So a little background about me. I've been developing software in the back bedroom for many years, along with my brothers. Worked for a dozen different companies in varied team sizes, on many successful projects over the past 8 years. So I would consider myself pretty experienced (Games, Applications, Web Applications, C++/Assembly/Flash/PHP etc. you get the idea).
So now, on my most recent contract. The most highest paying one I've ever had, a very important UK project, but arguably one of the more easier projects I've been involved with, and working alongside generally less talented developers than most of my previous roles. I've come across this new buzz word called "Pair Programming" (PP).
Now I'm not sure how I've managed to avoid PP for so long in my career. But apparently, PP is not only the solution to improving code quality, but is apparently the only way any good software was ever built, and any project that has been successfully developed without PP is a miracle.
(I personally think considering the importance of the project we're working on. We should take the hiring process more seriously and hire quality developers i.e. nerds. over hiring 'politically savvy' sub-standard developers and coming up with various processes to improve their output on such an important project.)
*end of rant*
Now looking at this objectively. If I do a google search for PP. I can see a lot of studies that report PP to be more productive, improve code quality, and reduce bugs. I can't understand this when most programming tasks are trivial (or at least seem trivial to me). Once the architectural aspects of a task have been discussed. A good programmer should be competent enough to implement the architectural specification. Then once implemented, another developer should be able to code-review it, just to pick up any small programming mistakes (not architectural mistakes as that has been cemented before coding).
Looking back on an old topic on GameDev.net about PP, seems mostly negative views on it. Perhaps GameDev.net developers have a different view, or perhaps the majority of developers have a different view, and these studies are skewed?
I think the problem is that in most projects. There are 10-20% of programmers that are truly talented and motivated. They are responsible for the core, and even much of the bulk of any software project. The other 80-90% lack talent and/or motivation and don't contribute much (especially when you factor in the number of bugs, and hacks they introduce). PP works well for them.
"I find with PP I'm much more productive" - Perhaps thats because when you work alone, you're not focused, and browse the internet most of the time. Or perhaps thats because you're not as good as your pair, so your output is being raised (perhaps your "better-half" is less productive - assuming he is motivated on his own).
"I find with PP we spot errors like semicolons, and brackets more quickly" - Missing semicolons and brackets is simply unacceptable. If you make these silly mistakes shame on you. If it takes you a long time to spot them after the compiler has helped you find the line, then well I think you need to find new profession.
"I find with PP we come up with different solutions to solve a problem" - No, discussing how you're going to tackle a task gives you different solutions to solve a problem, this is architectural design. If you have discussed a problem properly before writing a single line of code. Then there are very few ways of implementing the code, especially once you follow an agreed upon coding standard/convention.
"I find with PP I learn lots" - You can also learn a lot just by reading or reviewing the code, instead of interrupting someone's train of thought. I actually find I learn much better by playing with the code, figuring out how things work and developing a complete map of the code base, instead of relying on someone else to tell me all the answers.
"After a long day with PP I feel satisfied" - This is very interesting. Considering programmers tend to be introverted. I find programming solo, very therapeutic, and I can code into the evening with people reminding me to go home. Makes you feel pumped and really good about yourself. With PP, I start to get a headache in the afternoon, and just want to go home. It's painful, emotionally draining. - I don't consider myself that introverted, I enjoy talking to people, helping them with problems, and chatting up the female staff. I just don't enjoy pair programming. I feel like an impatient kid jumping up and down watching a programmer slowly write code, and constantly correcting them, and trying to convince them to do it my way.
It probably is a case of talent and motivation. I've done a lot of pairing with others over the past 6 months. But when I think of all the times when I've paired with other people. I've felt that it would've been of better quality on my own (they disregarded certain safer techniques that I would've used), and done quicker (they seemed tired, and not properly focused). While they felt that they produced better quality code with me, and that they were productive.
(Weak Programmer + Good Programmer) / 2 = Average Programmer.
(Lazy Programmer + Motivated Programmer) / 2 = Average Programmer.
In closing. I have a habit of checking the git blame (or svn annotate) whenever I see some pathetic excuse for code (dirty copy and paste, badly named variables, not following code conventions, lazy hacks etc.). So I can tell the programmer what I think of his work. However, many a time, I've done this, and to my surprise I discover that the work was paired on (in the comments we mention the initials of who we paired with on the task). So I'm not convinced that pairing is the solution to improving code quality. Finding decent programmers is the best solution (which requires a combination of good pay, and more importantly good interview and selection process). Perhaps our education system is swamping the software industry (especially big companies) with graduate programmers who are neither motivated or up to the standards of the older generation of back-bedroom programmers.
It could also be that I'm not much of a team player - Although I actually enjoy discussing and planning things with others. I'm just old fashioned in that I like to do the work on my own.
Coming soon: Quad programming, the only way real software is made.
("We tried making a hello world program, and were scratching our heads trying to find out why it wouldn't compile. My number 2 couldn't smell it. Number 3 suggested reading the error message, thats what his iPhone says. Number 4 guessed it was a pesky semi colon...")