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Those silly mistakes we all make

Phil Nash
Developer evangelist for Twilio and Authy. I write JavaScript and Ruby. Probably listening to ska punk right now. console.log('🍻');
・1 min read

I've been developing for years. Years! Yet every now and then something that turns out to be simple floors me for just a little bit longer than is comfortable.

Working with code really can keep you humble. What always catches you out or got you stuck recently that really shouldn't have?

Share your silly mistakes and maybe we'll all feel a bit better about it.

Discussion (123)

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Why aren't my changes having any affect?

Restart the servers β€” Nothing.
Clear development cache β€” Nothing.
Scour docs for hard restart options β€” Nothing
Print a bunch of <h1>Test test test</h1> all over the page β€” Nothing.

Oooooohhhhhh I'm looking at the production app.

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Phil Nash Author

I've done this so many times, for each combination possible out of dev, staging and production.

So. Many. Times.

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Ben Best

Better than the version of this I did a long time ago (back when all this was the wild west). I was updating live, not the test site I was looking at.
There's all sorts of things stopping me doing that now.

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philnash profile image
Phil Nash Author

😱

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Igor Rocha

I've done the same several times, except the screen I was looking wasn't even an app - it was an Invision prototype.

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nataliedeweerd profile image
𝐍𝐚𝐭𝐚π₯𝐒𝐞 𝐝𝐞 π–πžπžπ«π • Edited

Yes! This! More often than I'd care to admit. Have considered popping in a big red "DEV" block somewhere on the site to make it super obvious.

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Phil Nash Author

This is actually an excellent idea and I'm pretty sure there are dev teams out there that do this. The more obvious the better!

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nareshravlani profile image
nareshravlani

I am one of them :)
I use big red button with text β€œtest” in navigation bar.

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phlash909 profile image
Phil Ashby

Colour coding works for me with UIs.. not quite so easy with APIs!

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Mat Hayward

Just learning some Test Driven Dev at work. Spent half the AM trying to get this phpunit test to throw an exception when no user id is present on persist. I was expecting the exception BEFORE running anything else in the test function so it was stopping before even testing anything. My boss came over to point that out for me and also pointed out I had no connection to the DB either. It's ok I'm a professional kids.

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Allan N Jeremy

I've done this way too many times as well.

Or if you have multiple cloud projects and you've configured a project other than the one you are working on. So you push changes. Do a bunch of console.log() and still nothing

Only to realize you were deploying to the wrong cloud project!

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mdgeus profile image
MD Geus

Yep, been there, done that :)

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felixdorn profile image
FΓ©lix Dorn

true haha. I've done this so many times

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Rachel Soderberg

I did something like that once... except I was looking at test and had OVERWRITTEN the production app. Good thing we have backups. Heh heh.

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Atul Kumar PK

Many times i update code in build folder's source file and the changes are not reflected. After several try i recognised that i'm a idiot.

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DarkMYJ

I can relate

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yechielk profile image
Yechiel Kalmenson

When I was doing Ruby I always misspelled initialize!

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Phil Nash Author

How did you spell it? As a Brit I am, of course, offended by the "z" and think it should be initialise anyway.

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Yechiel Kalmenson

Lol, it wasn't a consistent misspelling, it's just a long word I kept fat-fingering.

What was most frustrating was that I wouldn't get a consistent "no method 'intialize'" error, it's just that I wasn't getting expected behavior and it would take me forever to realize it's because my initialize method wasn't being called!

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philnash profile image
Phil Nash Author

Ah, the nightmare of a misspelled constructor. It's there, it's just pretending it's a regular method. Cheeky. And hard to track down. 😑

What are you writing things in most at the moment? And is it saving you from constructor woes?

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yechielk profile image
Yechiel Kalmenson

These days I work mostly in Go, but even in languages with constructors I struggled with them enough that I now recognize a misspelled one sooner.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Programming has helped me discover that I truly never learned "I before E except after C". I'm always misspelling the BadgeAchievement model in the dev.to codebase.

As a Canadian I occasionally have hangups with keywords like color. Phil, you probably feel this too.

