I recently had a conversation with Sal Freudenberg and Matt Wynne about their experiences remote mobbing. I met Sal and Matt at XP 2018 in Porto, Portugal where they presented their experience report on The Surprisingly Inclusive Benefits of Remote Mob Programming. We started a conversation there. Intrigued, I wanted to hear more about their unique style of mobbing and why they find it so inclusive.
But first some background. Mob programming is typically done in person. A group of developers (or mobbers) typically work together, day in and day out, on the same code. One person, the driver, is at the keyboard for 10 minutes or so; the rest give the driver advice. They switch roles every few minutes. So every few cycles, you are at the keyboard.
Matt and Sal and the rest of the Cucumber team work remotely. So they don’t share a common keyboard. Instead, they use Zoom to communicate. Whoever is driving shares their screen. Before they switch roles, the driver commits the working code and tests and hands over the current state of the code to whoever’s next. This means that they work in very tiny increments. And they are meticulous about using test-driven development.
Now consider how you’d feel if you were asked to join a remote mob and you were a bit anxious about how you’d do because you weren’t up to speed on the latest programming environment and the latest tools and frameworks the team uses. This was the situation Sal walked into. And to make it a bit more challenging, Sal is autistic. She was nervous about being part of a remote programming mob. So at her insistence they had their first mobbing session in person.
Sal finds the Cucumber mob and remote mobbing to be a welcoming, positive experience. But Sal wasn’t so sure at first…
Sal and Matt are quick to point out:
One fabulous side effect of mobbing is the fact that a team member can completely tailor their own physical environment and even change it around depending on their needs that day: the ability to sit in one’s favourite chair, have just the right level of lighting, turn the volume up and down, have fiddle toys or calming activities at hand, have access to favourite and suitable food and drinks.
Mob programming may not work in all contexts, but it can be highly productive and energizing. As long as there’s trust.
I’ll let you read their report and listen to the podcast to hear more of their story.
If you’d like to share with others what you’ve learned on your Agile journey, I encourage you to consider writing an experience report. The Agile Experiences Program is interested in hearing your ideas and helping you tell your story. You can meet with me at the Agile2018 conference. Or submit a proposal at any time. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, the program director, Rebecca Wirfs-Brock, at experiences at agilealliance dot org.
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