Home > Agile, Extreme Programming, Pair Programming > Pair Programming and Pandemics

Pair Programming and Pandemics

Ben Yoder the Facade Pattern

June 25th 2009 | PouyaYousefi

Pair Programming in the Time of Swine Flu

I am not a doctor. Nor do I claim to have any medical knowledge other than what I pick up from watching House. I am an “Agile Expert”, a “Test Driven Developer” and a “Pair Programmer”. That last existential statement has faced new challenges with the recent media scare and the possible pending spread of global pandemics such as the H1N1 virus, more commonly known as the “swine flu”.

Inherent to pair programming is the need for close proximity to another person. Although in the past our team has conducted remote pairing with some success, our day to day development requires that two programmers need to sit across from each other at the same pairing station sometimes for several days. Now it does not take a genius to see that this situation would be ideal for the passing and spread of communicable diseases.

Our team has taken many measures to combat the possibility of our team members getting sick. We have alcohol-based hand sanitizers at every pair station, provide alcohol wipes for cleaning the keyboards and pairing areas, and allow for working from home. We hope these measures reduce the likelihood of catching or spreading any illnesses but I believe that an inherent mental shift in thinking needs to occur in order for any measure to really work. That shift in thinking is this: “Do not come to work until you are 100% over your illness.”

I am guilty of coming to work when I feel less than stellar in order to preserve time for an upcoming vacation. Sometimes the urge to get back to work to help the team can sometimes hurt the team instead. Pushing to get back to work when your body is not at 100% can prolong your illness, make you susceptible to other illnesses, and expose others.

Kent Beck, one of the leading minds on Agile methodologies, and the author of eXtreme Programming Explained explains that one of the values of XP is respect. He states that respect is the fundamental value that binds the team and drives the project towards a unified goal. Taking care of yourself should be as important as looking out for your team. The next time you “suck it up” and drag yourself to work because you think it makes you a team player, stop and think about whether or not your staying home might be better for the team in the long run.

Pouya Yousefi is a Senior .NET Consultant at Thycotic Software, an agile software consulting and product development company based in Washington DC. Secret Server is our flagship password management software product.

  1. April 15, 2010 at 11:08 am

    This is such an important topic. We definitely need a mental shift away from coming in when ill. But we need more than that. We need to encourage one another to go home. “Are you feeling okay Fred? You look a little down. Maybe you should go home.” And we need to call out the bad habits we all have and often don’t realize, such as touching our face. Thanks for posting this topic to your blog.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: