Pairing Smells

by Jeff Langr

November 03, 2008

Tim Ottinger and I are working on a new project, an agile agile reference guide. (Yes, that’s supposed to be two “agile”s in a row.) One of the things we’re debating is a list of pairing smells. Here’s what we have so far:

  • Unequal access to keyboard and/or screen

  • Keyboard domination

  • Pair marriages / no switching during story

  • Worker/rester pairing

  • Second computer

  • “Everyone does their own work”

  • 90% of stories 90% done

  • Reluctant pairings

  • Debates lasting longer than 10 minutes with no new code

Thoughts welcome, and incorporated ideas will be rightly attributed. What might we remove from or add to this list? What could be worded better?


James Carr November 3, 2008 at 07:04pm

What about extreme newbie / extreme expert pairing? I’ve seen some pretty bad pairing happen when you have someone who is pretty well skilled paired with someone with very poor skills… it gets hectic.

Good list though… I’ve seen a few of these. 😉

Anonymous November 4, 2008 at 01:12pm

I wouldn’t place “second computer” in that list. I’ve paired where the second computer is used as a resource to look up an API, run unit tests, check the build, etc. I recognize that the second computer could be misused but don’t think it’s an automatic smell.

Jeff Langr November 6, 2008 at 07:36am

The term “smell” to me is open-ended–-smells can be either aromas that we can live with or stenches that must be eradicated. So I think James’ smell could go on the list; sometimes it’s not a bad thing to pair expert and novice, particularly if you have the goal that a novice shouldn’t stay so green very long.

The same thing goes for second computer–it’s a scent that must be investigated further.

Igor November 6, 2008 at 05:13pm

I had a pleasure to pair with two keyboards connected to one computer.

It was quiet interesting experience, which I personally think could mitigate “keyboard domination” smell.

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Jeff Langr

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Jeff Langr has been building software for 40 years and writing about it heavily for 20. You can find out more about Jeff, learn from the many helpful articles and books he's written, or read one of his 1000+ combined blog (including Agile in a Flash) and public posts.