Soundboarding / Rubber ducking

Posted Sunday, October 23, 2022 by Sri.Tagged TROPE

This is better known as rubber ducking in the software industry. The idea is that by explaining what you are trying to do, the very act of explaining will suggest a solution. In the original reference, a programmer carried around a literal rubber duck to talk to.

"Soundboarding" is a term that I use to describe something similar, but it involves an actual person that is capable of responding with questions. The art of soundboarding is to (1) let the person talk things out and (2) restrict responses to asking clarifying questions instead of suggesting solutions unless (3) solutions are requested AND a precise solution exists or (4) there is a cross-cutting or trans-disciplinary concept that offers an alternative way of examining the problem.

What good soundboarding is not:

  • Interjecting with a story of how you persevered in another unrelated area because you don't understand the technical aspects of the problem being faced. This is a waste of time, even if it's meant well or as an encouragement.
  • Interjecting with a story that is about you, not the person who you are listening to. This derails the effort with unrelated information and turns into a conversation.
  • Suggesting that the person googles the answer, or asks someone else if they know, or providing a googled answer. WE HAVE ALREADY DONE THAT.

I used soundboarding when I am stuck on something and it's too complicated or too vague to really know where to start. It is often an esoteric or difficult problem that has no clear-cut solution (if it did, then you already would have found it or asked someone if they knew of a specific solution).