[LRUG] The codes

Matt Wynne matt at mattwynne.net
Thu Sep 10 14:44:06 PDT 2009

Some really thoughtful suggestions, thanks Brent. Mind if I quote you  
on my blog?

On 10 Sep 2009, at 22:00, Brent Snook wrote:

> Hi everyone,
> First off, thanks to everyone who organised last night. It was really
> valuable and a lot of fun. I was on the pirate team. Yaaaar. Rum. etc.
> Matt's kata worked really well, it did a great job of guiding you
> through in small steps. We didn't realise it was committing changes
> when the iteration was passed but that was a nice touch.
> Here's my observations:
> Something that seemed really hard to manage was communication between
> the peanut gallery (awesome term) and the pair. Like Taryn mentioned,
> everyone calling things out can be really distracting when you're the
> one under the spotlight. It becomes quite different from normal
> pairing where you're focused on just the task at hand and what your
> pair is doing; trying to either ignore or take on the suggestions of
> everyone else as well adds an extra dimension of difficulty. One
> concern is that it might make pairing seem harder or more stressful to
> newcomers than it really is. It would be interesting to hear how
> people felt being up there, especially people who haven't paired
> before.
> Input from other people in the team is essential but I was thinking
> about ways to incorporate it without affecting the flow of the current
> pair.
> One extreme approach would be to ban the peanut gallery from saying
> anything to the pair unless it is solicited. If the pair is stumped
> they could indicate that they want some help and people could chime in
> (stick a hand up, whatever). I think an interesting side effect of
> this would be that more people are motivated to get up and have a go;
> the way to get your opinion heard would be to jump in line for the
> next rotation. Any potential problems with this?
> Another way to get people up and pairing might be to have the driver
> rolling off the pair touch someone else on the shoulder as they sit
> down. This would ensure that someone was always ready to roll on and
> keep the rotation smooth.
> There really is a world of difference between being in the audience
> and being in the active pair. I felt like I was struggling to
> understand how the simple bit of starting code while I was up there.
> When I got to sit back down and digest it at my own pace it was a
> infinitely easier.
> One thing I don't understand is how the entire team is supposed to
> work together to solve the problem - do you try and act like a huge
> gestalt entity or is investigating in parallel OK?. When you're in the
> audience, should you be following the progress as closely as if you
> were in the pair? Is it bad to form to do otherwise? I'm not sure; I
> lost track of the direction many times and felt a bit guilty but I was
> also having some really interesting discussions with people around in
> the meantime.
> If it is OK to be approaching the problem in parallel then it would be
> great to be able to try stuff out on your own laptop and then bring
> the learnings into the pair when it is your chance to go up. A few
> times I found it frustrating because I could only see the code that
> the pair had open; I wanted some way to look at the other parts of
> what they were working on.
> If you're supposed to be working like a giant pair then I'd suggest
> that groups of around 6 people might work a lot better.
> It also seemed really hard to maintain flow when people are rolling
> off every 5 minutes. I don't see this as a problem with the timebox
> period, rather than we need a better way to maintain direction. The
> really interesting effect of this was that it reproduced a problem I'd
> seen in other teams that rotated pairs frequently (several times a
> day); getting people up to speed and explaining/maintaining the
> direction took up valuable time.
> One thing that helped us when we had this problem was to maintain a
> fine-grained TODO list for the story. Maintaining this list was the
> navigator's job and our first task of the day was to review/refresh
> the direction we were going. A new person on the story could be
> brought up to speed very quickly by going through the current list. We
> also had the added benefit of knowing when we were "done" at a higher
> level. Changes to direction meant changes to the physical list so we
> were forced to think a little more about them before making any.
> I was wondering if something like this could be applied to the dojo as
> a way of maintaining direction and reducing thrashing with the
> frequent rotation. It might even also be a discipline you'd want to
> represent formally in the dojo along side of pair programming.
> Finally, I want to suggest something for people to reflect on. Try the
> same kata on your own; try not to be influenced by the solution your
> team came up with.
> - how long did it take you?
> - how did it differ from your team's result in term of approach or  
> time taken?
> - if it was different, why do you think that was?
> - push your results and your observations so everyone can have a look
> Cheers,
> Brent.
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