Maintaining a Healthy Relationship with Stack Overflow

Maintaining a Healthy Relationship with Stack Overflow

We all love Stack Overflow - it's like the over-the-counter prescription to our coding headaches and can often save us a lot of time and grief. But sometimes it can do more harm than good, so it's important to maintain a healthy relationship with it.

The "harm" I'm talking about manifests itself in a few different ways:

Living and dying by it.

Stack Overflow can help us debug our code and gain better insight into our work, but sometimes programmers use SO as a first resort rather than a last, and I think that's the wrong mentality to assume. You should first try to debug any issue on your own, as you'll find that some ingenuity and patience on your part is often all it takes to overcome a lot of problems you might face. If you need explanatory information, there's nothing wrong with the aid of handy documentation.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are just absolutely clueless as to what should be done, then and only then should you refer to SO and other resources. But please, give it a shot yourself first. It will turn you into a better problem solver. And, really, SO will never be able to get you out of all your jams, so if you find yourself relying on it time and time again, you just might die by it as well.

Abusing it rather than using it

Yeah, I'm talking about the copy/pasters of the world. The ones who skip reading the initial question and scroll until they find the green checkmark of a correct solution that they're looking for. They copy, paste, and reformat the code to fit their own domain and move on to the next task. Again, this is the wrong mentality to take with SO or any type of assistive resource out there. Instead of hunting for green check marks, make sure to read the question being asked, even if it doesn't necessarily match your exact problem. Then, rather than blindly grabbing and using whatever solution works best, try to understand why and how the solution works. Understand how the code reaches the solution rather than understanding that the solution has been reached by the code. Again, this will make you a better problem solver and guide you on a path of self-sufficiency.

Additionally, if you just copy and paste, you might find debugging the code you stole to be an even bigger headache down the line.

So please, have some patience and approach SO in a more intentional and methodical way.

Did you find this article valuable?

Support Matthew Smilansky by becoming a sponsor. Any amount is appreciated!