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Rubber Ducky, You’re the One

Yuck! It happens to everyone, from beginners to experienced developers: sometimes you get stuck. Perhaps the code you’re working on just won’t do what you want or maybe you’re having trouble understanding code plucked from the internet.

Duck, Toy, Bath Duck, Squeaky Duck

Regardless, it sucks, is incredibly frustrating and at times feels like you’ve been run over by a truck. You want to huck your laptop across the room.

When this happens, it’s time to get out of the muck and talk to the duck.

What the duck am I talking about you ask?

Well, it’s rubber ducking of course. One great way to work through a problem is to verbalize it. And these days with everyone working from home, sometimes you don’t have a coworker that you can interrupt.

So instead, you can talk to the duck. The rubber duck, that is. The term “rubber ducking” or “rubber duck debugging” is a software development technique where you explain the problem you are having to a rubber duck (or appropriate substitute). Often the act of explaining the problem to someone else, even if that someone is not real, can help you figure it out. It might be like inspiration struck.

Your duck can be anything. My rubber duck is a Darth Vader squeeze toy I keep on my desk. Some people talk to their pets.

Another way to take advantage of this technique is to start writing a forum post. Personally, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve started writing a post (or a text or an email) explaining a problem I’m having and before I can finish writing it, the solution has presented itself, tucked neatly within my words.

Of course, sometimes you actually need to brainstorm an idea with someone, so if after taking to the duck, you’re still stuck, then it’s time to chat with a coworker who can maybe help you pluck an idea out of the air. Zoom, Teams, Slack and other video conferencing tools are a great way to do that.

So in closing, if you’re stuck, which sucks, then get yourself out of the muck and talk to the duck.

Good luck!