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distributed pair programming

paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20693
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Last week I gained some experience with distributed pair programming and thought I would share it here.
Overall, I think it went pretty good. In my case, my pair was in California while I'm in washington state. We have a good network connection and both of us have telephone headsets. We used some software so we could both see the same screen(s). Both of us could type/mouse although only one of us would do it at a time.
There were some times that it did not work well. Like when talking to somebody else on the team on either end. The guy on the other end of the phone cannot hear well and certainly cannot be heard by the third party. I suppose a phone that had a speaker phone option could have fixed that.
And the temptation to point at stuff on the screen with your finger is a habit that needs to be corrected.
Trying to reach each other to start the pairing could be an issue sometimes too. Especially if there are phone problems (and there were).
Overall, I think that distributed pairing is not as good as in-person pairing, but it can be done and it is effective. Having good equipment can sure make a difference in smoothing this effort.


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Ilja Preuss
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Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
Originally posted by Paul Wheaton:
Last week I gained some experience with distributed pair programming and thought I would share it here.

Nice report, thank you very much!

And the temptation to point at stuff on the screen with your finger is a habit that needs to be corrected.

Or you need a touch screen, so that your partner could in fact see what you were pointing at...
Another thing worth a try could be setting up a webcam for both of you, so that you could see each other in a small window on the screen, I guess.
Overall, I think that distributed pairing is not as good as in-person pairing, but it can be done and it is effective. Having good equipment can sure make a difference in smoothing this effort.

Certainly...
Again, thanks for the report!
Regards, Ilja


The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny - it is the light that guides your way. - Heraclitus
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20693
    ∞

Webcam: I dunno. I can't say that that was something I missed. Not sure what I would really gain there. Sure, it would be cool for a while, but the novelty would probably wear off in a day or two and then we would never use it again.
Reid M. Pinchback
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 25, 2002
Posts: 775
Originally posted by Paul Wheaton:
Trying to reach each other to start the pairing could be an issue sometimes too. Especially if there are phone problems (and there were).
Overall, I think that distributed pairing is not as good as in-person pairing, but it can be done and it is effective. Having good equipment can sure make a difference in smoothing this effort.

It probably helped a lot that you were both in the same time zone. I haven't had to deal with it, but I've got co-workers who have to coordinate with people on different continents or on east-coast vs west-coast, and I think that would be a real killer for real-time pair programming (either that or it would be a real bummer for your home life... and your family would be sure to inform you of that!).


Reid - SCJP2 (April 2002)
Ilja Preuss
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Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
Originally posted by Paul Wheaton:
Webcam: I dunno. I can't say that that was something I missed. Not sure what I would really gain there. Sure, it would be cool for a while, but the novelty would probably wear off in a day or two and then we would never use it again.

My idea was motivated by Cockburns writing on removing modalities from communication in his Agile Software Development book:
"Remove the visuals (use a phone [instead of a video link]) - Removing visuals also removes crossmodality timing. You lose the drawings, the gestures, the facial expressions, sight of the muscle tone, proximity cues, and the ability to link speech with action."
Some of that might be reversed by seeing what the partner is doing on the desktop. Nevertheless I think it could be interesting to try to get more "e-awareness" by a webcam.
Frank Carver
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 07, 1999
Posts: 6920
have you ever used a web cam for conferencing? I find that the technology gets in the way as much as it helps. A jerky, postage stamp-sized picture slightly out of sync with the audio really gets in the way of my thought processes.
Some sort of "shared whiteboard" on the other hand sounds much more promising.


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Ilja Preuss
author
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
Originally posted by Frank Carver:
have you ever used a web cam for conferencing?

No.
I find that the technology gets in the way as much as it helps. A jerky, postage stamp-sized picture slightly out of sync with the audio really gets in the way of my thought processes.

I see - perhaps the technology isn't good enough for that. OTOH, perhaps measure changes a bit for a more intimate situation like pair programming. I still wanted to try it - if had to do distributed pair programming. YMMV, of course.

Some sort of "shared whiteboard" on the other hand sounds much more promising.

Certainly!
 
 
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