Read to the End

Published on by David VanDusen.

Numerous times during my software development career, I knew the solution to a problem because I just so happened to read the API docs for some tool all the way to the end. The ends of API docs tends to be where troubleshooting for special cases lives. I’ve been continually surprised by the high proportion of those special cases that have come up in day-to-day work.

As much as the end of the docs are a treasure trove of answers to frequently asked questions, there are also nuggets of wisdom tucked at the ends of module descriptions and method contracts. Being aware of known exceptions to the rules and other edge cases can be hugely beneficial to overall comprehension.

When a new technology is being adopted where I’m working, I usually set aside a morning or two to read the docs in their entirety. At the time it can seem futile since, without hands-on experience, it can be difficult to connect with a lot of the content. However, there’s a huge benefit that can be taken advantage of often enough to guarantee the value of sticking through it.

The main benefit I’ve gained from reading docs all the way through has been knowing where to find information when I eventually need it. Just knowing vaguely that, “Yes, I’m pretty sure the answer to that is in the docs,” has saved me days of grief, research, and refactoring over the years. 🔚