The Hashrocket Way: Pair Programming
To use an idiom that Bryan Liles effectively coined at this year's Ruby Hoedown, at Hashrocket, we "pair all the fucking time". It is a vital part of The Hashrocket Way, our internal philosophy of how to most productively service our clients:
The photo above captures a normal morning at Hashrocket headquarters, where every desk is set up for effective pair-programming: 30" monitor, dual keyboards, dual mice. Carmelyne Thompson and Wes Gibbs are the pair in the foreground.
Hashrocket has a few core philosphies that are essentially required for team members. Agile development processes, an adherence to ruby and rails best practices and idioms, and a firm belief in pair programming are three of the biggies. Of these three, pair programming is the technique that has changed me most, and required the most change in my thinking. And not surprisingly, pair programming has proven the most critical to my success at Hashrocket.
Veez has a traditional software development background (unlike the one that several of us 'rocketeers cultivated at places like Thoughtworks). I like the way he describes himself pre-Hashrocket: "You know, the one who does his best work in the morning with his headphones on and drinking an obscenely large coffee. The guy who types madly for a few select hours a day and, during those few hours, produces as much as regular-speed developers do over the course of a day."
Durran Jordan and Matthew Bass pair on our latest 3-2-1 Launch project. Quite often, one of the keyboard/mouse sets is replaced by an actual MacBook Pro in conjunction with the most excellent teleport utility from abyssoft.
Most Rails people I know profess adherence to Agile practices and principles, yet judging from the anecdotal evidence I've collected at conferences and comments made by our guest stars, pair-programming is still very much the exception. Make that real pair-programming, in the extreme programming sense, where all production code is produced by two developers sharing control of one workstation.
Getting a chance to truly pair for the first time is turning out to be one of our "guest stars" favorite experiences at Hashrocket. In the pic above, I captured Paul Barry and Hampton Catlin getting their first taste of pair-programming the way it's supposed to be done.
There are certainly challenges to making pair-programming part of normal business practices. Starting with the fact that it implies keeping an even number of people assigned to a project on a daily basis. Even at ThoughtWorks, where Agile is an important part of the culture, management did not necessarily make this aspect of pairing easy for us — as the principle "resource manager" of Hashrocket, I have to juggle the financial needs of our clients with our need to work in pairs. It's occasionally very tricky, but when you do it all the time, I assure you it gets easier.
I'm trying to get back into blogging on a regular basis. The "Hashrocket Way" is a term that has gotten much traction for us internally as a catch-all description of what makes us special, and I plan to write about different aspects of that as much as possible.