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How to debug

Okay, here's a complaint, and then a challenge:

Complaint: All day long, my coworkers pester me with questions about problems they're having. Some of the time, the questions are of the form "What were you thinking when you wrote this code?" I don't mind those questions, and I'm happy to answer them. But most of the time, the questions really boil down to "hey, you're good at solving problems. Come here and help me solve mine."

What I've noticed is that most people, even software professionals, just suck at debugging. You'd think it would (a) be a core competency of almost all technical jobs, and (b) be easy to learn because the skills are so generic. But no.

Challenge: I feel so sure that debugging skills are generic that I'd like to call for a "How to Solve Problems" instruction manual. Send me any snippets you can, either generic patterns in trouble-shooting, or else tricks that are specific to a language or domain that you work in.

I'll make an effort to distill and post some kind of general howto. Maybe together we can make the world a better place. (And everyone will leave me alone so I can work! :)

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