Great developers work with probably hundreds of thousands of variables and moving parts to create incredibly complex pieces of software, websites and tools.
If you’re under the impression that developers are superhumans who do it all from memory, you’re in the majority, but that doesn’t mean the majority is right. In fact, the greatest software developers are usually those who are the best at finding resources and putting together pieces of information -- not those with the best memories.
In short, to be an amazing developer, you’re gonna have to cheat a little.
If you’re just getting started with software development, either as a student or a new employee, you may not know where to find the resources you need. A big part of growing in this industry is learning how to find information on your own, but I have a feeling you wouldn’t say “no” to a head start. Here are my five favorite resources I refer to when I’m coding:
Widely regarded as the gold standard of programmer references, Stack Overflow is an online community in which anyone can ask a question, and that question will be answered by those with more skill or knowledge. Why would anyone bother? The more questions you answer on Stack Overflow, the higher your ranking, which means that it can work as a great personal branding tool for experts.
By creating a place in which novice developers and industry experts can form a symbiotic relationship, Stack Overflow has secured its place as home base for the global developer community.
A great way to learn how to solve a problem is to look for those who have built something similar, and examine their code. A great place to look for code that’s open to the public? GitHub. This online project hosting site includes a source-code browser and in-line editing, as well as many open source projects to peruse. The cherry on top is GitHub's incredibly active and responsive community.
If you’re looking for a community as well as the answer to your question, check out Reddit’s Programming page. This is a great place to exchange (and read) news about software development, learn tips and tricks and hear about others’ experiences, as well as ask and answer questions.
You’ll find similar pages on the right sidebar, including pages on specific languages and sub-industries, such as web development and network security.
API Cheat Sheets
While the above are great communities that I highly suggest you join, sometimes your question will come down to simply understanding the tools you’re working with. Many companies, such as Akamai, have put out API cheat sheets to help those who are working with their products. Before you spend hours bashing your head against a wall figuring out how an API works or why your code isn’t interacting with it as you'd expected, check to see if there’s documentation that can help.
Everyone wants to impress the boss, and being a great developer is about more than being able to find out answers to specific questions; it’s also about being educated on the latest trends and technology. My favorite source of news for software and web design is DZone, and I’m in good company -- over a million developers belong to this site. DZone pushes out content about everything, from DevOps to Cloud tech, and from Agile tips to big data topics.
If you’re just getting started as a developer, or if you’re working to become better at your existing position in software, make sure to check out each of these sites. The more you read each of them, the more you’ll know and understand about how software is made and where it’s going.
In an industry that is essentially obsessed with puzzles, consider the effort you put into constantly educating yourself as a way to uncover more pieces that will fit together in ways you can’t imagine.