Often times I find that I need a person to bounce my ideas off of. Talking through a problem helps me clarify my thoughts and feelings on a subject and I find that I am able to come to a much clearer understanding of the problem and ways to solve it. The challenge is that there are times when I don’t want to actually talk to somebody or the matter is so personal that I don’t want to actually talk to somebody, but just need a method or tool to help me work through that thought process, much like I would when talking to somebody.
Enter Rubber Ducking.
For all intents and purposes, rubber ducking is really just talking to yourself. Many developers use it as a tool when working through a really knotty problem and having something or somebody to talk to is helpful. In this case, having the rubber duck is the representative of the person.
The challenge I have always had with rubber ducking is that for it to be effective for me, I have to be talking out loud, and if I am in a place surrounded with other people, that becomes awkward, since I should have just turned around and asked one of them.
I have used rubber ducking while driving in the car. I’ve managed to wedge a rubber duck into one of the parts of the console of the car and when needed I can just look down, make eye contact with the duck and then talk. Of course I also had to name him something appropriate, so Donald Duck and I have had a few conversations on the way to and from the train.
The other part that is necessary for a decent conversation with any rubber duck is a bit of imagination. You have to imagine the duck is sentient enough to understand what you are talking about and you have to imagine enough of the push back or something of a sense of the response in order to continue the conversation.
And for me that becomes the most difficult part. I just cannot muster enough of the imagination to do that. And for that reason alone, rubber ducking has been a less effective tool for me.
I guess I just prefer real people.
The image, titled “face to face”, was taken by “Elliot Moore”. You can find it on flickr.