Rubber Ducking

Rubber Ducking

Rubber ducking is a unique and effective method used in software development, primarily for debugging and problem-solving.

This technique, which might seem whimsical at first glance, has proven to be a valuable tool for many developers. The concept of rubber ducking in software development is straightforward yet fascinating, and its impact on the coding process is substantial.

Origins of Rubber Ducking

The term “rubber ducking” originates from a story in the book “The Pragmatic Programmer” by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas. In this tale, a programmer would carry around a rubber duck and debug their code by explaining it, line by line, to the duck. Articulating the problem out loud often led to a sudden insight or solution.

How Rubber Ducking Works

The essence of rubber ducking lies in its simplicity: a programmer explains their code to an inanimate object (like a rubber duck) as if it were a fellow developer. This verbalization process forces the programmer to slow down, rethink, and articulate each step of their logic. Often, explaining the code out loud is enough to make the solution apparent.

I have used this process throughout my career and never knew a term existed. I often ask my teammates if I can ‘talk at them’. For most problems, during this rather one-way conversion, I find the problem or find a different way to approach the problem.

Benefits of Rubber Ducking

  1. Clarity in Problem-Solving: Speaking out loud compels developers to process their thoughts more clearly and systematically, leading to better problem-solving strategies.
  2. Non-Intimidating Feedback: A rubber duck offers a non-judgmental, pressure-free environment. There’s no fear of embarrassment or criticism, which can be particularly beneficial for novice programmers.
  3. Enhanced Understanding: By verbalizing their thought process, programmers better understand their code and the problem.
  4. Cost-Effective Tool: It’s an inexpensive method that requires no special tools or technology, just a willingness to talk to an inanimate object.

Implementing Rubber Ducking in Teams

While traditionally a solo activity, rubber ducking can be adapted for team environments. Teams can:

  • Encourage developers to explain complex problems to their peers, promoting knowledge sharing and collaborative problem-solving.
  • Use physical rubber ducks in the office to symbolise this practice, creating a culture that values meticulous problem-solving and open communication.

Limitations and Considerations

While effective, rubber ducking isn’t always the answer. Complex problems may require more than verbalization, and some developers might find speaking to an inanimate object awkward or unhelpful.


Rubber ducking stands as a testament to the power of simplicity in problem-solving. It reinforces the importance of clear thinking and verbalization in the coding process and serves as a reminder that sometimes, the best solutions come from stepping back and approaching problems from a different angle.


Hi, my name is Stephen Finchett. I have been a software engineer for over 30 years and worked on complex, business critical, multi-user systems for all of my career. For the last 15 years, I have been concentrating on web based solutions using the Microsoft Stack including ASP.Net, C#, TypeScript, SQL Server and running everything at scale within Kubernetes.