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ChatGPT for programmers: Tips and strategy to maximise value

ChatGPT for programmers: Tips and strategy to maximise value

On November 30th, 2022, ChatGPT hit the market like a coding hurricane, and since then has been a key tech trend in 2023. Some say it's a threat to our jobs in programming, but let's be real, we've never been so happy to have a competent secretary. Let's get down to business and learn how to make the most out of our interactions with ChatGPT.

Learning new tech

Learning new tech is never easy. ChatGPT can help your break down and prioritise a list of things you need to know about the specifics. Search engines are nice, but can could be overwhelming at times. With ChatGPT, it tells you what to focus on first. 

Instead of asking ChatGPT to answer your questions point blank by copying and pasting cookie-cutter text, try to ask questions for your own comprehension of the solution. Ask for specific keywords, or lines in the answer that you don’t understand. Become more knowledgeable with the aid of ChatGPT. 

3 examples of ChatGPT in action as a learning tool

Get Specific

Suppose you are new to front-end development and you want to learn React. Instead of asking ChatGPT for a general guide on React, you can ask for a specific keyword or line of code that you don't understand. For example, you could ask "what's the difference between state and props in React?" or "how can I use the use Effect hook to fetch data from an API in React?" By asking specific questions, you can learn more about React and become a more knowledgeable developer. 

Suppose you are working on a project that involves using Docker containers. You have read the documentation, but are still not sure how to use Docker effectively. Instead of asking ChatGPT for a general guide on Docker, you can ask for a specific task or problem that you need to solve. For example, you could ask "how can I run multiple Docker containers on a single host?" or "how can I debug a Docker container that is failing to start?" By asking specific questions, you can learn how to use Docker effectively and save time in the process. 

Suppose you are working on a project that involves using a new programming language, such as Go. You have some experience with programming, but are not familiar with the syntax and structure. Again, instead of asking ChatGPT for a general guide on Go, ask for a specific feature or concept that you need to understand. For example, "how can I use channels in Go to synchronise concurrent processes?" or "what's the difference between defer and panic in Go?"

Questions matter

This is the common obstacle that beginners have to learn the hard way (myself included), since the dawn of Google and Stack Overflow. Remember the quality of the answer reflects the quality of the question. Give details and specifics with your questions: explain who you are, what you want, in what order you want it, how much description you want, and what you context is for asking the question in the first place. Asking good questions goes a long way. 

For example, let's say you're working on a project that involves integrating a payment gateway in your web application. You're not familiar with the payment gateway's API, and you are not sure how to proceed. You decide to ask ChatGPT for help. 

Instead of asking "how do I integrate the payment gateway into my web application?", Provide ChatGPT with more specific and detailed questions. Ask "I am working on a web application using Node.js and Express, and I need to integrate the XYZ payment gateway. I have read the documentation, but am still not sure how to proceed. Can you provide me with a step-by-step guide on how to integrate the payment gateway into my application, including how to handle callbacks and error responses?" 

ChatGPT will respond with a detailed and comprehensive guide that walks you through the entire process, from setting up the payment gateway's API credentials, to handling callbacks and error responses. The guide will include code snippets and examples that are specific to your use case, and it will reference the payment gateway's documentation where necessary. 

Thanks to your specific and detailed question, ChatGPT will be able to provide you with a more accurate and helpful answer that addresses your needs. By taking the opportunity to craft a good question, you'll be able to save time and avoid potential errors, issues and misunderstandings that likely would have arisen from a more general question.

Translate and organise error logs

Analyzing a raw error log can be one of the most challenging tasks a programmer can face. Error logs can often be cryptic and difficult to understand, and they may not appear on Google or Stack Overflow, especially when you're under pressure on the last day of a sprint. However, with ChatGPT, you can simplify this process and keep a cool head.

Copy and paste your error log into ChatGPT, and it will help steer you in the right direction. With its advanced algorithms and natural language processing capabilities, ChatGPT can identify the root cause of your error and provide you with a solution that is tailored to your needs. This can save you countless hours of frustration and help you get back on track with your project. 

Suppose you're working on a web application that requires you to fetch data from an external API. You've written the code to make the API call and process the data, but you keep getting an error message that you don't understand. You've tried searching for the error message on Google and Stack Overflow, but can't find any helpful information. You turn to ChatGPT.

You copy and paste the error message into ChatGPT and ask "what could be causing this error?". ChatGPT will respond with something to the effect of "There is an issue with the API endpoint you are using. You should try using a different endpoint or check if the endpoint is down." 

