Remote Pair Programming

2 minute read

Last Thursday night, I had my first attempt at remote pair programming with Ramon (@rtayag), a colleague of mine. I didn’t have a particular project to work on that night but I was ready to hack on anything for fun.

The project we decided to work on was personal project called liquid_stream, something that he uses for his web app

We didn’t do much pairing at all since the gem wasn’t published until during the pairing session. Good thing I had some superficial knowledge of how Shopify’s liquid template engine, so I didn’t have to start from scratch. We spent most of the session just explaining a bit of his feature requirements, how Shopify’s gem doesn’t support it out of the box, and how liquid_stream solves this.

Here’s a glimpse of our remote pairing session:

Me pairing with Ramon (@rtayag) .

The good stuff:

  • Google+ hangouts are awesome. With a lot teleconferencing tools we used at work (usually depends on client), Google+ stood out since it just felt faster than Skype and it’s a lot easier to setup. If we will organize an online event, it is likely that we will use Google+.
  • is perhaps the easiest way to connect to someone’s terminal. TL;DR: It’s like tmux but safer than handing out your computer’s IP address. :)
  • It was pretty encouraging to work with Ramon outside of the office. He’s one of the few local software developers that can express technical detail (or anything really) with clarity, and that continues outside of work.

The things we could’ve done better:

  • Pick on a project in advance we spent some time figuring out what to work on because we didn’t announce the projects/topics to work on in advance.

  • Make sure your computer/laptop is ready for use when the actual pair session begins - as if Murphy’s Law was poking fun at me, my internal speakers and mic died that same night. I didn’t have the luxury to troubleshoot, so I downloaded the Google+ Hangouts app on my iPad. Although it helped that my laptop was running less resources, I could’ve started checking if my setup was ready to go a few minutes earlier.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention: although we weren’t able to push new code during that night, I was able to merge a pull request that completes the basic feature set of the app. Awesome.

Notes (for non-technical readers):

  • Pair Programming is the software development technique in which two programmers work with one computer screen.
  • Remote pair programming, simply put, is pair programming with chat.
  • PHRUG - Philippine Ruby Users Group