I hope readers are acquainted with the idea of “flow,” periods of prolonged and unbroken concentration during which developers do their best work, I and others have written articles about it.


Someone please explain to me how anyone could attain even ordinary concentration and focus, much less flow, in pair programming conditions. Working in near-sexual proximity and talking constantly, sharing a keyboard, it’s hard for me to believe that someone claiming this is a way to get any work done at all isn’t just trolling.

Pair programming is in my experience the clearest example of just how deranged our industry has become. How far it has fallen from the great days of private offices and minimal meetings.

I have been in three near-fatal automobile accidents, two of which would have left me dead or quadriplegic had things been a single centimeter away from what they were. These were long ago, and I go for years at a time without thinking about them. I could have died. I didn’t. Move on.

In January 2009 I was told by my manager at Microsoft to do three hours of pair programming with a teammate. He whined about every keystroke I made. He sat hip-to-hip. It was, beyond all doubt, the very worst experience of my life and not a day has gone by since when the memory of those three hours. hasn’t set my heart pounding and had me biting my knuckles and trying to slow my breathing.

I resigned my position the next day. In my manager’s office I took a pair of scissors from his pencil cup, cut my card key in half, and threw the pieces in his face and told him he was a contemptible and incompetent jerk. This was my sixth time working for Microsoft and I will never work there again.

I have since shifted from working in offices to working entirely from home. This experience figured highly in my decision the following year to leave the country, and I now live in and work from Vietnam.

Were I still in a position to have to do in-person interviews and the interviewer mentioned pair-programming in any context other than “we don’t do that crap here” I would leave the interview without a word or even the most perfunctory courtesy.

I do not believe anyone can get decent work done under these grotesque comdictions. I can’t believe it. It is so at odds with all my 32 years of experience as an engineer that it’s hard for me to take seriously anyone who doesn’t dismiss it as completely ridiculous.

If the goal is to exchange ideas, as opposed to write code,that can be done in less ghastly conditions, without being close enough to give each other oral sex.

American Software Developer living in Vietnam. Classical musician (guitar, woodwinds), weightlifter, multilingual, misanthrope • XY

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