Mark Pearl

-http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=548833– layout: post title: When pair programming sucks tags: category: General —

I’ve been a fan of pair programming for a number of years

I recently had a conversation with a colleague at work around pair programming. He was not a fan, I was, and I wanted to get a better understanding of his mindset. Here are his feelings on the matter. I think they are worth considering…

Why I don’t like it…

So I’m kind of a special case, since the rest of the team isn’t bothered so much, but I have found other people online who express similar feelings, and when I tell friends outside of work about pairing they all agree with me (some bias due to my description I’m sure.)

Anyway here goes (and I’ll be really blunt): number one thing is basically that I can’t focus properly when I’m driving, especially if it’s on something I’m unfamiliar or unsure of, or something that requires deep thought. I think on a personal level (and this is true for many people) I struggle to perform well with an audience in all sorts of things. Others on the team have said they feel this too, but perhaps they don’t find it as disconcerting for some reason.

Another thing is it kills my flow – I enjoy coding when I get into the zone with some music and smash out some things and feel productive. And I just can’t get there when pairing, so a lot of the joy is gone.

Another thing is that it adds the inefficiencies of communication to a task that used to just involve you and the abstraction in your head. There’s pointless debates, there’s things that don’t need saying, etc. The occasional gasbagging is enjoyable though, but I do that when not pairing. There’s also some pair-partners who, dare I say it, don’t make good pair partners.

Also I kind of resent it for these reasons: it’s applying another rule on how I do my job. My ideal way to work is autonomously, so having the way I work be prescribed to me so strictly is pretty annoying. It’s not how I choose to work, so when I’m forced to, it’s somewhat insulting.

It’s also really, really, intrusive to have someone over your shoulder and vice versa all day. Your movements are restricted, you can’t easily flick a look at your phone while driving, you can’t as easily get up for a walk (I feel guilty if we’re in the middle of something), and so on.

A lot of this is probably addressable, but with all these factors it’s just not how I like to work.



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