This is an "affliction" to which I often fall prey. It slowed me down when I was first learning Perl in the pre-4.0.19 days, and still gets in the way when I try to evaluate newer things for the sake of project planning.
I know that one thing that regularly trips me up is when a book or tutorial use nonsensical examples, ones that the mind automatically dismisses. I get so tired of "Hello World", and SOAP or other web service technologies that seem to think the only application of web services ever is going to be fetching stock quotes. I've kept that in mind as I write the book I'm working on, trying to make the examples interesting enough to at least read once or twice. If the examples don't draw the attention in, then the reader may miss an important point or element. This could make things that much harder later on.
There's a thought: a compendium of simple-but-useful exercises for people to use when learning new languages. Something like, "replicate the ls command, with at leaast n of the switches", as a means of drilling on the language's interface to the file-system related syscalls.
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