From Collaboration to Solitude and Back: Experiences with Remote Pair Programming during COVID-19 (15 mins)

Along with the increasing popularity of agile software development, software work has become much more social than ever. Contemporary software teams rely on a variety of collaborative practices, such as pair programming, the topic of our study. Many agilists advocated the importance of collocation, face-to-face interaction, and physical artefacts incorporated in the shared workspace, which the COVID-19 pandemic made unavailable, most software companies around the world were forced to send their engineers to work from home (WFH). As software projects and teams overnight turned into fully distributed collaborations, we question what happened to the pair programming practice in the WFH mode. This paper reports our findings from a longitudinal study of remote pair programming in two companies. We conducted 38 interviews with 30 engineers from Norway, Sweden, and USA, and used the results of a survey in one of the case companies. Our study is unique as we collected the data longitudinally in April/May 2020 (early months of WFH), Sep/Oct 2021, and Jan/Feb 2021. We found that pair programming has decreased and some interviewees report not pairing at all for almost a full year. The experiences of those who paired vary from actively co-editing the code by using special tools to passively co-reading and discussing the code and solutions by sharing the screen. Finally, we found that the interest in and the use of pair programming over time, since the first months of the forced WFH to early 2021, has admittedly increased.

Authors of report: Darja Smite, Marius Mikalsen, Nils Brede Moe, Viktoria Stray and Eriks Klotins

Darja Smite
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