Stack-Overflow-Driven Development

Thank God for StackOverflow.com. I seriously can’t imagine my (programming) life without it. And with it being one of the most visited sites on the web, I guess I’m not alone.

There’s a long friendship between Stack Overflow and me. It helped me countless times when I was stuck on a problem. It gave me an idea of how other people had approached the same problem. Sometimes these other people helped me solve my problem. Sometimes they gave me a hint for a possible solution. And sometimes reading their issues at least let me know that I wasn’t alone with a miserable bug…

After hours or even days of searching and trying different things, your shields are down. You are crawling through your code on all fours like a man who’s lost in the desert. But all of a sudden your search is fruitful! Eureka! Searching Stack Overflow has finally yielded a piece of code that works!

That’s when you have to watch out and resist the temptation to take code that works for the system that’s good. What you’ve found on Stack Overflow is – in all but the rarest cases – not a solution but rather a clue. It can certainly make for a great pointer, but it was not written with your exact problem/ requirements/ constraints/codebase/application in mind. And sometimes, it might just be a dirty hack.

Embrace Stack Overflow as a good source of guidance for specific problems. But also take the time to thoroughly and honestly evaluate if you’ve found a real, reliable solution.