Developer Tea

Improvisational Problem Solving Based on Characteristics

Episode Summary

In today's episode, we'll talk about working with what you've got to solve a problem.

Episode Notes

In today's episode, we'll talk about working with what you've got.

Today's Episode is Brought To You By: WooCommerce

WooCommerce is an open source eCommerce solution, built on WordPress. With WooCommerce you can sell physical products, digital downloads, subscriptions, memberships, services, and tickets - plus offer flexible ways to pay, including Apple Pay and Bitcoin powered by Stripe.

AND NOW, If you are a developer interested in building and selling extensions, a great way to earn extra income or even build out a whole business, they have some good news: the marketplace is open submissions! Learn more about how to submit your extension to Woo’s official marketplace at

They're giving Developer Tea listeners 20% off purchases when you use promo code DEVELOPERTEA at (offer lasts until end March 2018)

Jon's Cup of Tea -
Don't forget to check out Mad Monk Tea! Remember the code "Developer Tea" will get you 15% off your order.

Episode Transcription

I had an interesting experience recently while I was moving into my new home. So I was trying to measure something. And if I was to tell you to go and measure the thing that I was measuring, it's likely that the first thing that comes to mind is a measuring tool. Something that can measure the thing that I asked you to measure. And if it's below 20 feet or so, you're probably going to use a tape measure. The interesting thing that happened, the experience that I had, was I didn't even think about using a tape measure. I used something else. I used actually a box cutter. And how did I use a box cutter? Well, I put it towards one end of what I was trying to measure, and then I put it towards the other end. And I used various markers on the box cutter. And the details aren't really important, but the important part here is that the box cutter was never intended to be used for measuring anything. So why did my brain choose to pick up a box cutter when I needed to measure something? We're going to talk about this kind of odd fitting tool. And more importantly, we're going to talk about improv as you're solving problems in today's episode. My name is Jonathan Cutrell in your listening to Developer Tea. And as you've heard on previous shows, my goal on this show is to help you connect to your career purpose and then to turn around and help you do better work so you can have a positive influence on the people around you. And in order to do any of those things, you have to understand yourself. You have to understand the way that you work and the way your brain works, at least to some reasonable extent, right? And I found this moment where I used this kind of odd fitting tool for a job that it was never intended for. I found this kind of fascinating. This seems very small. But if you take into account all of the minor kind of intricate decisions that had to be made in order for me to use that tool for a purpose that was never intended to be used for, it's kind of amazing, right? Because this ability to adapt to the surroundings, to adapt to the problem, this is something that we don't really always have to consciously consider. There are tons of moments that you're going to have in your life as a developer, but also outside of your job where you have this moment of improv, where you have to take the constraints that are provided to you and you have to figure something out. And this is truly what problem solving is. And I want to talk about how this can apply to your development work right after we talk about today's sponsor, WooCommerce. WooCommerce is an open source e-commerce solution built on WordPress. And nearly 30% of all online stores on the web are powered by WooCommerce. And that's a huge number if you think about how many people are doing business online. And WooCommerce is a fully customizable platform that you as a developer, you can build a unique store to suit any of your business needs. You keep full control and flexibility in integrating with whatever e-commerce services you need to integrate with, whether you do that through an existing service, an existing integration that WooCommerce has, or if you build your own through the API. Now based on your needs and experience level, you can customize WooCommerce by adding your own extensions or writing customized code. But of course, if you don't have that experience level, there are over 140 extensions available in the official marketplace. Subscribing for a year gets you support and updates for all of these extensions as well. Now let's say you are one of those people who is experienced enough as a developer to build your own extensions. Well, now you can sell your extensions in the official WooCommerce marketplace. And here's the reality. If you had a need for something that WooCommerce didn't already have covered in their extensions, it's very possible and perhaps even likely that someone else has that need as well. So this can work as a great secondary income, for example, for developers who are working on a regular basis. You're already working on a new e-commerce site and you're continuing to update this internal plugin. You can go and take that extension that you've built for WooCommerce and start selling it in their marketplace. Go and check it out., by the way, at the time of this reading, this information is brand new. It's only released as of today. The doors have been open to developers after being mostly closed for the last two years at WooCommerce for extension development and selling on their marketplace. So take advantage of it. It's brand new and that's the best time to get into this kind of market. That's a great way for Developer To make a little bit of extra income. Thank you so much to WooCommerce. Once again, you can go to slash Developer Tea. This is good until the end of March 2018. If you use the code Developer Tea, you'll get 20% off. 20% off. Go to slash Developer Tea and use the code Developer Teato get 20% off. Thanks again to WooCommerce for sponsoring today's episode. So what does it mean to improvise when you are solving problems? Well, in the simple example that I provided of using a box cutter to measure something, what it often means is doing something relatively unexpected, doing something that maybe you haven't done before or putting one idea with another idea that generally those two ideas don't typically work together. But there's something interesting about this particular example that really does apply to developers. So that is that the improvised tool wasn't all that different from a measuring device. A tape measure, for example, is long and straight and it has some kind of visual marking to show you just how long you've pulled the tape measure out. And the box cutter has various markings, even though they aren't necessarily given in some kind of standardized metric, they are markings that you can use to compare two items up against that particular box cutter. And we keep on talking about the box cutter, but let's talk about code now. What are we saying about these tools? Well, really what we're saying is in order to solve a problem, don't look for a tool that has been created to solve that problem necessarily. Instead, look for the characteristics that will solve the problem. Now, this doesn't just come in handy when you are trying to solve problems quickly. It can also be an interesting source of innovation. What you're really doing is you're finding the underlying characteristics, the underlying kind of structural backbone of a given method or tool and you're matching those characteristics two problems. And what this allows you to do is it allows you to have a much wider variety of tools at your disposal. For example, perhaps one of the most popular tools of my entire career to come out for web developers has been React. This is no surprise. And the interesting thing is someone was able to identify that React isn't just for the web. In fact, the principles and the characteristics of rendering an interface very much so follow the same pattern no matter where that interface is rendered, especially for all 2D screens. So it makes sense to take some of those concepts, take some of that tool set and adapt it to be used in other scenarios, right? Because what we've identified is characteristics of the tool rather than looking at what the tools made to do. So I'd encourage you to, as you're choosing the tools that you're going to use, as you're choosing things that you're going to learn, don't think just about the thing that has a popular name. Don't reach only for the tools that are most obvious. Think about the characteristics of the problem and the characteristics of the tool that would fit that problem well. Thanks again for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. We're going to start something kind of new on Developer Teaas we end out today's episode. And really this is just kind of a short segment of Developer Teawhere we're going to talk about some practical things that you might be able to use or that you might enjoy. And we're going to call this part of the show Jonathan's picks. Today's pick is Mad Monk Tea. I've talked about it a few times on the show before. It's incredible Tea. It is loose leaf. If you've never had loose leaf, I highly encourage you to check it out. They have all the stuff that you need to get started so you won't have to go and buy anything anywhere else. And you can get 15% off your first order head over to, use the code Developer Tea. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to WooCommerce for sponsoring today's episode. You can get 20% off of WooCommerce by heading over to slash Developer Tea. Use the code Developer Tea. Check out. That code is good until the end of March. Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, enjoy your tea.