand naturally creates more opportunity for mistakes. This can be a good thing, because they’re usually part of “understanding”. And that is valuable, very valuable! So I do very much recommend doing things by hand first. Do it a few times, and then a few more after you already “get” it. Just to hammer it in. But then, automate it away. Until it fails of course, but since you now understand, so you can fix it.

My point is, these helper tools were invented to be more effective than the low level approach. They’re meant to be accelerators. If a tool has gained enough traction that it ended up on your screen, it’s very likely that someone succeeded in that goal. Sticking with the low-level must ( statistically) therefore be slower. Doing something slower because you then have more grip is only useful if that grip is more important than what you’re trying to achieve. In the short term, or the long.