The Million Voices of the Coding Community

Web development is overwhelmingly community driven. We share tools, libraries, frameworks, code snippers, solutions, and questions. Our work would take tremendously more time and effort if we did not use each other’s code. Another way in which web development is community driven is also through the in-person and online help we seek. Throughout my past six months as a web developer, I’ve learned quite a bit about the process of asking and receiving help.

Getting the wrong kind of help

Not all people are suited to answering your question, no matter how much experience they have. Some will not pay full attention when you explain your problem. Others will disregard you as incapable of understanding. The hardest type of help that I have coping with is those who fixate on a part of your code that has nothing to do with getting to the solution. These are people who will begin criticizing your choice of software tools, minor and irrelevant details, and structuring (which can all be fixed at a later point). This distracts you from your core goal that the moment.

It’s important to be mindful of the people that you ask help from.

Not all people will be capable or interested in helping you. Nor will all people agree with the same coding standards and philosophies that you abide by. So it’s vital to find people who can focus with you on your pressing concerns and help guide you towards a solution.

I am generally cautious of people who hand out the code outright to my specific solution. You see people asking for others to do this for them on Stack Overflow. While this is a shortcut and may certainly help you achieve a result, it does not help you learn the intricacies of the code that you are putting together.

Getting the wrong kind of help can greatly discourage you, or even make you feel alienated from the coding community. But there will always be another person in this realm that you can reach out to and get support from.

Listening to all the voices at once

Listening to everyone’s input on your code is not going to make you a better coder. Why? Because everyone has a different method and opinion. Taking to heart all of the input you receive from your fellow coders convolutes what you are trying to do. It pays to listen, but be critical of who is speaking. Discard what isn’t helping you, and especially discard those things that are bringing you down.

There have been so many instances throughout my coding bootcamp experience that I have sought two, three, or four opinions on a particular problem, only to end up with a broken app and frustration. Refactoring your code at the drop of a hat because someone tells you it will be better their way may not always end well. Refactor your code because you see value in it, not solely because another coder tells you to.

Vet each voice that you listen to.

How much experience do they have with the type of problem that you are dealing with? Are you confident that asking for their help is going to get you closer to your goal? Have you exhausted the resources you could find on your own? This also applies to voices online. Though vetting a voice online is different than in person, it’s still important for you to determine whether you want to move forward with their advice.

Starry Night by Mark Basarab

Understand when you need to go it alone

Sometimes the best help that you can get is from yourself. Once you get on the train of asking for help it’s easy to reach out for even the simplest problems that you could have figured out yourself with some simple Google searching. Research is one of the top skills that a great web developer possesses.

Make sure that you exhaust your online searching before tapping your coding friend for help.

There’s comfort in knowing that you have reliable coding mentors, friends, and coworkers. But you will absolutely benefit from understanding the methodology of online research and self reliance. Reaching within for help can feel very rewarding and increase your confidence in your abilities.

There are a tremendous amount of voices in the web development community – loud, brash, uncensored, patient, open, intelligent. Not all of these voices are going to help you achieve your current goals. Some will make you feel like you don’t belong in this community. But if you want to be here, you belong here. Being a web developer is about a lot more than learning code. It’s about learning to interact with a whole new set of people with very passionate stances on their methods and tools. Not all of them will understand your goals, but some of them will.

Entering a community as vast as this one takes a fortitude that I have not had entering any other setting. It’s fast-paced, male-oriented, quizzical, confusing, and downright insane at times. This is an absurd community of logical thinking, perplexingly passionate individuals. Newcomers, welcome to the madness. For those who have been part of this community for some time, I hope you’re still in the honeymoon daze of contemplating the power of talking to machines. This community thrives on its voices. The loudest are not always helping the most, nor are all the quiet coders meek and soundless. There is room for the obnoxious and the tender, as in other fronts of life. Let us all choose our voices wisely, so that we may reach our goals.