Why I Skip Stack Overflow

In order to make myself a better coder, I avoid reading Stack Overflow (SO) answers until I’ve exhausted all other efforts. Computer systems are designed to be figured out from their manuals or APIs. Some systems are unclear, in which case I’ll Google for the answer, but only read articles people wrote and posted on their own sites. This is the same as looking up the answer in a programming book, which are written as clearer, extended manuals.

The problem isn’t with SO, but with what going down that path entails. Oftentimes, your initial question is the problem. For example, let’s say you really want to put a button here, but iOS only lets you put it there. Sometimes you can find the right SO thread that will help you break the system so you can show that button who’s boss, but then afterwards realize iOS was designed that way for a reason. Or sometimes, you’ll click on a SO thread that has an incomplete answer, but lots of discussion, so you copy and paste code fragments from up and down the page, in a vain attempt to shut the problem down. Again, there was probably a better path.

The ultimate goal is to save time. Learning to work around things the system doesn’t want you to do will save you time. Learning to read an API or manual will save you time. By creating your own solutions, you save time when you have to debug them later.

The exception to this is when it ultimately doesn’t save you time, in which case, read the damn SO answer and get on with it.

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