Beware of Stack Overflow

The more I learn to develop apps for Android and other platforms, the more reluctant i am to use Stack Overflow as a source of answers to problems. For me, its now a resource of last resort.

When I first started learning to develop apps, i thought Stack Overflow was great. They have an answer for everything! Especially Android problems.

I have since learned that Stack Overflow answers for Android are generally unsuitable for Android. Most contributors to Stack Overflow are more concerned about answering as many questions as quickly as possible, in order to get points, to further their career. They are much less concerned with their answers being correct, or “best practice” for the platform they answer about. They want points.

Stack Overflow is a resource full of hacks and workarounds. The end result is that Stack Overflow is more of a “wild goose chase” than a useful resource. In the end, its quicker to put the app aside and go and learn how to do that thing properly for Android. Then come back to your app and continue. I know that this can be hard to do, but really if will save you time and suffering. Pursuing the quick fix is often the hardest way to get to your final goal.

When developing apps for Android, I usually dont know how to do what i need to do in my app. Heres what i do, that seems to be the quickest way for me to develop apps.

  1. I first go to the Google developer resources. It seems to be the ONLY source of “best practice for Android” coding. To learn something new, i try to find their tutorial on it. To learn how to use certain functions, I search the API guides. Its not just Java Im learning, its Java-for-Android.
  2. If i cant find what i want in Googles resources, I search for third party tutorials. I specifically look for tutorials with code that most resembles what i have seen in Googles resources. The closer i stick to Googles code examples, the less time it takes for me to get the code working.
  3. The rest of the gaps I need to fill in to get my code working, comes from a variety of sources, wherever i can find what i need. A lot from Stack Overflow. S.O. is good for code “one liners”, where i just need a single example or a few lines to fix a problem.

I no longer start with Stack Overflow when i want to learn something new. S.O. supporters will say “well, of course, its not meant for that.”. This is true. Its a resource that seems primarily a supply of answers to difficult little problems. But as a beginner, it offers quick answers to questions, and extensive answers to “how to do this” questions. If those answers were actually correct, I would use it so much more. But, as it now stands , I avoid it.

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Beware of Stack Overflow

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