Agile models have emerged as the top preference for collective project development lately. It is worth noting that programmers have employed similar techniques in the past. In fact, as early as the 1990s, two developers from Whitesmiths Inc. were seen sharing the same terminal while working, thus giving rise to the practice known today as “pair programming”. Larry Constantine termed this practice the “Dynamic Duo” to express his enthusiasm for such collaboration.
‘Two Heads are Better Than One’ authored by James Coplien was published in 2023, and it details the pair programming technique. The book touches on the historical context of this approach to highlight its effectiveness.
Pair programming may be more advantageous for certain projects than others, and to learn more about this process and how it can benefit your enterprise, please continue reading.
When and Whom is Pair Programming Appropriate For?
Pair programming is a frequently adopted software development technique that involves two developers collaborating at a single screen to complete a task. During the process, software engineers take turns performing various roles and evaluate each other’s code collectively.
The conventional approach to pair programming divides the work into two overlapping parts:
- In the “Driver” role, one person operates the computer and gives verbal instructions to the other person to achieve the desired results, without having to comprehend the broader context.
- The “Navigator” reviews the notes made by the “Driver” and offers real-time code analysis and troubleshooting solutions. Furthermore, the Navigator monitors any critical issues or faults and decides on the appropriate next steps.
Pair programming aims to harness the benefits of both analytical (Navigator) and practical (Driver) approaches by having two programmers work on one project. Pair programming is generally most appropriate for software development, test-driven initiatives, and educational programs designed to teach junior developers.
Why is Pair Programming More Preferable?
The Institute of Computer Science at the Free University of Berlin released a study in February 2023 that evaluated the efficacy of pair programming. The research, conducted by Drs. Franz Zieris and Lutz Prechelt, analysed 13 organisations’ pair programming sessions.
The study discovered two primary factors that lead to productive pair programming sessions:
- “Working together” refers to the formation of a shared mental model by a pair of developers.
- Efficiency is achieved when the pair strikes a balance between resolving pressing issues and making progress towards the session’s long-term goals.
Several organisations are sceptical of pair programming, believing that it necessitates two developers to produce the same output as one. However, studies indicate that the related overhead is closer to 15% and that the advantages of pair programming in the long run exceed this added expense.
While pair programming offers numerous potential advantages to organisations, it can be challenging when dealing with remote workers. Can this method be employed with teams of remote developers who may not be in the same physical location? Do the benefits of pair programming still apply to companies with remote workers?
Is Remote Pair Programming Supported?
Remote pair programming can facilitate the dissemination of knowledge, enhance code quality, and offer immediate feedback. It allows teams to rapidly identify and address concerns, resulting in increased customer satisfaction. Given the right tools and methods, remote pair programming can deliver the same benefits as in-person collaboration.
Diverse Methods for Remote Pair Programming
In addition to the driver-guider model, there are other pair programming methods that can improve workplace efficiency:
This approach is particularly useful for Test-Driven Development initiatives. A structured allocation of tasks can increase efficiency. To maintain momentum, the two developers may alternate between writing code and drawing on each other’s experience.
Effective pairing is the most efficient method for imparting knowledge and skills. In order to succeed, the navigator and driver must have full confidence in one another. The principle of “learning by doing,” which allows the two developers to swap roles freely, rather than micro-managing, is key to the successful use of this technique.
The Significance of Time Management
When it comes to pair programming, time management techniques and tools are essential. The Pomodoro Technique is an example of such an approach, which involves dividing tasks into shorter, more manageable time intervals (usually 25 minutes). This enables both developers to concentrate on each stage of the work and change roles with ease.
When one member of a programming pair departs, the remaining individual assumes the role of Anchor and is accountable for orienting the new team member. In cases of extended leave or illness, the existing team might collaborate in pairs to accelerate the development process and bring new ideas to the table.
Approaches and Tools for Remote Collaborative Programming
Facilitating remote programming through terminal sharing is the most common method. Applications like tmux or wemux allow various users to work together on the same project simultaneously by sharing the same terminal session. Secure Shell (SSH) protocols are employed to guarantee a secure connection to the remote server.
Collaborating remotely is made easier through screen sharing. On platforms such as Zoom, the ‘driver’ is able to write the code while the ‘navigator’ reviews it via video call. There are also specific applications like Microsoft Visual Studio Live Share and Motepair that allow for shared mouse-pointer editing of the same file.
