7 Reasons Why Pair Programming Makes Sense

Did I mention that I like pair programming? Here are some reasons why it’s good for you and your boss.

More Trucks

The higher the truck number of your team, the more resilient it is to losing people. Pair programming spreads knowledge of the code around the whole team meaning each team member has a much more broad knowledge of the system than on a traditional team.

Free Training

Every time I pair with someone, I learn at least one new trick, be it a keyboard shortcut for my editor, a new command-prompt command, or a language idiom. This training costs nothing and builds the confidence of even the most junior team members who always have something to contribute, to say nothing of how much they will learn from sessions with their more senior colleagues.

Team Bonding

Working together in pairs breaks down barriers between people much more quickly than when they are working alone, and provides a natural environment for teams to learn to trust one another, and enjoy one another’s company. These are vital attributes that will get your team though the tough times, ensuring they can pull together when necessary.

Better Designs

Experienced programmers know that coding is much more a process of design than of mere implementation. When subjective design decisions are taken by at least two people on the team, those decisions have much more authority and are more likely to be understood and accepted by the rest of the team than if they had been taken alone. When one member of the pair has a good idea for a solution to a problem, this may stimulate an even better one from their pair. Science says so.

Less Bugs

The perpetual code review that’s done during a pairing session not only produces better designs, but it also catches a lot more defects as they are written. Pairs will tend to write more thorough automated tests, and are more likely to spot holes in logic that would otherwise have to be picked up by subsequent manual testing.

More Fun

Generally, programming in pairs makes for more a more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere in a team. People become comfortable with their own strengths and weaknesses and are able to talk and joke about their work much more readily, since they are already used to that dialogue. This is obviously terrific for morale and staff retention.

More Focus

Pair programmers do not check their emails when they’re waiting for a script to run, disappear into their inbox for 20 minutes, then come back and have to remind themselves what on earth they were doing. When they hit a little break-point, they review what they’ve done so far and make a plan for their next steps. They stay focussed. Twitter can wait.

Published by Matt

I write software, and love learning how to do it even better.

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1 Comment

  1. I think the “More Focus” point probably has the biggest short term impact.

    Scott Ambler has a great story of taking an pairing-skeptical manager for a walk through their development team. They counted every developer who had their IDE open and who was facing the monitor as “coding” and found that only 20% fell into that category. So if everyone is pairing it isn’t a 50% loss of productivity but a better than 100% gain!

    Longer term I think the other items you mention are where the real benefit is, but for the short term and for overcoming objections “More Focus” is a real selling point.

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