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April 6, 2010

Pair Programming is Infectious

Those who are proficient at it say pair programming makes them faster and more thorough with their testing and refactoring. It improves their design skills and the quality of the application. Real good promiscuous pairing quickly spreads best practices, rhinoviruses, knowledge, influenza, bacteria, techniques, tips and tricks throughout the team. Not all things are good in an environment that excels at spreading things.

Thank goodness I'm seeing more and more team members actually go home at the first concern of getting sick, and managers in support of this. A cold can decimate an entire team.

Sharing a keyboard and mouse can help those new to pairing get the hang of it through the explicit "you drive" keyboard push. But once beyond that stage, use two keyboards and mice. They’re cheap.

You can keep plenty of alcohol based hand sanitizer and wipes around; a box of tissues on every desk and signs in the restroom encouraging hand washing. I'm starting to see restrooms with small paper towel dispensers by the door for the express purpose of giving you something to use when opening the door. One team I’ve seen sprays their keyboards and other surfaces with Lysol once or twice per week.

From the Chateau Grand Traverse men's room, Old Mission Peninsula

Eating well and getting exercise is commended in the places I've been.

But beyond those things, how can we convince our teammates to stop picking their nose? "I don't pick my nose!" they say. Ok, rubbing your nose. Biting your cuticles. Chewing on your pen. Whatever it is, keep your hands and other objects away from your face.

I guess sneezing into your hands is better than into open air and onto the desk, but go wash your hands afterwards. "Oh, bless you! A sneeze like that deserves a hand-washing."

I've been thinking about this a lot, to the point that empty beverage containers lying around creep me out. "Whose is this? Should I throw it away? Do I want to touch it?"

To combat these bad habits and their contagion in my teams I'm trying every approach I can come up with. I use humor when I can and the direct approach when it's all I can think of. And by the way, throw your used tissues away, will ya?

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