Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Home office and rubber duck debugging, 5 levels

Rubber duck debugging at home
Recently, I shared with you my best practices for working from home. Today, I want to add an angle specific to technical jobs, especially for developers. When you work in co-located teams, you benefit from the direct conversations and exchange. In (software) development and technical writing, it is important to rethink ongoing processes or ideas, to reassess a situation, to explain what you do. Rubber duck debugging is one such method - debugging code by explaining it to a rubber duck.

Rubber ducks and 5 levels of difficulty

Rubber duck debugging and similar methods are based on the concept of explaining something obvious (duh!) on a different level. Instead of a rubber duck and similar (see picture above), you can also try to explain an issue or idea to a family member. I often use a walk to explain IT problems to my wife. Moreover, teaching students helps me to revisit IT topics on a different level.

Speaking of levels, you may have seen the WIRED: 5 Levels video series. Experts (try to) explain highly complex topics on 5 levels of difficulty, addressing 5 different levels of experience and understanding. I especially found the below video by fellow IBMer Dr. Talia Gershon on Quantum Computing very impressive.


Use the time at home and practice rubber duck debugging and explaining your (non-confidential) technical challenges to your family members in 5 levels of difficulty.

If you have feedback, suggestions, or questions about this post, please reach out to me on Twitter (@data_henrik) or LinkedIn.