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philnash profile image
Phil Nash Author

That's why we have postcss-spiffing.

body {
  background-colour: grey !please;
}
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philnash profile image
Phil Nash Author

Top Tip!

Rename the BadgeAchievement model to BadgeAcheivement and never have this problem again!

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I'm sure there are things like this in the code already 😭

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philnash profile image
Phil Nash Author

πŸ˜…πŸ˜…πŸ˜…

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yechielk profile image
Yechiel Kalmenson

Unrelated, but my last job had a referrals-based business model, so you can imagine the referrals table in their database was the most important table with indexes on almost every other table in the database.

It was spelled referalls, and every table apparently has its own convention of whether to name their column referall_id or referral_id πŸ€¦β€β™‚οΈ

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halldjack profile image
Jack Hall

I once fixed a misspelling in a codebase without realizing that the name was coming from an external API's response so my correction broke everything. Misspellings that you can't fix are very frustrating.

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Phil Nash Author

@yechielk At least that's just in one app and not the Referer header supported in every web browser and server in the world.

Come to think of it, I bet the Referer header has caused multiple spelling confusions leading to things like this.

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Phil Nash Author

@halldjack Oh no! You must have thought you were fixing a bug instead of causing it. That's the worst!

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yechielk profile image
Yechiel Kalmenson

Yes! Someone pointed out the referer header to me once, and I instantly felt better for the poor developer who created that referalls table...

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candidateplanet profile image
lusen / they / them πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆπŸ₯‘

are we sure they didn’t mean β€œrefer all”s intentionally? you know, all of the refered people. or referred?

never give in

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yechielk profile image
Yechiel Kalmenson

Lol, yes, we're sure πŸ˜‚

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Anna Rankin

Same! Also I type reutrn way more often then I type return. Every. Time.

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Chris McGrath • Edited

for me it's retrun lol
i also embarrassingly wrote pubic instead of public during a tech talk

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Dan Silcox

I’ve done similar typos with β€˜countryCode’ πŸ˜‚πŸ™ˆ

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Mikk Mangus

Looking for an error for way too long many times and finally realizing there's a "form" instead of "from" or vice versa.

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Yaser Adel Mehraban

Love this, my worst nightmare was something like this πŸ‘‡

<script type="text/javscript" src="main.js"></script>

I spend hours trying to see why it's not working. Obviously it was a long time ago and I had no idea you could look into network calls inside browser πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ

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Phil Nash Author

That's one issue with browsers not complaining if they can't do something.

"Sure," it thought, "this is a classing javscript file, shame I don't know how to parse and run them, on with the next element!"

So useful at times, so painful when it's a typo!

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Yaser Adel Mehraban

Couldn't agree more

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Michel Renaud

Javscript if the dialect of JavaScript used before your coffee kicks in.

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Boris Krstić

So you wrote that function, but it doesn't work and you have no idea why.

But did you MAKE a CALL to that function SOMEWHERE in your code or it just sits there alone and lonely? :))

Seriously, when I focus so much on functionality, sometimes I forget to call that newly created function. That's why I started calling the function first, and then start writing the function itself.

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Nando

omg this happened to me the other day... but I usually call the function first so it didn't dawn on me to check for the function till after a couple of hours just to make sure and BOOM, no function... I added the function, confirmed it worked and closed my editor. Didn't code for the rest of the day.

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Phil Nash Author

Or even write a test for the function first πŸ˜‰

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Davs Howard

I spent literal HOURS about a decade back trying to debug a program only to realise I had written a 'j' instead of an 'i' on a for loop but I couldn't tell as the font for both was so similar.

I've not used 'j' as a variable since then ;-)

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phlash909 profile image
Phil Ashby

Good ol' K&R has a lot to answer for..

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ludamillion profile image
Luke Inglis

I always used to go in the opposite direction for this reason. Need something after i? Go for h.

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Davs Howard

I just avoid 'i' entirely now. Go for something like x, y, z if required ;-)

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philnash profile image
Phil Nash Author

No more single letter variable names! What is this, degree level mathematics?

Wait, are you all Haskell programmers?

