How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

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#1 humanatore  Icon User is offline

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How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 08:51 AM

Hello! I'm a new web developer that's still learning A LOT! So, there are many instances where I get hung up. Possibly the most frustrating roadblocks entail spending hours trying to figure out the error only to find a missing semicolon or parenthesis. Also, there are those mysterious pitfalls that can consume days or even weeks. And of course, the most common for me, working through one's own ineptitude.

I hit a roadblock today. I was dealing with it OK until I tried posting the question on here and the 'Post Preview' wasn't showing my code snippet titles. All of a sudden I just wanted to punch my monitor.

And I thought to myself, there must be a better way. Certainly the internet has the answer!

  • Do you have a strategy to get past roadblocks?
  • How do you deal with the frustration of hitting a roadblock?
  • What are some general DO's and DON'T's when you're stuck?
  • How does your strategy change in the face of a looming deadline?
  • Those days when you are really stuck and you feel like you've been hitting your head against the wall for hours, how do you see it through?

This post has been edited by jon.kiparsky: 10 March 2015 - 08:52 AM
Reason for edit:: bye bye, formatting!


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Replies To: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

#2 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 09:00 AM

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Do you have a strategy to get past roadblocks?

If it is syntax then a better IDE or simply learning to put my statement end'ers in properly the first time.

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How do you deal with the frustration of hitting a roadblock?

Take a lap.

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What are some general DO's and DON'T's when you're stuck?

In terms of what? Like DON'T punch small woodland animals? DO take a break?

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How does your strategy change in the face of a looming deadline?

It really doesn't.

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Those days when you are really stuck and you feel like you've been hitting your head against the wall for hours, how do you see it through?

It's relative to the project or the 'roadblock'.
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#3 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 09:02 AM

Nothing magical. You just keep persavering. There is no 'secret' the rest of us know that you don't. You just keep plugging away.

Take a break and let the mind work on it in the background. Maybe work on a different aspect of the project for a while then come back to the roadblock with free eyes. If you can finish something else and feel good about that accomplishment it can do a lot for your morale when you return to the hard topic.

Don't feel alone. I've been plugging away for 3 days at a particularly tough project requirement that is new material and technique for me; and I've been developing professionally for a decade. There will always be new things because development is all about new technology. What will change is the nature of what you get stuck on. At first its the simple stuff. As your skillset expands so will your definition of what is 'the advanced stuff'.
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#4 Atli  Icon User is offline

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Re: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 09:03 AM

I find that laying down, listening to some musing or watching some boring TV show often unclogs the head and gives you a "DING!" moment.

(Or that's at least what I tell my boss when he catches me laying down and listening to music/watching TV...)
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#5 no2pencil  Icon User is online

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Re: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 09:04 AM

I have a trickle system.

First I document any relevant information, logs, trial & error, & verification with a working resource. Then :
  • Google
  • Vendor Documentation
  • Revisit Google
  • Local Resource (someone I can speak with)
  • Customer service that supports item
  • Public forum

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#6 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 09:08 AM

Where in that "trickle system" is the step to pour a finger of George Dickel?
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#7 no2pencil  Icon User is online

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Re: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 09:23 AM

#4, local resource.
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#8 no2pencil  Icon User is online

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Re: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 09:53 AM

View PosttlhIn`toq, on 10 March 2015 - 11:02 AM, said:

Maybe work on a different aspect of the project for a while then come back to the roadblock with free eyes.

Sometimes with regards to code, I will explain my code layout/logic to a non-developer. Most often the act of me speaking out-lout, explaining the flow causes me to find my error in logic.

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#9 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 11:45 AM

It's often helpful to just read the code. The machine is doing what I'm telling it to do - but what is it I'm telling it to do? If the code is not easy to read, make it easy to read. Good style is crucial - messy code is nice habitat for bugs to hide in.

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Also, there are those mysterious pitfalls that can consume days or even weeks.


Ack. Weeks? That sounds like you're flailing. Stop. Breathe. Take a lap, as modi says. Ask yourself, what exactly is the problem here, and what can I do that will make it a little better? Do that. Repeat.
Work on diagnostics - when you see something that's not working, the first thing you need to do is to figure out what exactly is going wrong. Don't write any code to fix the problem until you know what the problem actually is. Don't think about "why it's not doing what I want" - this is just banging your head against the desk. Think about "what must my code be doing to produce this effect?" and "what is causing my code to do that?"
Walk through the code, step by step. Follow the execution path, in your mind - "be the CPU".
Then use a debugger to track the execution path directly.
Isolate the problem. Probe values along the execution path. Are they correct? Okay, the problem comes later. A binary search is often the right way to do this - divide the search space in half, then in half again, until you find the place where things are going haywire.

The more important thing is to find small, finite steps towards better, and execute those.

View Postno2pencil, on 10 March 2015 - 11:23 AM, said:

#4, local resource.



Yep. George is someone I can speak to, fer sure.
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#10 BenignDesign  Icon User is offline

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Re: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 11:56 AM

Sometimes a lap works, sometimes a nap works better.

There have been times when I've run up against a wall and have completely worn myself down mentally trying to sort it out. Those are the days I just check out entirely... ask the boss if I can burn a couple hours of PTO time and just go home. Generally speaking, problems have a way of working themselves out after a good night's sleep.

Though there ARE occasions (no specific projects mentioned) when I find the most logical solution is just to set the entire building on fire and be done with it.
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#11 andrewsw  Icon User is offline

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Re: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 12:00 PM

I want to emphasize the need for a break, because a lot of the time the solution actually occurs while I/you are not sitting at the computer: the DING moment!
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#12 BenignDesign  Icon User is offline

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Re: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 12:03 PM

In my days as a smoker, a moment of mental paralysis was the perfect excuse to slip out the side door for a cigarette. The vast majority of my coding issues where solved in nicotine-fueled moments of epiphany.
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#13 astonecipher  Icon User is offline

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Re: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 12:25 PM

^^^ STILL my way of dealing with it. Gets me away from the computer and to a clearer head, even if it's not cleaner lungs.


May I suggest getting bigger tires for the truck? Getting a bigger truck?

Kidding aside, a mental roadblock is because you are likely thinking to hard on it and not focusing on the actual problem, but has happened because of it.

Syntax errors become less of a problem when you get farther along, and develop your own system. Logic errors are harder to workout, because an IDE won't tell you that you screwed up. A book I read when I started kept saying the same thing,

"A computer does what you tell it to, not what you want it to."

It is very fitting and true beyond measure.

Rubber ducking helps, talking to an inanimate object and working through the logic of the problem.

The biggest thing, is just letting your mind rest.

This post has been edited by astonecipher: 10 March 2015 - 12:25 PM

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#14 BenignDesign  Icon User is offline

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Re: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 12:33 PM

Got mine!

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#15 cfoley  Icon User is offline

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Re: How do YOU overcome roadblocks?

Posted 10 March 2015 - 03:50 PM

Quote

Possibly the most frustrating roadblocks entail spending hours trying to figure out the error only to find a missing semicolon or parenthesis.


This only happens if you're writing a lot of code without running it. I wrote an article that describes how to avoid this.

If you're stuck with something conceptual then a break is the best. I wrote an articleabout that too.
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