Pair Programming

If you want to walk fast, walk alone; if you want to walk far, walk together

When I talk about pair programming, I am confronted with things like return on investment, efficiency etc. The arguments which come against are with very simple programs and simple domains where it does not matter you pair to program or test drive the code. Beyond the fibonacci and measurement problems there are complex domains which people get involved to solve problems and pair programming helps there.

A good analogy is racing. Racing falls into circuit racing and rallies, if we note that circuit racing like Formula-1 or driving around in circles like in NASCAR has only one driver. These ones are repetitive with relatively very few unknowns and parameters for the driver to take care. The moment you know about the car condition and the track conditions and few laps taken then the driver’s mind is on autopilot. Rally unlike circuit racing has lots of challenges, we just roughly know the route and it could be riddled with lots of surprises and obstacles. There is no way that a driver without a co-driver (navigator) could win the race.

Pair Programming

Programming at work is like rally driving, many of the examples which people take up for classroom sessions are similar to Formula-1 or NASCAR driving; which is the primary reason that most of them fail to see the potential benefits of pair programming. Depending on the nature of the task at hand we should be able to decide if we need work in pairs, group or alone to find a solution to the problem. Having a blanket rule to always program in pairs or avoid pair programming will force us to fit into one of the styles of work which may prove counter productive. Always failures are taken as strong examples than successes and if we fail in choosing the wrong approach, chances are high that the approach itself will be called a failure.

Image courtesy of patrisyu /

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