Pair programming with your mind
Nov. 10, 2010
My last post was about pair programming. Recently I start working on a small project where I can't pair with anyone. So I started thinking "what could I use from pairing even When I'm not ? ".
My first thought was to act as if I was, so I would have to act as 2 different people. I should change my t-shirt and wear a hat or just put on glasses and change my hairstyle every time I change from one persona to another, but this could look really strange and potentially have detrimental consequences.
Another thought was, "Hey what are the advantages of pair programming which don't depend on the other person directly" ? The answer is a better understanding of code, cleaner code and faster development. But how exactly would I achieve this? Let's find out!
Better understanding of code
Better understanding of code is based on the fact that you explain your implementation to your partner. You can still do this, and very often you are actually doing it without noticing.
If you are speaking or just mumbling to yourself out loud then your brain is using different parts then if you were just "thinking" about the problem. So if you ask yourself out loud "Why doesn't this work?" or "Ok this points to that if the value is...." then it is same as if you were speaking to someone else. Even if you ask yourself "What would Mr X do?". Than you force yourself to look at the problem from a different perspective it would also help you.
In pair programming you usually switch between each other for short time periods or small problems. This could be easy implemented and the answer is sprint. Pick small timeframe (10 minutes) in which you can implement some functionality. Then you set your watch or phone or some tools that you can download and start. You will see that you are trying to finish your code in the time limit (including your tests of course ;-) ) which will speed up your programming.
Cleaner code is basically only about you, and because nobody is watching, you tend to not care that much about sanity of your code.
When I start programming in Ruby my friend who taught was really strict about code sanity. Every time when I paired with him, he would point out every small thing e.g. end of the line, space between operators etc.. So I was forced to care. Since then even when I'm not pairing I always make sure my code is clean enough to satisfy his sanity check. So imagine somebody who's got your respect and is really anal about clean code. Try to not disappoint him.
These three rules will help you in your "virtual pair programming". If you have another technique feel free to leave a comment!