To give some context, I'm 17 and I have been programming for a few years.
I was doing a code challenge on codewars.com, (similar to project euler), that involved converting to and from negabinary numbers (base negative 2). I had never heard of, nor even considered numbers with a negative base. But I managed to figure out some patterns in the tables the problem gave me and wrote a nice converter from negabinary to decimal. But the other way around, that was a different story. I tried for hours to figure out a way of converting decimal to negabinary but to no avail. It got reasonably late so I slept on it. The next day I tried for hours again but still couldn't figure out an algorithm. After this I googled it, found a wikipedia page with an algorithm all ready and waiting for me.
I had solved it, albeit with a little "research"...
I want to be the best programmer I can, and I think I'm on the right track by attempting these coding challenges. But I'm a little lost on what I should do when I'm faced with a situation like this. Almost all the problems I'll solve (at least early on) will have been already solved brilliantly by someone else. I'm sure If I was working, my boss wouldn't be impressed if he found out I'd spend the best part of 2 days trying to solve a problem that I could have solved in 2 minutes If I had googled it. But googling it feels like cheating, and I don't get to practice my problem solving abilities.
It seems like the best programmers are able to take problems that no one has solved before and develop solutions on their own.
I guess what I'm asking is how do I get really fucking good at problem solving? By spending massive ammounts of time thinking through problems for myself or by looking at as many past solutions as possible?
Edited by Lith, 11 August 2014 - 02:17 PM.