However, you notice that ChatGPT's response is not specific enough and you need more information to fix the error. Ask ChatGPT "can you provide more details on how I can check if the endpoint is down?". ChatGPT responds with "you can try using the ping command to test if the endpoint is reachable. If the endpoint is down, you can check the API provider's status page or contact their support team for more information." 

You follow ChatGPT's advice and use the ping command to test the endpoint, and find that it is indeed down. You check the API provider's status page and find that they are experiencing an outage. You wait for the API to come back up before continuing with your work. 

Thanks to ChatGPT's advanced algorithms and natural language processing capabilities, you'll be able to quickly identify the root causes of the errors and find a solutions that are tailored to your challenges.  Situations like the one laid out above will save you countless hours of frustration.

Improve ChatGPT with personal knowledge

While ChatGPT is a helpful tool, it may not always provide the most accurate or complete answers. However, you can take the initiative to improve its responses by incorporating your own knowledge. Be an active part of the solution – it's the Agile way.

Consider the possibility that you possess information that ChatGPT does not. By sharing this information with the tool, you can ensure that you (and others) receive more accurate and helpful answers. Rather than allowing ChatGPT to take the driver's seat, you can shape the conversation and enhance the tool's capabilities. 

Suppose you're working on a project that involves using a specific API to retrieve data from a remote server. You've already gone through the API's documentation and tried implementing the code, but you're not getting the desired result. You decide to ask ChatGPT for help and provide it with all the relevant details such as the specific error message you received, the code you have written so far, and any other information regarding the API. 

ChatGPT provides you with a solution that involves using a different endpoint in the API and making some changes to your code. However, you know from your own experience that the endpoint ChatGPT suggested is not the one you need, and the changes it proposed would not fix the issue. Instead, you provide ChatGPT with your own knowledge about the API and explain the endpoint you need to use and the changes you need to make to your code. 

ChatGPT incorporates your knowledge into its response and provides you with a solution that is tailored to your specific needs. You implement the solution and test it thoroughly, and it works perfectly. By combining your own knowledge with ChatGPT's capabilities, you were able to solve a complex problem and improve your programming skills in the process. 

Test ChatGPT's answers

It's important to keep in mind that, just like anything on the Internet, you can't believe everything that you read. While ChatGPT can be incredibly helpful in providing insights and suggestions, it's ultimately up to you to verify and test the solutions it provides.

Always keep a critical eye and test an answer before relying on it for future work. This is especially important when working on large-scale projects, as errors and bugs can have serious, far-reaching consequences. As a programmer, it's crucial to develop a healthy skepticism and to always verify your sources, even if ChatGPT has proven helpful in the past. By testing and verifying the answers it provides, you can ensure that your code is of the highest quality and avoid unexpected problems down the line.

Suppose you're working on a project and you need to implement a new feature that involves sending an email to users. You're not familiar with the specific email service provider that your team is using, so you decide to ask ChatGPT for help. You ask ChatGPT "how do I send an email using XYZ email service provider in my code?". 

ChatGPT provides you with a solution that involves using a specific library and a few lines of code. Before you implement this solution into your codebase, you decide to test it thoroughly. You create a test environment and run the code, sending test emails to a few email addresses. You compare the results with what you expected and make sure that there are no unexpected side effects, such as the email service provider blocking your account or your program crashing. 

After thorough testing, you're satisfied with the solution and decide to implement it into your codebase. You integrate the code and push it to your team's repository for review. Your team reviews the code and approves it, and the feature is now live on your project. 

By testing the solution before relying on it, you were able to avoid introducing new bugs into your codebase and ensured that the email feature worked correctly. Testing also helped you build further confidence in the solution and get approval from your team – a key part of any successful development project.

TL;DR

ChatGPT can be a valuable tool for programmers to learn new technologies, ask specific questions, translate and organise error logs, and even incorporate personal knowledge to improve the quality of responses. However, it's important to keep a critical eye and test solutions before blindly relying on them. After all, as programmers, we know that even the best tool can't replace the power of human intelligence and experience.

ChatGPT is certainly started a sea change in the way we think about programming, but it's the latest in a long line of technological advancements that have shifted and evolved the way do work. What matters is how we, as experts, use these tools, and get on board with digital transformation. If you're thinking about integrating tech innovation in your latest project, get in touch! PALO IT has the experience and know-how to bring your ideas to life.

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