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Lucia Cerchie
Lucia Cerchie

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Your 4th Grade Math Teacher Was Right

"Show your work."

It's a direction many an elementary schooler has heard over and over again.

It's also something Austin Kleon recommends in his book Show Your Work.

While Kleon's books are aimed at artists, I think you can extend his sage advice to many types of professionals. I count all types of coders and programmers as creative professionals in my mind, and I find his words echoing in my ears often.

One of Kleon's points is to focus on the showing the process rather than the outcome. (Again, so was your elementary school teacher -- remember getting partial credit for showing your work even if you didn't get to the final correct answer?).

As creative professionals, we want to be findable online. Unless we're genuinely developer influencers, we don't necessarily need tons of likes. But we do want meaningful interactions, which can further our career progress. To obtain these, we need to show our work.

We want to show how the sausage is made. This is where our daily joy is as developers. It's in refactoring, pair programming, debugging. It's not necessarily in the finished product, it's in the process. We love the feeling of working on a puzzle.

That's why we blog, we livestream, we teach to learn. That's why we ask questions on Twitter and in forums. It's why we accept and provide advice.

In the developer community, it's often called learning in public. Shawn Wang defines the term in this great article on it where he describes what it means to adopt a growth mindset online.

In the spirit of learning in public, I'll share a time when I learned in public. I wrote an article on 3 Ways to Maketarget="_blank" Accessible. A commenter noted that using target="_blank" can actually introduce a serious security issue. The original commenter has deleted their comment, but you can read more about it in this article.

Had I not written the post, I would never have learned why you shouldn't use target="_blank"!

This is part of why showing your work and learning in public is worth it.

It's also important because other people will learn from you, of course. is one of my favorite resources for learning new things because so many bloggers come together to share their knowledge, and I'm grateful for it. ๐Ÿ˜

So now, in a meta type of way, I'm waiting for your response to learn more about this topic! What has your experience showing your work and learning in public been like?

Full disclosure: I was a 4th grade teacher early on in my career. My students were very smart and often stumped me with their curious questions about the world. Quite often, I'd respond with "I don't know, let me go look that up." That response is valid for developers learning together today. Never be ashamed to look something up together. You never know what you might find.

Top comments (5)

markestrada8 profile image

Good stuff, because yes, there is value to us and others in the process. Documenting it is tedious but important, and I don't know. I'm inconsistent with it, sometimes I try to write out what I'm working on, sometimes just working on it takes up all the time. But I know how much value I've found in watching other people try to figure things out... in a broader sense also, not just with a specific task, but like really figure their lives out, move in a direction, fail, regroup, try again, there is such value in it, showing our approach to human-ing.

cerchie profile image
Lucia Cerchie

So true--- and very meta!

andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

I tottaly agree with what you said.

spaboi profile image
SPABOI • Edited

Always comment your code when youโ€™re writing. A developer writes code that a computer understands but a good developer writes code that both humans and computers can understand!