22 July 2013

Corey's Pair Programming Tour

After my last rant on the missing quality in today's mainstream IT I got several mails from friends who had heard that I had quit my job (for the same reason). They asked me what I was up to now? The short answer is that I am planning a Pair Programming Tour (called Code Cop Tour). The long answer needs more explanation.

The Beginning
Like in every good story, let us start at the beginning - well maybe not at the very beginning, but let us start with Corey Haines. In 2008 Corey Haines, an US based programmer, lost his job and embarked on an unique, personal "Pair Programming Tour" around central US. He was travelling around, practising software development, pair-programming with people for room and board (room and food). InfoQ posted a summary about his first trip back in 2008, that I will in part repeat here: ... Corey Haines has embarked on a tour in the name of increasing our industry's emphasis on software as a craft. ... While he has dubbed the tour a "Pair Programming Tour", its ultimate intent is somewhat less about the practice of pair programming per se than it is about the ideas of what it takes for a software developer to really become good at what he or she does. ... Haines has posted video interviews revealing many of the unique insights he has gained about pairing, automated testing, and the evolution of a software craftsman while sharing the keyboard at the home-bases of Dave Chelimsky, Brian Marick, Uncle Bob Martin, and others.

Journeyman at WorkCorey maintained a blog On Being A Journeyman Software Developer throughout his travels where he recorded his insights. While preparing for my own tour, I read it all, right from the first entry. Here is my summary:

Several Trips
Corey spent an entire year being a Journeyman Coder. A few others have done similar trips, but much shorter. These trips have been called "Pair Programming Tour", "Journeyman Tour", "Software Craftsman Road Trip", "Software Craftsmanship Walz" and so on. He split his journey into short tours of up to four weeks, using a conference or another event as leg for a trip.

For a certain trip he picked a region to explore, reached out to people that he knew in that region and talked to companies in the area, looking for places to allow him to visit. He knew a lot of people who worked from home, independents and remote workers, who he might visit. He prepared a list of places up front, with 50% already filled with people to pair or companies that would host him. For the remaining time he maintained a Pairing Calendar, that people interested in hosting him could look at.

Pair Programming
In general he spent between one and five days with people, usually two or three days, pair-programming on whatever they wanted to work on. He worked with people of widely varying experience and skill level on various projects. Due to the high density of well known individuals in his area he was also able to work with book authors, open source project leads and celebrities like Uncle Bob. He saw many aspects of software development, gained exposure to new software tools, learned new coding tricks and thus both actively trained others and got trained himself. (Pair Programming is next to many things a powerful technique for sharing knowledge.)

When visiting companies (I assume) he was just another member of the team and contributed as much as possible. Still he was an outsider with his own views and experiences, who most likely acted as agitator as well. (Obtiva's Jake Scruggs explained the role of agitator in his report about the 8th Light vs. Obtiva Craftsman Swap: The workers all believe the same, so they do not have a hard object to push up against. They got to sharpen their edges on me, and I got to sharpen my edges on them.)

Reflection during Travel
Between pairing sessions Corey drove around the country. He used the long road trips to think about what he had learned and reflect about conversations. He said himself that My head was so full of thoughts after the intense discussions with people; I just had to stop and record my very first "road thoughts." Maybe not by his planning, but this was an important part of a learning tour. To emphasize learning, we need to revisit the material studied before, reflect on it, sort it out.

To Corey teaching was as important as learning. He updated his blog regularly, discussed new ideas or revisited old concepts. Next to recording his road thoughts he made several video interviews with people he had paired with. He talked at conferences and spoke at user groups on his way. Later he travelled around and organized Code Retreats in various places. He convinced people that software is a craft and explained the idea of Software Craftsmanship in general.

This is my understanding of the "classic" Journeyman Tour - and exactly this is what I will do. I am planning my tour since two months and in the next blog post I will describe my Code Cop Tour. Stay tuned ;-)

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