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Taking Better Debugging Notes

pbeekums profile image Beekey Cheung Updated on ・2 min read

I've been a software developer for a long time. A core activity is encountering a strange error and the searching around the internet for hints on the cause. Sometimes I get lucky and the answer is in the first result on Google (which is probably a link to Stack Overflow). In many cases, I actually have to spend hours tweaking search terms and combing through dozens of search results.

Eventually I find the answer though! It may not be clear cut and I have to adapt the information for the system I am working with, but the answer is found anyway. Problem solved.

6 months later... I encounter the same problem again. What search term did I use to find the answer? Even if I remember, dozens of links on the search results page are all clicked so I have to dig through them all again to find the one that I need.

It kills me. Every. Single. Time.

Why can't I remember the solutions? Part of the problem is that these errors are one offs. I don't have to deal with them very often and 6 months is plenty of time to forget anything.

The other part of the problem is that I encounter so many errors like these! Software development is complex and the more technologies you work with, the more complex it becomes. Can't just bookmark the solutions because browser bookmarks work great if you have say three bookmarks, not three hundred or three thousand.

I could take notes in a note taking app. I've certainly tried. They all treat links like second class citizens though. The search feature will index my notes, but it will at best only index the link preview for a web page. That means I have to manually copy and paste the web page's content and html doesn't always paste nicely.

And so I've fallen back on the tried and true programmer's tactic: I built my own solution. At the forefront, it scrapes bookmarks so that both web pages and my note show up in search.

It also doesn't require any note taking. Bookmarks can just be added to the app.

Though oftentimes I do want to write a summary of the solution and tie it to a bookmark.

And then there are really complex issues that require stitching together a solution from several links.

Originally, I built the tool just for myself. Some of my friends found it super useful too though so I made it publicly available. You can sign up and get some sample content for Python and Frontend Web Development using this link.

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