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Promptworks cofounder explores working as ‘copilots’ via pair programming in his new book

COO Jason Garber’s hands-on guide for software developers was released last month.

Jason Garber with his book, "Practical Pair Programing." (Courtesy photo)

When Promptworks cofounder Jason Garber started jotting down ideas and concepts about pair programming — a software development method that allows two programmers to work synchronously on a project — in a Google Doc back in 2012, he never thought it’d see the light of day.

It was before Garber linked up with cofounders Mike Nicholaides and Greg Sterndale to launch the Center City software company, and before he knew he’d someday lead a team of about 35 as chief operating officer. But Promptworks embraced pair programming as a go-to method in its workplace, and eventually, folks came to Garber asking if he had any resources to learn more about it or to share with new employees.

He’d spent the last few years documenting metaphors, thought processes and tips about pair programming, but it was a colleague’s wife, with A Book Apart publishing, who convinced the COO to publish a manual. After about a year of editing, rewriting and refining, the book, “Practical Pair Programming” was released in July.

The key difference between just working collaboratively on a software project and pair programming “is that two people are sharing controls, like two copilots in the cockpit,” Garber said. “If you can go in separate directions, you’re not pairing. And if your minds are in the same place at the same time, nobody is making a decision by themselves.”

It’s beneficial for product creation’s sake and for clients, the COO said, because there’s never just one person who’s an expert on the product that they have to rely on.

A Book Apart specializes in texts that dive into a particular tech topic — the publisher also put out David Dylan Thomas’ “Design for Cognitive Bias” earlier this summer — and “Practical Pair Programming” does just that. Garber said while the manuscript was initially more of a how-to book, it now offers theory and topics like how to get others at your organization on board with the method. It also touches on the people-to-people interaction and the soft skills needed for successful pair programming.

“It’s interesting because writing a book is done by one’s self, despite my book being about pair programming,” Garber said.

Since “Practical Pair Programming” was released last month, Garber said the ebook has been about twice as popular for orders as the physical copy, which makes perfect sense for technologists. The book should appeal to people who want to do their best at the software method, but also to anyone in the field, he said.

“I’m delighted to get it into the hands of people who haven’t ever considered pair programming, or tried it and didn’t like it,” Garber said.

Companies: Promptworks

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