I’m obsessed….I can freely admit that and be perfectly comfortable with saying it! The object of my unhealthy obsession is Postman – If you know me and have been following any of my work lately, you’d know that for sure. I’m always talking about how awesome it is as a tool and I’m also creating free content in a public Github repo to help others learn more about the tool and all the different wonderful ways to use it.
So I’ve established that I’m into Postman in a big way – I’m always looking to help people with any questions they may have with using the application, no question is too small. The trouble that I’ve found is that very few people actually approach me, which is totally fine but because I’m naturally a helpful person….in a totally weird way I would love to have a ton of problems to try to get my head around. I love challenging myself and knowing where my limits are, I’m still learning as I go so it’s great to just evaluate where I’m currently at with my knowledge.
Last month, as I was researching for a new Postman example that I was writing, I was stuck on a particular problem and like many people in that situation, I turned to Google. When the results of my search came back I was surprised to see lots of links to Stackoverflow – thinking about it now it seems perfectly reasonable, It’s a tool that has been used by millions of people in the world and has now been around for several years…people were bound to have questions about how to do certain things.
Just a bit of background about my previous encounters of Stackoverflow – I’m always tinkering with different applications or different programming languages so when I’ve searched online for help with a problem, that site has been the main source of my information. It’s probably the go-to place when you have a development type problem to solve. I’ve asked a couple of questions on there in the past and got an answer extremely quickly…It saved me days of banging my head against the wall!!
Getting back to Postman…I started to use Stackoverflow’s search feature with the ‘postman’ and ‘postman-collection-runner’ tags applied – this brought back a whole host of questions that I could instantly answer, some new and some old. Yay! I had a new outlet for my obsession! Postman is a relatively niche topic on the site, it’s referenced a lot because people will use it while developing and testing API’s or Web Services so it will be mentioned in thousands of questions but as a topic, there has only been ~2500 questions tagged.
The whole Stackoverflow site is built on a model of reputation, the more questions you answer the more reputation points you get – You can also get points for many other things like up-votes, editing posts etc. It gamifies the whole process and as well as wanting to help others, you also want to build up your reputation and probably your personal credibility on the site. As I was a new user I had a score of about 10 I think, I got these points from the 2 questions that I asked a couple of years ago. I wanted to set myself a target of getting up to 500 points – I thought that was quite reasonable for someone just answering questions about a single tool….I didn’t expect to learn as much from helping people, as I did, in that short amount of time.
The very first problem that I faced as a new user to the site was that because I had a reputation of under 50, I wasn’t allowed to comment on any of the questions – Why was this such a big problem? Think about the worst bug report you’ve ever seen…Something so vague, void of details, impossible for you to reproduce given the information and just basically a load of crap. That’s the level of some of the questions asked by users on the site, seeking an answer to a technical problem…The ability to comment gives you a place to seek clarification and to tease out more details but you can’t even do that until you’ve gained enough points to be able to do it – Which absolutely sucked!!
Thankfully, I answered a few basic questions and got some points on the board so I could then extract more information via the comments section so that I could actually help people. Over the course of about a month, I’d done myself proud – I’d answered a bunch of different questions of various degrees of difficulty, using the same method as I have been doing when explaining the different Postman features in my Github examples and in turn I’ve helped many people but above all, learnt a bunch of new stuff along the way.
I didn’t manage to reach my 500 point target but I got pretty bloody close!! I’m still checking in on the site but I’m going step back a bit from it now and concentrate on my upcoming Testbash talk in Brighton.
A sample of some of my answers that I gave:
I continued to answer questions that other people have asked on the Stackoverflow site and I’ve just broke through the 2000 point mark…very proud! I think i’m going to take a step back now and concentrate on something else – As it stands, I answered 119 questions so i’m very happy that I could help that many different people.