Collaborative Online Code Review
Applications like CodeTogether, Codeanywhere, and Remote Collab for SublimeText allow two developers to work together on the same code. These cloud-based Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) or live-share plugins for a code editor permit them to view each other’s workspaces and track changes in real-time. This promotes effective collaboration and ensures that both developers are working together effectively on the project.
There are Several Advantages of Pair Programming.
Pair programming offers a valuable chance to utilize the collective knowledge of two individuals. Unique skill sets can complement one another and offer fresh perspectives on the problem being tackled, often resulting in innovative solutions.
Efficiency in Identifying and Resolving Coding Errors
Although it has the potential to be slower compared to other approaches, the benefits of pair programming in terms of quality and accuracy outweigh the additional time investment. To ensure optimal results, it is crucial to review the work at regular intervals, as opposed to waiting until the end. This approach helps minimize re-work and saves time in the long run. Additionally, with two programmers working on the project, there is greater availability for quality checks and revisions.
Compared to traditional instruction methods like training and lessons, collaborating with colleagues can result in a more efficient learning process. Developers, regardless of whether they work in-person or remotely, can greatly benefit from a culture of open communication and knowledge sharing. Collaborative work also promotes junior mentorship and enhances the onboarding process.
Remote Communication and Involvement
Being part of a globally distributed team can sometimes feel isolating. However, it provides an excellent opportunity to build connections with other developers and to promote a sense of teamwork. Collaborative work also helps to mitigate procrastination and encourages individuals to coordinate their efforts, ensuring that everyone progresses efficiently.
Disadvantages of Pair Programming
While the benefits of implementing pair programming are clear, it’s important to acknowledge the potential risks. Communication delays are common when working remotely and can lead to tasks becoming needlessly complicated or requiring repeated effort. However, this hurdle can be easily overcome. As the team leader, it’s important to track the team’s progress and offer guidance on how to work efficiently.
One of the primary benefits of this approach is the easy sharing and application of acquired knowledge. However, this is heavily reliant on the discrepancy in skill levels between the two programmers. For instance, a team that consists of an experienced developer and a novice coder, with the former being very familiar with the system while the latter is proficient in the most recent programming languages. Both individuals have different responsibilities, but can collaborate effectively. However, transitioning between roles necessitates time and effort to acclimate.
Independently Performed Tasks
Live code reviews can boost productivity, but they can also lead to stress. When a third party is involved in the coding process, the two parties may become overwhelmed and drained. If you believe that your developers could work more effectively by themselves, assign them tasks that they can accomplish independently, without requiring real-time feedback.
In remote work settings, effective communication is crucial to the success of teams. Although all members may speak the same language, that may not be enough to guarantee comprehension and collaboration among them. When implementing pair programming, it’s important to pair developers who can communicate effectively and understand one another’s work. Engaging in arguments and misunderstandings will sabotage the benefits that can be gained from this strategy.
How Do I Begin with Remote Pair Programming?
It is important to remember the last drawback of this choice for your company. The effectiveness of pair programming depends on identifying two individuals who complement each other. Thus, the first step is to choose individuals who can collaborate effectively and communicate well to achieve the best results.
After identifying your preferred team members, you can initiate remote pairing by adhering to these guidelines.
To enable real-time changes and keyboard swapping during remote pairing, screen-sharing and collaboration tools can be used. Open-source technologies such as Jitsi and the Live Share plugin for Visual Studio Code can be utilized for video discussions with remote control. Moreover, online collaborative visualization tools should be provided to aid in the planning and design of audio and video systems.
Software development often involves extended work hours, especially when approaching deadlines. To prevent any technical difficulties, such as slow PC performance, from impeding productivity, it’s recommended to provide developers with at least two screens to sustain momentum.
Efficient Remote Pair Programming
To conclude, pair programming is a powerful approach for enhancing software and conducting prosperous development trials. With proper tools and guidance, developers can deliver exceptional outcomes and present inventive solutions to problems. It’s crucial to ensure that the individuals you collaborate with possess the necessary skills.
Recruiting a single employee can be challenging, so we comprehend the difficulty when there are two of you. That’s why we’re here to assist you. We can help you locate suitable candidates who are willing to collaborate even before scheduling interviews. Our remote, multilingual team can also assist in identifying the ideal developer for your requirements. If you have any inquiries, please feel free to contact us.