In this episode of Syntax, Scott and Wes talk about how to get better at problem solving — one of the most important skills to build as a developer.
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2:43 - Gather info
- What is this thing trying to do?
- Use tools
- DevTools are your best friend during this phase
8:01 - Know where to look (and use tools)
- Dev tools for client side
- Error logs
- The most experienced people in any field know how to ask the right questions.
- Some of this will come with experience and nothing else. If you’ve seen a problem before, it’s easier to solve.
10:00 - Look at the end game
- What are you really trying to do here? Don’t focus so much on the tech that you miss the bigger picture.
13:17 - Read Again
- Error logs provide the best clues. Read them closely.
- Actually read your code — don’t skim it.
- Write comments while reading it, or follow existing comments — good for documenting, but also for structuring your thoughts.
18:08 - Make it simple (break it into smaller parts)
- Limit the number of inputs and outputs
- Get it working in a limited capacity (e.g. safe mode, Codepen, etc.)
- Comment out major sections of code until you have a working example
- Does this problem exist outside of the framework?
- Does this work in a clean environment?
25:35 - Take yourself out of your environment
- You should be able to take a look at the problem at all zoom levels
- Does it work locally but not on the server?
- Does it work in other browsers?
27:32 - Stay calm
- It’s easy to get nervous or worked up when the stakes are high
- It won’t serve you to panic. If you are panicking, take a 10 min walk to deep breath
- Take a shower, lift weights (seriously)
30:14 - Talk it over
- Getting the perspective of another developer can be invaluable
32:28 - Make things obvious
- Use debugger or label logs — don’t let it be ambiguous
- For CSS bugs, use primary colors to make things stand out
- Use the right tool to make the problem stand out
- Layers for CSS issues
- Network for network issues
- Performance tab (etc.)
35:12 - Use Git correctly to free up your techniques
- If you’re code commits are up to date, you can heavily modify code without fear of deleting things — just revert to a previous commit once you find the issue and fix.
36:10 - Don’t jump at solutions
- Take the time to fully dissect the problem
- Question you assumptions
- It can’t possibly be a problem with ____. Well maybe it is.
- Wes once spent hours trying to diagnose a check engine light when the gas cap was lose.
43:51 - Get good at pattern matching
- This comes with experience
- When did this problem start?
- Did we deploy any code? Did we change any logic?
44:54 - Get good at googling
- Being able to describe your problem is key.
- Search the error from Firefox
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