Getting things done with TDD and pair-programming

Posted by Chris on October 03, 2006

Getting things done in a limited time

Last week me and Andres where in Barcelona for three days. The main reason we where there was that I was presenting a session at the PASS Europe 2006 conference, and we of course wanted to see as much as possible of the other sessions at the conference as well. However, being the geeks we are, we also wanted to find some time to work on an as-of-yet unnamed project we started a couple of weeks ago. We have had trouble finding time to get anything done, especially since it does not feel good for the one of just us working singlehanded an evening.

So, now that we where not tied with client projects or had any private obligations we used every minute we could find to work on the project. A half hour after breakfast before the conference started, what was left of lunch break when we where finished eating, even timeslices as small as 5-10 minutes between sessions where used. And we managed to get quite a lot done, especially counting all the refactoring and design changes we made.

Now this is only speculation of course, but I cannot see how we would have gotten nearly as far (or probably anywhere at all) if we had not used test-driven development while doing this. We also did everything on a single computer pair-programming all the time. TDD really helped us stay focused and to get right into the action whenever we had a break. Even if we only had 10 minutes over we could simply continue right where we left off earlier. If it was not as simple as where the cursor was currently positioned it was at least never further away than running the tests and finding the red one. Pairing helped us stay disciplined enough to stick to writing good tests, small enough that we could often get them done in these 10 min coding sessions.

I am of course not saying that TDD and pairing is only useful in this kind of “extreme” situation, it is always helpful and the right way to go. But it was really interesting to see how we really got a lot done in this situation.

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