The best tools are the ones that are always with you. Not only is this idea behind a huge market of multi-tools, but it is also one of the key factors in why we constantly see things like electronics getting smaller and smaller.
The very same rule applies to my work environment. As a programmer, I always hunt for tools to simplify my daily routine and save me time. Without doubt there are already some near-to-perfect IDEs offering a seamless experience. But I cannot use them everywhere. Often, I’m doing code-related tasks on the web. Regardless of whether this means launching an EC2 AWS instance, modifying CloudFormation templates, or even creating a pull request, I always end up copy-pasting chunks of text. That was also the case when I was troubleshooting our SQL database performance in the pgAdmin web UI.
The 80/20 rule
The 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto principle) states that, in many cases, with 20% effort, you get 80% of the outcome, but it’ll take 80% of your effort for the remaining 20% of the outcome. I’ve found this to be true for my day-to-day patterns. I typically spend about 80% of my time working on various repetitive, annoying tasks such as
- managing the AWS cloud
- monitoring database usage, and
- writing docs and documenting pull requests,
which roughly make up only 20% of my job.
To save time, I’ve started saving all reusable chunks of text I used as well as my findings for any issues I encountered. There are two things that I needed to store:
- solution how do you do something?
- explanation why does this solution work?
Let’s say you found a piece of code on Stack Overflow. Perfect! You test it and it works — you have a solution for this kind of task. You probably won’t need to use it again today or tomorrow, but you will in a couple of months. Wouldn’t you like to be able to explain to yourself what the heck this piece of code is supposed to do? Maybe it won’t work anymore, but a minor change might fix it. There’s no way to find out if you don’t even understand it! That’s why I’m always saving the source where I found the solution (e.g. Stack Overflow thread link) to be able to refer to it at any time.
Stop being afraid
Over time you’ll eventually end up having a pretty substantial set of “solved problems”. I’ve repeatedly found myself unable to use my knowledge base no matter if it was a git repo, a confluence wiki, or a set emails sent to myself. It is just so HARD TO MAINTAIN 🤮 and this is just the beginning of the problems! All of these solutions require you to go someplace else to get the information you want. Yack! As if it isn’t enough you have to remember this is something you already solved, you also have to spend some of your precious time going to get it! (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻
You would wish you knew sooner
It had never been my intention to do it. I’ve been using Point to store my snippets for some time already, but for other purposes—email & communication snippets, ASCII emojis, favorite GIFs, etc. Then all of a sudden I just instinctively started saving my code snippets there as well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Now I’m saving two snippets per problem/solution. One is purely the solution—usually a piece of code. The other…is just the link to the source! I’m able to fetch it or share it in just a few keystrokes 🔥. If you’d like to see a proof by example, I recommend seeing how we use Point in troubleshooting PostgreSQL.
How to use it? Wherever you want just press
. or click the icon. Then you can search the snippet by name, content, or labels. If you’re not sure how you saved it, you can either use labels or just scroll through your snippets!
To try it, simply go to the Chrome Extension Store and install Point.
I might be biased
I’m a software engineer @Point and the fact that what I’m working on is super useful for me is extremely exciting. Customer feedback is one of the core factors we use when creating new features and product roadmaps. We are focused on helping boost productivity for both individuals and large teams. If you’re interested, feel free to reach out to us! Just drop us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.