Tangential comments about Software Development

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Pairing as the Junior Partner

Agile 2009 Conference in Chicago. The Live Aid effort developed an iPhone application to let donors give to the Mano A Mano effort supporting communities in Bolivia. I spent a couple of afternoons helping out.

I knew nothing of the domain, infrastructure or programming languages. It was all being done on Mac Book Pro laptops, so I couldn’t even get a scroll bar to work in Firefox. That’s how useless I was.

Except that no pairing partner is useless. Here’s what I contributed:

  • Syntax and spell checking as my colleague typed

  • Fluency in HTML when we were modifying web pages

  • Discussing the value to be gained from making the pages fully XHTML compliant

  • Guessing how to enter a bank account number into Pay Pal when it refused my pair’s efforts

  • Helping a new colleague get starting by just knowing a little of the directory structure

  • Reminding my pair that the first step was a failing test, not a pretty, well-written or comprehensive test

  • Congratulating my pair when he got that test to go from red to green

  • Noticing a precedent in a Cucumber test for how to echo the HTML to the console

  • Writing down the test cases so my pair could start working through them

  • Seeking targeted guidance from the Ruby and Rails experts on the team

  • Speaking up at the stand-ups

I think I did enough. I’m certainly grateful to a partner who fills in those gaps when it’s me who’s meant to know what to do.

Please visit (by iPhone or browser) to see what we did, with your credit card at the ready. And a big thanks to all of the team for letting me help out, with a particular mention to Dwight Illk.