Saturday, September 02, 2006

Pairing Everywhere

The more I pair program, the more I'm convinced that two (compatible) people always produce better results than just one. I know that pair programming is the best way to write code. This started me thinking about other creative artifacts that might benefit from pairing.

There are already some pretty famous pairs. Rogers and Hammerstein come to mind. One of the greatest series of history books, The Story of Civilization, was written by a pair of authors, Will and Ariel Durant. Because they were written in the 1920's, only Will's name appears on the first few, but he eventually acknowledged his wife in the later books as a co-author. Some great authors were essentially pairing with their editors. Numerous examples exist of great writers whose works were made better because of a strong willed editor: Theodore Dreiser, Ernest Hemingway, and on and on.

To this end, my friend and colleague Joe O'Brien and I tried a new trick this year at ThoughtWorks Away Day: pair teaching. He and I used 2 computers, 2 projectors, and one topic (Ruby for ThoughtWorkers Who Don't Know Ruby But Want to Know Why It Rocks: Learning Ruby Through Unit Testing). In the end, the sum was greater than the parts. It was a frantic 1 hour presentation, with something happening constantly. After the smoke cleared, another ThoughtWorker said that he really enjoyed it because his mind only wandered for about 4 minutes total during the entire time, and suggested that if we hire a clown to walk through the audience, juggling, and repeating our key points, that we would have held 100% of his attention. High praise, indeed.

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