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davshoward profile image
Davs Howard

If it's used as a counter in a for loop I don't see an issue with it.

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ludamillion profile image
Luke Inglis

Personally I learned to program with C (and LISP) and sometimes my Javascript still sinks back towards into the C.

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unDeveloper

On prod env:

  • drop table <important_table_here>;
  • update <table> set <sequential_field> = <constant_val>

:( now i check ten times before run a command :(

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Akashdeep Singh

Oh yeah, this happened to me once. Ran an update without a where clause, and in the moments after that, I had planned my exile to a remote village in Scotland.
Fortunately, I had run select before the update, and it was a small table so al the data was on the terminal.

SET AUTOCOMMIT=0; after that.

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Phil Nash Author

Sounds like a good time to test your DB backups too!

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Siddharth

if my code doesn't run I restart the laptop.

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Luke Garrigan

haha, I like this.

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Sophie The Lionhart

extends when I mean implements as well as using / instead of \ or not including enough extra slashes to escape them. :(

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phlash909 profile image
Phil Ashby

using/import extends/implements/: ... too many languages in the same head :)

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Matei Adriel

The thing is typescript has both extends and implements so it makes it even worse

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Lewis Menelaws

Whenever I did jQuery code, I wouldn't understand why my code didn't execute. turns out I would forget the period in the selector... $('dropdown').show()

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Phil Nash Author

I have the opposite! Now I have to kick myself every time I write document.getElementByID('#some-id'). πŸ˜…

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Jonathan Burnhill

I'm forever missing out the dot for a class so made a snippet that does it for me

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Akashdeep Singh • Edited

I sometimes mix up the href and src in the link tag in html.
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" src="theme.css">
instead of
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="theme.css">
and it has taken me and colleagues several refreshes to figure out in the past.

"The css file is there. Why isn't it loading? Did you clear the cache? Did you restart the laptop? Did you check the URL?..."

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Phil Nash Author

I feel that pain. HTML is both forgiving ("the page still loaded") and brutal ("but it didn't work and I don't know why") at the same time.

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DarkMYJ

I just learn css/html few weeks ago, and this is hurt when it happens

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Obed Osei Frimpong

I left out a backlash in an endpoint. I had to ask for help from another Senior Dev. He then pointed out that to me. I looked very stupid but I guess it's all part of the work.

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Luke Inglis

I looked very stupid but I guess it's all part of the work.

I find that the longer I work in the dev field the more my questions for other devs move towards the edges. Either they are complex architecture-y questions or I'm doing something mind-numbingly dumb and can't see it myself.

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Phil Nash Author

I think my point behind all of this is that we all make these mistakes. Likely every day. Most of the time we catch it ourselves. Some of the time the fix is pointed out by someone looking at it with fresh eyes. Once in a while we ship it to production.

If we can all agree that we're not looking stupid or dumb when this stuff happens, then we'll be more likely to ask for help, more likely to catch issues, less likely to spend minutes/hours/days on something and more likely to ship a quality product.

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nataliedeweerd profile image
𝐍𝐚𝐭𝐚π₯𝐒𝐞 𝐝𝐞 π–πžπžπ«π

Sometimes you just need a second pair of eyes. If you spend so long looking at your code, you won't be able to see the forest for the trees :) I never judge a developer if the solution is simple, because I know I have been and will be in the same situation soon!

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Phil Nash Author

That's a favourite of mine too. A great way to write a correct action in Rails and then watch it fail to work in tests and routes.

I could almost see the Rails team agreeing to alias common misspellings like this to avoid the heartache!

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Rubin • Edited

Most of the time what I do is change something on the local api and query the hosted api for the changes via postman. Will go like this for about 5 minutes restarting and console logging the code until my sight gets the glimpse of the url in postman . Silly me

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Phil Nash Author

Ouch. And you can't even place a visual banner to say it's dev/staging when it's an API request.

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Phil Ashby

Late reply - but a thought occurred to me - what about a response header 'X-Environment: test/dev/prod', that might help when staring at Postman for the umpteenth time?

