Yesterday I spent way too long trying to figure out a problem on my own. It all began with a server compile error, the .Net “yellow screen of death”. So naturally I stepped through the code in debug mode and found nothing obvious. No misspellings or incorrect data from the database so I took to Google. After browsing a variety of old ASP.Net 2.0 to new 4.5 blog posts and forum threads I didn’t quite find a close enough match to my exact issue. Next, I pull out the owners manual, MSDN. Yes, I know when to use the method, how to call it, what parameters to pass so why aren’t I getting the desired results?
Now on to Stack Overflow. Often, I start here first before just Googling a problem, but just to search for previously asked questions. I’m such a detailed oriented person that it may take me longer than it probably should to write a question so I usually don’t just to save time. However, today, even after having a fellow developer at work step through the issue with me with no success, I opted to submit a question on Stack Overflow. About three minutes later, the solution to my problem was right there in front of me. In fact, four practical approaches were provided by the awesome users of this amazing social service. Three minutes! With the massive amount of developers in one online community viewing these questions, why wouldn’t I have gone there and submitted a question in the first place? More over, it’s a safe bet that I’m one of two developers in my department that has an active profile on Stack Overflow so they’re more than likely not asking questions either.
Is it because we just want to find a quick answer and don’t want to spend too much time working to produce one? Estimates, time tracking, and deadlines cause us to horde our minutes and we’re too afraid to use them on actions requiring effort that aren’t directly related to the developer task like writing code or unit testing. Kind of reminds me of Justin Timberlake’s movie “In Time”.
We have a great resource in the online community. We have connections to millions of developers world wide and you better believe that you’re going to come across people that either have been through the same situation as you or are smarter than you. Both will more than likely be able to help you out. Maybe this online social interaction between developers can be considered a form of peer coding. Nonetheless, don’t be afraid to spend time doing it, because consulting your fellow developers across the globe will make you more productive and efficient by not wasting as much time searching for answers that were provided to other people’s questions.