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Kevin's latest blog: Daily Dev Log 5: The Problem Solving Map

If the act of solving a problem was a map, many people would think it looks like this:

If you have a problem, then you just need to be smart and/or creative to solve it, right?


I think it looks more like this:

Solving a problem isn't just one thing. It certainly isn't a straight path. There are wrong turns, monsters, dead ends, and cliffs that lead to jagged rocks strewn with skeletons at the bottom.

I started these daily dev logs with the idea of documenting what I do every day. But that turned out to be, well, boring and impossible. I spend days/weeks/months navigating this path, so it's not very interesting to post an update that says "I spent the last 2 weeks googling and reading documentation, not sure if I'm any further than I was at the beginning". So these updates end up being much further apart than I'd like, but I guess that's the nature of the journey.

Another frustrating thing is this- see how close the solution looks like it is to the problem? After all of that travelling, it never seems like you got very far, especially to people who don't see the whole map. "It took you a month to do those things?" Well yeah but you should see all the other stuff I had to do just know that those things existed!

Specifically, I spent the last month or so implementing proper html stripping and parsing. This is pretty basic, and it's a little bit embarrassing that it took me this long to do it, but it's done! Most importantly: now that it's done, I know how to do it.

That's the one nice thing about the treacherous problem solving map. When you start out with a problem, there's often a locked door hiding a shortcut to the solution- in video games, it's the type of door that can only be opened from the other side, after you get further in the game. But once you get to the solution, you can unlock that door so next time you can avoid all of that extra travel.

I think this is a lot of what programming is. Travelling down the path, hitting all those dead-ends, slaying all those monsters- and eventually opening up the shortcut for next time.

After a while, the map starts to look like this:

Maybe this is why it bothers me so much when people say things like "I could never be a programmer, I'm just not smart enough!" or "I'm just not creative enough!" - because neither am I. I spend most of my time lost in the problem solving maze. Most of the time it looks like I'm not making any progress, and that can be really, really, really frustrating. The trick is to just keep hacking away at the monsters until there aren't any left.

In other news, I've also been working on the Static Void Games YouTube channel. This has been really fun and scary, and I'm hoping to turn this into a bit of an online classroom. Since last update, I made two more videos:

Tutorial 2 - Using Variables


Tutorial 3 - Creating Variables

I'm still figuring out exactly what works and doesn't work. I'd love to hear feedback on the videos, especially from people who don't know anything about programming. Making these videos takes me through the same kind of problem solving map, so although it might not look like much, you should see all the stuff I had to do just to get here!

See you at the next Solution Castle.