T-SQL Tuesday #105: Brick Walls

T-SQL Tuesday #105: Brick Walls

T-SQL Tuesday was started some time ago by Adam Machanic whereby lots of people blog their thoughts on a common topic. Month #105 is hosted by Wayne Sheffield with the topic of “Brick Walls”, Wayne is encouraging people to talk about when they have reached a “Brick Wall” on a project and how they worked to overcome it.

One of the methods that I use when totally stuck on a problem is to employ a colleague, friend or family member as a “Cardboard Cutout”.

The concept was introduced to me back in the late nineties by a colleague called Che Letton. Che was a Paradox developer back then, and I was mainly working in Visual Basic – i.e. pre-SQL. Imagine my delight in discovering that this concept worked with Visual Basic too. The following year, when making the move into SQL Server, the technique transitioned with me and has served me well ever since.

A “Cardboard Cutout” is someone who stands by your side while you explain the problem that you are trying to overcome. Often they will listen patiently, make understanding nods and noises  Sometimes they will come up with the answer, but that’s not really the point.

What’s actually happening is that by explaining the problem to someone else, you are forced to work methodically through the troubleshooting process, crossing off (or re-examning) questions that you have already asked and perhaps coming up with a few more. This often results in a positive outcome. The other person, the “Cardboard Cutout” is just there as a sounding board, someone to reflect your own thoughts off. Heck, they don’t need to be human – many people trust this troubleshooting process to their Cat, Dog or even Chickens (notice the plural – they’re not so smart).

Don’t be surprised if they say “that’s just what I was thinking” just as you reach the answer. It’s a common thing for you to both solve the problem at the same time (or maybe they’re just trying to take the credit), either way, you should smile politely and say “thank you”. You never know when you’re going to need their help again.

Nigel.

Angela and Blossom helping out.

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