The blog of David Wickes, software developer

Silence is the Enemy

I’ve been thinking about this post for a few weeks, but Benji Lanyado from Picfair has just given a great talk about starting his business. Great for a number of reasons (he’s a very charismatic speaker to begin with), but the key thing I’m taking home with me is what he’s just said about, well - talking.

Talk to everyone. Get out of your flat.

It’s easy to forget that in a few weeks I’m not going to be around here at Makers. And that the best thing - the best thing - about being here is talking to people.

At every stage of coding - whether in solving a problem, learning a language, fixing a bug - silence is the enemy. You know your pairing is going wrong when nobody is saying anything. Say something, even if you’re just restating the problem. Pairing is made to make you talk about what’s going on - making your brain work around the problem by putting it in your mouth. How incredible is that?

This becomes really apparent when you’ve been coding on your own for a while. You tend to find yourself going crazy over small bugs that are really apparent when you’re looking at them in someone else’s code. This is why rubber ducking happens - that experience you’ve had of going to someone for help and suddenly realizing the solution halfway through explaing the problem to them - they’ve become your rubber duck (remember to thank them with a quack).

Same goes for teaching - the number of things I’ve got down solidly by having to explain it to someone, out loud. It’s mind blowing. You can’t skip over anything when you’re talking, your brain can’t trick you into false confidence by waving its hands over a bit you don’t understand. I gave a talk about bitwise operators a few days ago - I thought I had it all covered, but when I got a question about two’s complement it became really apparent that I didn’t have a clue. Embarassing? Yes, a little - but now at least I know where I’m ignorant, rather than being surprised about it later.

Silence is the enemy of good and happy coding. Keep talking - even if it’s just to yourself.