Stack Overwhelm (and How I Overcame It)

As a new developer, I quickly came to learn the power of Stack Overflow. If you do a google search for anything related to coding, be it a way to do something in Javascript, an explanation of a computer science concept, how to achieve a certain look with CSS, etc., you’ll find a Stack Overflow thread at the top of the results. And generally, you can solve your issue by reading the right thread. I’ve borrowed many bits of code from the gracious citizens of Stack Overflow!

It’s also a good idea for a developer to actually contribute to Stack Overflow by asking questions of their own and providing answers to others’ questions. I’ve always wanted to do this, but felt VERY overwhelmed by the prospect. It seemed like every question already had an answer with a bazillion upvotes. Oh, and if the masses aren’t fond of your answer, you can get downvoted. No one wants to be downvoted! So, how could little, old Sarah contribute?

As part of my mission to get out of my own damn way, I decided to look for some SIMPLE questions on Stack and start there. I found that if you simply go to the homepage, you can filter by topic and the most recent questions show up at the top. If you’re paying attention, you can jump in and be one of the first few people to answer a question.

I chose to search for questions related to CSS, because I’m pretty comfortable with that at this point, and I know that it can have a bit of a learning curve, which could lead newbies to ask questions on Stack Overflow. The first question I found was this one about creating divs with random widths. I knew that I could use CSS Flex-Box (specifically the flex-grow property) along with a Javascript function to generate random numbers as the value for each div’s flex-grow property. I created this solution in just a few minutes and shared it with the user who’d asked the question. Apparently it worked for them, although I’m still waiting on an upvote, ahem!

The point is, I had this big mental barrier in my head that was preventing me from a) doing something that could make me a better developer and b) putting myself in a position to a favorable candidate should I ever go for something full-time, or even a contract gig. Hiring folks look at things like Stack Overflow and GitHub and so on.

As with most things related to coding, the answer to overcoming Stack Overwhelm (as I have dubbed it!) is to break things down into smaller, more manageable goals. My goal now is to answer one question a day, on a topic in which I have a decent level of confidence. I know I won’t become a top contributor overnight, but you have to start somewhere, right?

I’ll let you know when the upvotes start rolling in 😉

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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