Rubber duck debugging doesn't need to involve a duck!

Rubber Duck Debugging (or Rubber Ducking) is explaining to an inanimate object what your problem is, and in doing so finding a solution.

Posted by Natalie de Weerd on October 30, 2019 · 2 mins read

What is Rubber Duck Debugging?

Rubber Duck Debugging (or Rubber Ducking) is explaining to an inanimate object what your problem is, and in doing so finding a solution. Typically rubber ducks are used, but any inanimate object will do; my current rubber duck is a giraffe called Stumps!

A good rubber duck doesn't have to be a duck!

How to Rubber Duck Debug:

  1. You get suck in your coding and you can’t find the solution.
  2. Take a deep breath to calm yourself.
  3. Find a duck, giraffe, monkey, or other inanimate object with a face.
  4. Explain to your “duck” what the problem is.
  5. As you’re talking your “duck” will implant the answer into your brain! Eureka!

How does it work?

Rubber Duck Debugging works because it forces you to break down a complex problem into smaller chunks as you explain it to your duck. For example:

Dev: “Duck, why isn’t my email sending?” Duck: “…” Dev: “The email is generated automatically when someone completes the contact form on my website, and it should then send to the site admin…” Duck: “…” Dev: “OMG DUCK I’M USING THE WRONG VARIABLE!”

Sometimes we developers can’t see the forest for the trees. We’re in so deep into our code that we can no longer see the problem, regardless of how obvious it may be. Breaking down the problem section by section, line by line, can help us realise where the issue is.

Speaking aloud also helps us hear our thoughts differently. The very act of hearing yourself explain the problem is often all you need to bring forth a solution. How often have you found yourself just asking “why?” in front of your code and BAM - the solution hits you.