10 Takeaways from Stack Overflow’s Conference to enhance Developer Productivity

Here are my top takeaways from attending “Flow State 2022” — Stack Overflow’s conference on developer productivity.

TLDR:

  • Tech organizations should protect their Developers from disruptions. (Those that do, reap benefits.)
  • Developers spend a ton of time each day searching for knowledge. Enabling knowledge re-use is a great way to decrease disruptions and enable developers.
  • Stack Overflow’s commercial products are directed at increasing developer productivity + developer focus. (I personally think they’re pretty great.)
  • Bottom line: If your company uses Stack Overflow for teams (free for teams < 50 people), you should post your questions there — instead of slack/chat!

Introduction

Here are my top takeaways from the day:

1. Developers spend a lot of time searching for knowledge, online

2. Knowledge reuse is essential for Developer productivity

Mr. Bean is profoundly confused and startled because he cannot quickly find solutions to his problem.

As mentioned by the previous point, developers spend a lot of time searching for knowledge. It’s important to point out that developers are highly skilled at searching for knowledge (and learning stuff) — the stuff they are searching for is non-trivial. Consequentially, the yield of their search (the answers to their questions/issues) are valuable and should be re-used.

Companies which employ knowledge reuse benefit from improved developer efficiency (upwards of 10% improvement) and other good stuff.¹

3. Flow State makes developers happy

Flow State defined:

4. Alignment (which also makes people happy) requires technical mastery + technical influence.

5. Demand for qualified software developers outpaces Universities’ capacity to teach them.³

This surprised me.

Universities cannot keep up with the demand for computer science programs. As a result, they are becoming more competitive to gain entry to — which according to Clive Thompson, is an unnecessary intervention.

6. Autodidactism will always have a place in tech (though not in all companies)

Take Boeing, they make planes. Can you imagine if they had PhD’s who study aerospace working next to someone who happened to make plans in their backyard? That would never happen! But in tech, it happens all the time!
– Clive Thomspon (journalist + author)

It’s worth mentioning that this was in response to a question I posed on the role of autodidactism. This is especially relevant to me, since I (yeh author) am self-taught.

7. Articulating a technical question is a skill

8. Distractions are commonplace

Research on screen switching presented by psychologist + researcher Dr. Gloria Mark.

9. Three proven ways to preserve attention/focus⁵

  1. Attention is goal oriented. Keep your goal in mind while working.
  2. Practice meta awareness. Ask yourself if you are feeling energetic / drained.
  3. Design your day based on your rhythm of attention.

10. Focus as a measure of Engagement + Being Challenged

Engagement vs. Challenge matrix — credit to Dr. Gloria Mark

BONUS: Some cool language to use when discussing developer productivity 🏆

CONCLUSION

Me having a grand ol’ time at the Stack Overflow conference!
Quirky conference! DJ at the reception was playing most popular songs to listen to while coding.

References:

  1. Graziotin, D., Fagerholm, F., Wang, X., & Abrahamsson, P. (2018). What happens when software developers are (un) happy. Journal of Systems and Software, 140, 32–47. https://scholar.google.com/scholar?cluster=3783656485504148077&hl=en&as_sdt=0,33
  2. Singer, N. (2019). The hard part of computer science? Getting into class. The New York Times, 24. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/24/technology/computer-science-courses-college.html
  3. Lieu, T. A., Warton, E. M., East, J. A., Moeller, M. F., Prausnitz, S., Ballesca, M., … & Reed, M. E. (2021). Evaluation of Attention Switching and Duration of Electronic Inbox Work Among Primary Care Physicians. JAMA network open, 4(1), e2031856-e2031856. https://scholar.google.com/scholar?cluster=6149014360443638172&hl=en&as_sdt=0,33
  4. I actually can’t find a resource for this yet. Linking Dr. Mark’s bibliography for now: https://www.ics.uci.edu/~gmark/Home_page/Publications.html

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