We’ve all solved some sort of math, science, or programming problem before. You rack your brain to find the right answer, give in to the lulling call of the internet, and begin to scour the “most helpful” google search listings. Unfortunately, we often spend more time finding the exact answers we want than we realize. Jacob Wallenberg, a Penn grad, winner of the President’s Innovation Prize, and co-founder of SolutionLoft, strives to help developers conquer their inefficiencies.
Wallenberg and his co-founder William Fry are developing CodeClippy, a cutely-named hardcore product that makes programmers more productive. It's an app that integrates with Slack to helps developers start, join, and share discussions about software. This product enables developers to get the help they need by creating dedicated channels for each topic of discussion, eliminating the need for disorganized one-size-fits-all #help channels. Essentially, once a programmer notifies CodeClippy of an issue, the bot opens a new channel for the topic and invites other qualified developers to chime in. Once they have arrived at a conclusion, CodeClippy archives the channel and stores the transcript for reference or sharing.
Essentially, once a programmer notifies CodeClippy of an issue, the bot opens a new help-session with them and invites other qualified developers to chime in. Then, the developers can quickly chat about the issue, close the channel, and if needed, revisit the archived conversation at a later date.
This begs the question: why wouldn’t the same developer-in-distress just use Stack Overflow (reputable online forum for technical queries)? I know. I asked Wallenberg the same thing. It’s because CodeClippy solves issues that Stack Overflow simply can’t. When developers have high level implementation, design, or architecture questions, Stack Overflow likely doesn’t have the answers they need. The forum is designed for highly-pointed questions about solving error codes, bug fixes, etc.—things that most developers can come to a general consensus on. Here’s what I mean:
Additionally, the pressure to write highly detailed and concise answers on Stack Overflow drives away people who have answers but not the time to explain them.
CodeClippy gets around these issues by lowering the bar for the quality of immediate answers by facilitating low-pressure chat environments. Chat’s casual nature enables developers to quickly get the help they need and ask follow up questions.
Wallenberg and Fry have extremely driven goals for improving users’ experiences. They strive to answer the question,
“How can we make [CodeClippy] such a strong experience that we beat in-person help?”
In the future, they hope to use data collected from help-sessions and search algorithms to provide some level of automation in the help process. Wallenberg also hopes to pitch CodeClippy to large organizations, where developers are generally lost in unique codebases and struggle to find mentors. Additionally, users who answer questions frequently might even be able to use their CodeClippy profiles as testaments to domain-specific knowledge. The more questions users answer, the more proof they have of their understanding of the field.
However, for now, Wallenberg is focused on gaining traction and improving current user experiences.
“One of the reasons this problem is very attractive to us is that there’s a way for us to create value today. Literally the third person we helped said, ‘My God. Thank you! You saved me!’”
To understand more about the people behind the product, I closed out the conversation asking Wallenberg about what he’d like from his life.
“I need to work on things that I care about. It would also be great to give back. It's awesome to create something that makes the world better.”