Some Pairing Patterns

Oct 7 2016

For the past week and a half, I have spent all of each day pair programming. Up to this point I have done some pairing, but not much. After spending more than a week doing it all day everyday, I have noticed a few patterns in my behavior as a pair.

Check the ego

Over the past week, each day I have jumped into a story with someone who is already familiar with the project and has sufficient context. Each of my partners have really great about trying to build up my context so that I can contribute.

The problem that I noticed is occasionally my ego will come out when I encounter some thing I don’t understand. Typically this is something that I feel I should already understand and I don’t want expose my ignorance.

This is silly. I try to combat this feeling in social situations even beyond pair programming, but I have found that it can have an immediate impact on the pairing session if the ego isn’t checked. If my ego is getting in the way of me building up the appropriate amount of context, then that is getting in the way of my ability to contribute.

Pulling out information

I noticed that I will ask my pair what they are thinking when communication slows down. This has the benefit of forcing them to talk through what they are thinking in addition to keeping myself engaged in the session. This keeps our context about the story in sync.

Stepping up

Pairing takes a lot of energy. It can be difficult to do it for a long period of time. When my pair is getting sluggish, I have found myself stepping up and trying to engage them by communicating my perspective or asking some questions. If I haven’t been driving, I will also also attempt to assume the driver’s seat.


These aren’t the type of patterns that one might think of when encountering “pairing patterns”. One might think of ping-pong pairing or something like that. These or more like social or behavioral patterns for pair programming. Further, these are not prescriptions for successful pair programming. Rather, they are simply a reflection of behaviors I have noticed in myself over the past week or so as I have been pairing.


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