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The Power of Pair Programming: Benefits, Types, and Tips

· 4 min read
Bekah Hawrot Weigel
Developer Experience Lead

Pairing is more than just coding with someone else. Pairing is about communication, teaching, learning, positive reinforcements, and growing. This is why at Virtual Coffee, we’re challenging our members to practice their pairing in the month of May and we’re inviting everyone at Dev to join us too!

Before you start, we recommend you take a look at Martin Fowler’s article On Pair Programming.

What is Pair Programming?

Pair programming is a technique used in software development where two or more programmers work together on the same task. The two programmers switch between two roles: the driver, who is actively writing the code, and the navigator, who is observing the driver's work and providing guidance, feedback, and ideas.

The value of pair programming comes from continuously communicating with each other, discussing the code being written, suggesting improvements, and debugging any issues together. Increased code quality, reduced errors, improved collaboration and communication, and enhanced learning opportunities are some of the benefits of pairing up.

Types of Pair Programming

There’s more than one way to pair program, so if you’ve tried one way and didn’t find it helpful, there are other approaches you can take, including:

  • Driver-Navigator Pair Programming: The most common type of pair programming, where one person (the driver) writes the code while the other person (the navigator) reviews the code and provides feedback.
  • Ping-Pong Pair Programming: In this type of pair programming, one person writes a test case and the other person writes the code to pass the test. The partners then swap roles and repeat the exercise.
  • Mob programming: a collaborative pairing approach where a group of developers work together on a single task. In mob programming, one person usually acts as the driver, writing the code, while the rest of the group act as navigators, providing feedback, suggesting improvements, and discussing ideas. The group continuously collaborates, switching roles frequently and communicating throughout the process. (At Virtual Coffee, we might call this co-working room pairing 😉)
  • Chaos programming: Everyone works on a codebase at the same time, using tools like VSCode Live. Not ideal for most work environments, this can be the quickest way to produce code under a time constraint like a hackathon.

Ways to get started

If you want to pair, but you're not sure what to pair on, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • A project that you need some help on. By pairing with someone else, you can share ideas, troubleshoot issues, and gain a fresh perspective.
  • An open source issue. Pairing on an open-source issue can be a great way to contribute to the community and improve your coding skills. It can also be an opportunity to work with experienced developers who can offer valuable feedback.
  • A LeetCode problem. LeetCode is a platform that offers coding challenges to improve your algorithmic problem-solving skills. Pairing on a LeetCode problem is a fun and challenging way to improve your coding skills and work with someone else.

Pair Programming Resources

Live Coding Tools

Live Collaboration/Whiteboarding Tools

Pair programming is an effective way to improve code quality, foster collaboration, and promote continuous learning. By challenging ourselves to improve our pairing skills this month, we can grow as developers and improve our coding skills. If you'd like to recommend a resource for pair programming, you can add them to this discussion. If you’d like to participate along with us, let us know in the comments below and we’ll tag you in our check-ins!