06 November, 2008

Benefits (And Costs) of Pair Programming

I really enjoy pair programming, and so I thought I'd write about some of the benefits I've seen from pair programming.

Pair programming increases job satisfaction. Believe it or not, I crave the interaction with other geeks; I need the mental stimulus that comes from talking with my peers.

Pair programing increases code quality and decreases bug counts. I take pride in my craft; I like to write good code. Unfortunately, under pressure I cut corners all over the place (telling myself I'll refactor later). However, when I have someone watching over my shoulder, it's a lot harder for me to write hacky code.

But having someone watch what I'm doing isn't just about the guilt trip. I also appreciate having someone immediately available to discuss ideas and to steer me away from potential problems. This alone literally saves me hours in wasted effort.

Pair programming makes better programmers. I can't even begin to tell you how much I've learned from sitting next to someone while they code. Now, I must admit, probably 90% of what I've learned has little or nothing to do with programming. But it doesn't matter! Believe it or not, programming is a social activity; to put it simply, good code cannot be developed in isolation.

Pair programming makes programmers "faster". I honestly feel I'm 3 times more effective when I'm pair programming than when I'm sitting by myself in my cube. This is probably because when I'm stuck, or I have a question, I have someone immediately available to help. Also, there's a bit of added pressure to be faster since every hour at the keyboard is really 2 man hours at the keyboard.

Now, what if I told you that all of these benefits come with a fairly low cost? Well, the good news is that they do: according to this study, the cost is only about 15% increase in development time. Not bad, huh?

So, if you're still not pair programming, go talk to your boss and start practicing now. You won't regret it!


El-Heato said...

I would say that all of these benefits are nullified if you have to program with Udine.

Abel Luna Faidel said...
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