Thoughts on Pair Programming

I have recently been exposed to the first pair programming in my career, and I want to quickly share some thoughts on it.

Honestly, at first I found it a little frustrating. There I was spending half my time watching someone else implement some stuff, and my brain simultaneously stuck elsewhere solving world hunger while trying to be “helpful” to that other guy with me. It took a few weeks before the benefits really started dawning on me and also to appreciate the contribution I make when not the guy with the keyboard. I think many people have recounted much of what is great about pair programming, but the one that I have not heard that really makes me giddy is that your partner prevents you from being lazy.

In particular, I do not mean that your partner prevents you from using things like email as a distraction from getting stuff done (another benefit that others have recounted). Instead I mean that when you are racing to complete a programming task and you encounter a decision to: (1) hack it and jam something in place quickly, or (2) Doing It Right but burn up extra time doing so. Without a partner you typically choose #1 while lamenting that you did not choose #2. You add to your technical debt and bad karma and you are ridden with guilt; it is a double whammy!

With a partner, what happens instead is that you suggest #1 to your partner, but regardless of whether your partner can discern whether #1 is Doing It Right he can see your hesitation and draws your thoughts out of you about #2. Before you know it, he is excited to see you through to Doing It Right! Your heart leaps in joy and later, when you go home for the day, you smile just a little more when your sweetheart asks, “how was work today, honey?” :)

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