Everything I Need to Know About Pair Programming Etiquette, I Learned From My 4 Year Old

Posted by Curtis Miller Curtis Miller

The folks at my work recently had a discussion about avoiding distractions while pair programming. We all know how many distractions there are in today's world, everything from email to blogs to Twitter. It's hard to not get distracted by all of these things, as they have become so prevalent in our lives. We want to be in the know and there are many tools out there that let us do just that. They constantly run in the background or popup, they email us, they text message us, they demand our attention…

Look at me, I'm a tweet!!
No, I'm working.
But I'm a direct message from iJustine!
Well… okay, just this once!

But it's not once, it's all the time… constantly interrupting (seriously Justine, stop, I'm not going to respond). When someone is paying you for your time, they don't want to be competing with all these distractions.

So what's appropriate etiquette for a person working in a pair programming environment? I asked my 4 year old over dinner to see what he thought.

The Interview

me. Do you know what it means to work in a pair?
ethan. When 2 people are working together.

me. Good. What about focus? Do you know what that means?
ethan. Stay on track. Concentrate. Keep an eye on what you're doing.

me. How about respect, do you know what that means?
ethan. Be nice?

me. Okay good, let's get started.

me. When you're working with someone as a pair is it okay to check your email, instant messenger or twitter?
ethan. No.
me. Why is it not okay?
ethan. Cause we might lose focus.

me. If we were working together and I was having trouble solving a problem, how could you help me?
ethan. I could tell you how to do it.
me. What if you didn't know how to do it?
ethan. We could think of an idea and do it.
me. Should we think by ourselves?
ethan. No we should talk and hear… and choose what we want to do.

me. If were working together and I get distracted, what should you do?
ethan. Daddy, what are you doing? Please pay attention. You made me distracted and I don't know what I was working on.


This interview proves beyond a doubt that my 4 year old knows what it takes to work in a pair programming environment. He was polite, but forceful in his remonstration of my lack of focus. His answers were not overly complex, he kept it simple. Which is as it should be since it really isn't all that complex – there's a reason the acronym KISS exists.

So there you have it, think like a 4 year old and you'll do just fine in any pair programming environment :)

Velocity Labs

Need web application development, maintenance for your existing app, or a third party code review?

Velocity Labs can help.

Hire us!