Don't Reinvent the Wheel

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Every software developer wants to create new and exciting stuff, but very often the same things are reinvented over and over again. So, before starting to solve a specific problem, try to find out if others have already solved it. Here is a list of things you can try:

  • Try to find the key words that characterize your problem and then search the web. For example, if your problem involves a specific error message, try to search for the most specific part of this message.
  • Use social networks like Twitter and search for your key words. When searching in social networks you often get very recent results. You might be surprised that you often get faster solutions compared with an Internet search.
  • Try to find a newsgroup or mailing list that relates to your problem space and post your problem. But don't just try asking questions — also reply to others!
  • Don't be shy or afraid. There are no stupid questions! And that your problem might be trivial for other experts in the field only helps you to get better. So don't hesitate to share that you have a problem.
  • Always react pleasantly, even if you get some less than pleasant responses. Even if most replies you get from others are nice, there will probably still some people who want to make you feel bad (or just want to make them feel better). If you get nasty replies, focus on the subject rather than emotions.

But you will probably find out that most other developers react nicely and are often very helpful. Actually many of them are excited that others are having similar problems. If you finally solve your specific problem, make the solution available to others. You could blog or tweet about your problem and your solution. You may be surprised how many positive replies you get. Some people might even improve your solution based on their own experience. But make sure to give credit to all those who helped you. Everybody likes that — you would like it, too! Also, if you have found similar solutions during your search, mention them.

Over time, you may save a lot of time and get better solutions for your problem much faster. A nice side effect is that you automatically connect with people who work on similar topics. It also helps you to increase your network of people with the same professional interests.

By Kai Tödter

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3

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