XP Home

Some Pair Programming Idioms

Lessons Learned

 Your Baby is Ugly. You need to be able to tell your pair partner the truth. Some of the best partners argue much of the time. You loose many of the benefits of working together if you feel like you can't say when something is bad. Make a deal to always be honest even if your partner has seniority or is a higher rank.
 That Isn't What I Said. What you are saying isn't being understood by your partner. Switch to a different mode of explanation by taking over the keyboard or moving away from the computer completely. Perhaps try some Agile modeling for a short time.
 Let's Try Your Idea First. You have two perfectly good ideas but you are arguing about which is better. Break the stale mate by agreeing to try your partner's idea first.
 None of the Above. You are arguing about your ideas and both of you are convinced you are right. Neither of you is willing to apply Let's Try Your Idea First. You can agree to throw away both ideas and find a third idea that may end up being a hybrid or completely new. Often the third idea is much better than either.
 Brick to the Head. Your partner is convinced he knows something is true but you know it is false. Do not actually use a brick, instead write the simplest experiment or prototype to get your partner's thoughts unstuck. 
 I Am Cutting You Off Now. It is hard to abandon something that has almost worked perfectly for the last hour. Just one more small change it will work, then one more after that... One of you must see the sense in throwing it away and starting over fresh. Even if you can obviously fix it with just one more little change.
 No Backseat Driving. The person at the keyboard is allowed to make mistakes. Don't point out small errors until the driver completes typing out his thoughts and pauses to look over what has been typed. Even then you should wait a bit to see if the mistake gets fixed. Keep your thoughts on the bigger picture and let the driver worry over details.
 Remember the Rules. It is easy to get caught up in writing code and forget the rules. One of you must keep your wits about you and remind the other to follow the rules.
 It Isn't a Race. If you are wailing away on the keyboard and text is jumping from here to there and the whole time your partner is lost then you need to slow down. Try using the mouse more to help you slow down and keep your partner in the loop.
 Ping-Pong. If you find one of the two of you stops paying attention split the responsibilities by letting one programmer write the tests while the other writes the code.

ExtremeProgramming.org home | XP Lessons Learned | About the Author

Copyright 2009 Don Wells all rights reserved.