What have you tried?

What have you tried?

By and large, I’ve found one measure to be an indicator of whether I can work with a developer; whether professional or open source:  When they need help, they can answer the question:

“What you have tried?”

When you ask a technical question in a technical forum, providing information on what you’ve tried is a signal.  It’s a way of saying “I’m not just looking for a solution, I’ve genuinely tried to solve this problem on my own, and I need help”.  A signal of willingness and ability to break down problems into their composite parts.

Believe it or not; There’s an entire class of software developers whose entire problem-solving technique is to ask for the answers.   Not seek advice about how to approach the problem, or to look for documentation to look into — but to ask for the solution, completely-baked and ready to go.  It’s more prevalent than you might think.

I like to use the question “What have you tried?” to keep myself honest before asking a question to teamemates on Slack.   If I haven’t fully explored the problem space in a way that my skill-set will allow, or at least scratched the surface of trying to expand my own skills to solve the problem by doing something as small as googling what others have done, then I’m likely not respecting my teammates time.

Hat tip Matt Gemmell and his post What have you tried? for pointing this out to the tech world back in 2008 and to Nicky Leach for pointing it out to me way back then..

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