From the Wikipedia XY Problem entry.
The real issue ("X") of the person asking for help is obscured, because instead of asking directly about issue X, they ask how to solve a secondary issue ("Y") which they believe will allow them to resolve issue X.
For the last month or so I've been making a card game as a personal project. I'm using JS and the PhaserJS game engine to get better at both because why not. Tonight, I was working on building a pyramid of cards, setting up an abstraction. When you click on a card, it gets an array of the selected cards children, ones it covers. It then goes to all children cards and removes the clicked card from the childs list of parents. When any card's parent list is zero length, the card goes face up.
But it wouldn't work. Instead of removing the one card as a parent, it was just completely clearing the array. Why? What the hell is wrong with you?
array.filter runs, ALL the relevant variables are becoming undefined? What, why?
So I dig and dig. Web searches, info about
array.filter, etc... and nothin works. Finally I break down and post to Stack Overflow. A Nice Guy (rarity these days) hops on the comments pretty quickly and makes some suggestions, including a couple of links on variable scope.
. . . Do you see it? the XY Problem?
I spent a good 5 hours trying to figure out why my variables were being cleared, only to be reminded that they were completely out of scope inside the callback function of
array.filter. I mean, I knew that's how it should work but I was so zoned in on "shit disappearing" that I couldn't see the forest for the trees.
Even better (or worse, depending on how you look at it), with the blinders on, I completely missed the actual problem. I had fully forgotten that the real question at hand had nothing to do with variable scope involving callback functions. It was about an array being cleared.
Once I reminded myself of what the true problem was, it took an almighty several seconds to fix it.
The true solution? Look at line 131 in the images.
The moral of the story is this:
When you hear hooves, think horses, not zebras.
If you're having an impossible problem where something reliable seems to have gone completely off the deep end, you're most likely looking in the wrong place for the problem. Take a step back, defocus for a minute, grab the rubber duck off your desk and have a nice relaxed conversation.