Pair Programming: Facebook Makes Some Employees Share Computers, Desks

A Facebook worker waits for friends to arrive outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Friday, Aug. 17, 2012.
A Facebook worker waits for friends to arrive outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Friday, Aug. 17, 2012. Facebook's stock has come a penny short of hitting $19 for the first time, meaning it has nearly lost half of its market value since its public offering in May. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

"The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude," writer Aldous Huxley once said.

Silicon Valley, however, seems to disagree about this idea of seclusion.

A recent article from The Wall Street Journal explored the idea of "pair programming," in which two employees share the same desk and computer while coding. The method has become popular at fast-growing tech companies like Facebook and Square, and it's said to have money-saving potential. The idea behind this tag-team tactic is that two sets of eyes on the same problem will build double-checking into the programming process, thus halving the likelihood of costly mistakes.

"The idea (to oversimplify a bit) is that a second mind will sanity-check every bad idea and support every good one, so you — counterintuitively — wind up with higher per-programmer productivity," Tech Crunch said about the method back in March.

Pair programming has garnered mixed reviews from employees participating in this work style.

"The communication becomes so deep that you don't even use words anymore," Kent Beck, a Facebook programmer and pairing proponent, told The Wall Street Journal. "You just grunt and point."

But not all programmers feel as positively about conjoined coding. One techie at a company that used the method argued that he was far too inexperienced to be working so closely with his partner, per The Wall Street Journal. The well-seasoned programmer, he said, would "just take over and correct" errors.

A New York Times article from earlier this year debated cultural "groupthink," citing Apple's Steve Wozniak and his advice to creators: “Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me... they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone."

Still, working in tangent has its pros. Beck discussed pair programming in his book "Extreme Programming Explained," and explained to The Wall Street Journal that he and his partner became close enough to "knock out assignments so they could move on to their own pet projects."

Beck also offers advice to prospective pairs via Q&A forum, Quora:

One social tip: I like to take a few minutes before the first session of the day to catch up on our personal lives. I also like to spend the last few minutes reviewing what we did--what worked well and what didn't.

What are your thoughts on sharing a computer screen and desk with an employee? Are the company pros worth the possible awkward tensions? Sound off in the comments section about Facebook's pairing practice, or tweet us at [@HuffPostTech]. Then click through the slideshow below to check out 50 techies you should follow on Facebook.

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