Editor Fascism to promote Pair Programming


Coding Software Engineering

At PHZ.fi we have been recently listing our software engineering practices to find out a better overview how we should improve our Extreme Programming process adoption. In 2008 we managed to reach a near perfect XP process by having 28.5/29 practices in use, evaluated by a bi-weekly self-assessment. On this week I added yet six more practices to the list, which were previously not listed or regarded as a practice, but were actively used.

Editor Fascism to promote Pair Programming

This is our latest addition to our process description, but it was actually taken in to use already in 2005. The idea of Editor Fascism is to force all developers to use the same development environment and especially text editor. When we started to use XP in 2004, the main obstacle for adopting pair programming was that each and every developer used his own text editor of choice. For example we had coders who preferred vim, others who were emacs -fanatics, I like pico/nano and Textpad (it’s the only editor that can open 1GB file in a second and not to crash that I know). Today we have people using Aptana studio, Netbeans etc. Anyway, the picture is clear: it is difficult to pass the keyboard to your pair if he doesn’t know vim commands, or if the vim -coder doesn’t know Netbeans shortcuts. While it would nice to learn how to use all editors, I thought that we receive a better ROI by investing in standardization of the routine tasks so that we can focus our learning energy to more complicated and value adding activities (such as test automation).

Our Editor Fascism currently means that all office development machines that are used for Pair Programming should have Eclipse installed and properly configured with all required plugins. We should have debugger working, a common configuration loaded with coding convention settings and auto-format, templates, common keyboard shortcuts etc. All programming must be done by using Eclipse, there are no alternatives. Period.

If you want to use another editor, you can not. That’s it. If you don’t like that it’s the reason why we call the practice Editor Fascism :)

In 2005 we quickly learned that this was a very quick way to promote pair programming, at least it abolished most of the technical and practical obstacles. Secondly I have noticed as a manager that the productivity of the team has simultaneously increased since everybody are using an advanced IDE instead of a basic text editor. Recently I have been also thinking about Zero Quality Control and Eclipse is a very good to provide the quickest possible Feedback cycle to prevent defects by providing immediate in-line syntax error warnings. By using a text editor it takes a minute or two to get the same feedback from the compiler, the browser or the server, which grinds down the development productivity on the small scale.

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