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Darrin Deal
Darrin Deal

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The return statement that keep me silent

When I first started in development I was in college. One of the first languages that I was learning was C#. I had no clue what a return statement was except that it was making my method stop. There was code below this damning return statement and I was so sure that this section of code should be running. I was sure of it.

When this took place I had just learned about StackOverflow. It had helped me with other issues and I was sure that it could help me here. Previously, I had only used other contributors questions to come up with solutions for my problem. This time I wanted to contribute my own question. (Can you see where this is going?)

I had so much joy in contributing my question, "Why does the return statement end my method?". Ten plus years later this question seems so naive and if I had looked in my textbook I would have found the answer, but nevertheless I was proud to contribute to community.

As you might guess there were very few responses back to my question. There was one that I am still recovering from to this day. Not in a it caused me to tailspin out of joining the development community way but rather a caution when posting online kind of way. The response was a sarcastic, snarky response when boiled down came with this message.

That's what it is supposed to do, newbie. Asking dumb questions gets dumb responses.

While this is harmless and I have a successful career in development it has kept me from posting online for all these years. I was so proud to contribute when I got this answer it defeated me in letting my voice be heard in the community.

Most recently, I had left a comment on a post here on dev.to, one of the first since I was in college. I found myself thinking the comment was negative towards me when in reality it wasn't, it was actually helpful. I am realizing that I placed the pain of the encounter ten plus years ago on this helpful commentator. That was not fair to them.

So, now that story time is over I have a few questions for you.

  1. Have you experienced a similar situation and have not joined into the conversation of development online/in-person?

  2. If so, have you overcome that fear and feeling of defeat? How?

  3. How can we help younger developers join in the conversation and let their voice be heard in the community?

Let's discuss below.

Discussion (11)

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natescode profile image
Nate • Edited on

Stack overflow is generally negative.

I always try to be patient with my students or junior developers.

While that was a naive question, I could see a newbie thinking return was effectively yield .

It helps to understand what they're thinking than just say they're dumb.

The only dumb question is the one you don't ask. One MUST ask dumb questions so they can ask smarter questions; better ignorance.

I taught myself to code in high school but later I got burnt similarly by asking online questions. Ignore the haters and keep coding.

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darrinndeal profile image
Darrin Deal Author

Thanks for your comments!

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas

Ohhh do I know it.

Following John Cage's rules for students has helped me:

  • I found a community where I felt comfortable so I could ask questions
  • I trained myself in asking "why" as much as I needed
  • I didn't negotiate with trolls - if someone was mean, I'd just block them
  • I kept a list of questions and points of confusion so when I talked with someone more experienced, I was ready to pick their brain
  • When starting to work with a more experienced dev (a teacher, a dev), I would create an opportunity for us to discuss how I can ask questions and how they can make sure I understand stuff - in this way, this was not a one-way effort but I shared the burden with them

Interesting enough, I still keep these practices in place and they help me so much to skill up quickly and assume new responsibilities at work.

And as a mentor, I help my mentees develop these skills as well:

  • I start mentoring a new person by getting to know how they learn (so I can be more active in it) and by setting ground rules (how are you going to ask me for clarification? how will I know that you're lost? can you tell me about a teacher in the past that would help you understand some difficult concepts?)
  • I ask them to explain stuff back to me so that:
  • If they are quiet and shy, I challenge them to:
    • ask me at least three questions during/after a session or on a weekly basis
    • ask twitter or stackoverflow (but also I help them proofread it and then like it or even answer it)
  • I help them summarize once a month what they've learned because seeing how much you've done and how much you've learned is essential in how you build confidence.

I hope this helps!

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darrinndeal profile image
Darrin Deal Author

I love this! Thank you for your comment.

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andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden • Edited on

I think everybody has experienced this throughout their career. I have seen experienced developers asking simple questions on Twitter. It just goes to show that once in a while we all need help on something.

It's happened to me before and I just let it go and stop caring. If they are going to respond like that then they might as well be a troll. They are hiding behind a screen so as far as i'm concerned they are not helpful so I don't care about their opinion.

I overcome it by just not caring what some invisible person behind a screen thinks of me. If they want a flame war we can go at it 🤪 Better yet I will just block them I have better things to do with my time.

Just accept that everybody has a voice and if they have something valid to say and a real contribution we should let them.

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darrinndeal profile image
Darrin Deal Author

Thanks for your comment!

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cappe987 profile image
Casper

I have never asked on StackOverflow, but it did happen to me on Discord. I was already about a year into my programming journey, but I remember asking a question and immediately get insulted because I tried to do something the wrong way and apparently should have known the right way.

Nowadays, I'm way more cautious with asking questions. And I always do my very best to figure it out myself first, and many times I am able to solve it myself as well.

I always tell people to not be afraid to ask questions, but I dislike asking questions myself. Though, I have gotten better at asking. I still aim to only ask after having tried myself, so I am able to have a proper discussion and talk about what didn't work and such, or be able to explain what part I'm confused about.

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cappe987 profile image
Casper

Though, what this bad experience has lead me to is helping others in a friendly manner. I want to be the person they can ask for help.

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darrinndeal profile image
Darrin Deal Author

Thank you for your comments!

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gianinoyez profile image
GianiNoyez

Hi Darrin

I'm a developer for close to 10 years and I just want to say: dumb questions do not exist, only dumb answers. The first time I encountered a return statement my mind went: "return what?".

I feel like a lot of the developer community is a friendly bunch of friends that like to banter and help eachother out but you'll always find the occasional elitist that likes to look down on young padawan developers.

The best thing we could do as a community is assuming every person behind a username of profile picture is an aspiring developer that genuinely wants to understand what's going on.

That being said, I'm probably ashamed of what questions I have asked on SO.

I have two question on SO that have amassed 75k view in total which I consider dumb questions. But to place this in perspective, are they dumb questions if 75k (possible) people look up the same information as I was looking for at that time.

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darrinndeal profile image
Darrin Deal Author

Thank you for your comments!