I have been thinking recently about what effects the explosion of information on the Internet has been having on software developers and how it has been shaping their skills. On the one hand, one can argue that it has helped them immensely in improving their knowledge and broadening their horizons. It has also helped them in getting answers to their problems quicker than ever, specially with forums like StackOverflow and having an abundance of search engines like Bing and Google to get relevant links at the click of a button.
On the flip side though, it has also in some ways made it less likely for the developers to feel the need to investigate into their problems and do thorough debugging and troubleshooting. All they need to do now is to copy paste the error in their favorite search engine and get links to web pages directly giving them the workarounds and resolutions. Even though this does improve their productivity in the short term, over a period of time it always helps for developers to troubleshoot the problems they face. This would enable them to understand the system better, get familiar with the quirks that almost any system typically has and also, the researching that goes on in resolving the problem also helps them to learn more. This blog post also talks about a similar problem being caused by search engines but for people in general, not specifically for developers.
I think that in today’s times, where developers’ time comes at a premium, there has to be a middle ground that needs to be chosen by the developers. It certainly helps and makes sense to make use of the search engines and developer forums to get answers to get unblocked and resolve problems. However, instead of doing a search the moment a problem is encountered, developers must try and see if they can find the resolution themselves and invest time in troubleshooting as much as they can afford to. Only if they cannot get a resolution and time is running out, should they look it up on the Internet.
What do you think developers should be doing? Would trying to troubleshoot it themselves help or should they just give importance to saving time and resolving problems as soon as possible?