Rubber Ducking

While reading chapter 18 of „Agile Testing“ the term „rubber ducking“ was mentioned.


Content of the part I was reading was about collaboration with other team members, that it is important to talk to your peers, in order to get a better understanding. There the advice was given, if you’re working on your own and are alone (for whatever reason: working at home office, in another time zone then your colleagues, whatever), and there is no one you can talk to „in real“, it might help to speak out things loud.
I nodded and thought „yes, that’s true“, since I encountered this as a technique that also works for me.

Some lines later the term „rubber ducking“ was mentioned in the same context without further explanation, which I found very weired… never heard that term, so I googled a bit and came to this page, which explains it very well for me: http://creatingminds.org/tools/rubber_ducking.htm

So „rubber ducking“ is the technique of explaining something to a non-domain-expert (your wife, a friend, a teddybear, or a „rubber duck“). The task of the „duck“ is to nod and smile, nothing more. Intend of this exercise is that you order & structure your thoughts to make your opposite understand what your talking about. The desired effect is, that because of you thinking and structuring about how to explain best, you get a much better insight about the topic or the problem your working on at the moment.

In reality I encountered this as a really working technique (at least for me), two situations where this is working in my real life:

  1. I have a colleague in another country then me, and we have to communicate in english, which isn’t native language for both of us. Normally we’re communicating via chat. So before asking him for help I re-strucutre my thoughts and translate what I want to say very carefully to english to avoid any kind of misunderstandings. And while typing the draft of the chat message I want to send him, very often I am able to answer my question myself.
  2. Another example is also at work, when I want to discuss something in person with colleagues being located at the other end of the building: While being on my way to their office, I’m playing that „rubber ducking“ exercise, and very often have the answer before I’ve even reached the other end of the building. 😉

So, now I also have a name for this „phenomenom“.

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2 Kommentare zu Rubber Ducking

  1. YvesHanoulle sagt:

    I know a professor who says to his students you can come in my office and ask any question, as long as you ask the question first to the teddy bear outside the door.

    What he noticed is that at least 50% of the people asking a question to the teddy bear go away. (They find the answer by asking the question.)

    10 years ago, I read a book about debugging where the authors wrote that if he is stuck on debugging he asks the question to his cat sitting on top of his monitor (we are talking about large non-lcd screen).

    Some people have a rule that waits 10 minutes before e-mail got send out.
    The fact of pushing a send button, also has a teddybear effect.
    Waiting to send does not work for most people (including me).

    Yves

    • Chriss sagt:

      Thx for your reply, Yves.

      I should get a teddy bear for my office, I can think of a couple of colleagues for which the bear would be great support in answering their questions. 😉

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