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philnash profile image
Phil Nash Author

Might help! Though I know I would likely be looking at the body of the response rather than the headers. Sometimes there’s just no guard against ourselves πŸ˜„

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phlash909 profile image
Phil Ashby

Well well...
github.com/postmanlabs/postman-app...

still open :(

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Phil Nash Author

That's a good idea though. Maybe it will get enough support.

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Den McHenry

I’d never worked with Visual Studio before and for a long time I’d forget to commit changes to the project file, so that everything worked locally but when my colleague pushed changes, there was no reference to new files and the site would compile without them.

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Phil Nash Author

A classic "works on my machine" πŸ˜„

Forget committing changes. Backup the rest of your work and send your laptop up to prod!

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Den McHenry

The bit that hung me up was that the files themselves WERE committed and present, and the other developer could see them, but since they weren't referenced in the .csproj file, they didn't make it production. I don't know how many times I did that in the early going.

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philnash profile image
Phil Nash Author

Oh that's so weird. I've not worked with C# or Visual Studio and this would definitely catch me out.

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Phil Ashby

I think I prefer destory.. we're done now folks, time for bed.

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Phil Nash Author

I like this interpretation too!

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jafaircl

For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why my Angular Material component wasn’t emitting events the other day. After about an hour of pulling my hair out, I realized I had written (seletionChange) instead of (selectionChange) in the template

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Phil Nash Author

Are you saying you couldn't c the issue? πŸ˜‚

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Christopher C. Johnson

I couldn't understand why a new feature wasn't working after I added some fields to a table. It was driving me nuts!

Turns out I forgot I was connected to the tester's DB instead of dev.

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Phil Nash Author

Meanwhile the tester has no idea why their DB is sprouting fields.

I love this one, it's not one I've done (no-one else lets me connect to their DB 😁) but I can still feel the intense frustration knowing you added the fields but finding them nowhere in your dev app.

There can never be too many banners telling you what environment you are currently working with.

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Laurie
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Florian Rand

I tend to misspell porps instead of props in react πŸ€“

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Phil Nash Author

Porps! Super porps!

A trio of porpoises

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Michel Renaud

I spent all day yesterday on a problem only to realize that it was an array index off by one (some code was in JavaScript, some in C#/Razor, and I didn't notice the C# part was generating the wrong numbers in the HTML). Of course, the code was trying to resolve something in the wrong set of data, leading to very weird results.

Expletives were used.

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Ryan Westlund

I was working with JS template strings and wrote {...} inside them, and wondered why the variable wasn't appearing properly. I spent about an hour checking every other place I'd changed again and again until my boss pointed it out to me.

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Den McHenry

I also have a tendency to type isntall instead of install and then imagine β€œisn’t all” as a command to delete everything (β€œmake isn’t all that is!”) because my brain is weird.

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Phil Nash Author

That misspelling is so common that npm aliases isntall to install so you never have to notice you got it wrong! πŸ˜…

In fact, I just checked and they have a whole bunch of "affordances" for us fat fingered typists! verison might be my favourite.

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Den McHenry

Verison is my new vegan deer meat alternative.

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Maureen T'O

I was coding with HTML the other day, and I usually correct my code (copy and paste a piece elsewhere) as I go along to clean up the interface, but then I forget to add the closing tags for the elements, making me spend HOURS trying to figure out why the hierarchy on my screen isn't working and why things weren't showing up πŸ˜‚

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RΓ©mi Mercier • Edited

I'll always add a new route to my Rails app and forget to restart the local server. After 10 minutes of wondering why the hell my code doesn't work anymore, I'll 🀦.

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Phil Nash Author

The worst thing is when you know all the code is right and you just don't know why it's not running. And then...

Have you tried turning it off and on again

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Waqas • Edited

I made a new react component but kept getting type errors (was using typescript) in VS Code. I removed everything one by one until I was left with just a β€˜< div />’ and still there were squiggly lines all over. I looked everywhere but couldn’t figure out why (even copied the entirety of a component that was working). Ultimately, I realised my file was a β€˜.ts’ instead of β€˜.tsx’.

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Phil Nash Author

One "x" out of place and not even in the contents of the file. Ouch!

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marcellothearcane