Pragmatic remote pairing

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Published: May 19, 2020
May 2020

We firmly believe that pair programming improves the quality of code, spreads knowledge throughout a team and allows overall faster delivery of software. In a post COVID-19 world, however, many software teams will be distributed or fully remote, and in this situation we recommend pragmatic remote pairing: adjusting pairing practices to what's possible given the tools at hand. Consider tools such as Visual Studio Live Share for efficient, low-latency collaboration. Only resort to pixel-sharing if both participants reside in relative geographic proximity and have high-bandwidth internet connections. Pair developers who are in similar time zones rather than expecting pairing to work between participants regardless of their location. If pairing isn't working for logistical reasons, fall back to practices such as individual programming augmented via code reviews, pull-request collaboration (but beware long-lived branches with Gitflow) or shorter pairing sessions for critical parts of the code. We've engaged in remote pairing for years, and we've found it to be effective if done with a dose of pragmatism.