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Hello OpenHatchers! I’m Parker, OpenHatch’s in-house winter intern. I’m writing to share a little bit about what work is like at the Flophouse (OpenHatch HQ, AKA Raffi and Asheesh’s living room)—because it’s pretty awesome.

We use pair programming, an Extreme Programming (yeah, I know—best name ever) methodology where two people share a computer and work together. I usually pair with Raffi while Asheesh works from another computer adjacent to us. At first, pairing felt like extremely effective personal training. But now that I’ve been brought up to speed, pairing with Raffi is more of a collaborative process. I’ve learned that the most important part of programming is making choices, and Raffi and I build off of each other to choose the best approach to a problem. We also help each other catch typos and stay focused—I can’t get away with checking Facebook when Raffi is looking over my shoulder!

While our workflow is Extreme, our lifestyle is simple. When lunchtime rolls around, we move to the kitchen where we all “pair” on cooking. Sometimes one or two people bike to the grocery store or to the nearby produce trucks to pick up groceries. Our meals are always vegetarian (which I like) and often have a spicy Indian flair.  Oh, and we also pair on clean-up.

We finish work at around 7:30 with an end-of-day meeting. We relax on the couch and each person gets a chance to say what did and didn’t work for him and to ask the other two for feedback. I might apologize for being distracted during a planning meeting, and Asheesh might thank me and Raffi for letting him take a phone call while we did the lunch dishes. Since we’re working so closely together in a cramped space, this open communication is essential for staying sane.

It’s really fulfilling for me to be working with other Free/Open Source Software activists. We’re not just working for the weekend. We get up in the morning and go to work because we think what we are doing is important.

I owe a lot of thanks to the Neukom Institute and the Institute for Security, Technology, and Society at Dartmouth College for providing the generous funding that made this internship possible.

3 comments

  1. I think this model of work production is wonderful.

    When I worked with a 2 people on an Open Educational Resources project this past summer we would routinely work together on a problem during the day (think: Pair Wiki Editing, Pair Blog post writing, Pair Emailing…) and end up biking down to the river (half-mile away) for the post-work decompression with cheese/crackers and a drink. It wasn’t just that we had the river and the beer, it was that we had a chance to reflectively discuss the issues we were facing in a safe environment.

    It is sad that I no longer work with those people, but they are still good friends. We might just have to go bike down to the river, drink a beer, eat some cheese, and talk about our respective jobs now instead of our shared ones.

  2. Rich says:

    Good stuff, Parker! It sounds like you have a really good system, and it’s really useful information for people who don’t (like me).

  3. Max says:

    Thanks for this note; it gave me a better idea of what I want to look for in a career. This is the kind of workflow I would like to get into. I learned about paired programming a few years ago and forgot all about it until just now. Over the past couple years, I’ve grown a sort of instant-paralysis that strikes whenever I think about programming anything. Ironically, I’m a software engineer and this mindset has kept me from programming anything for fun. I think of myself as more of a wing-man. I like to write and I like to follow people. Ideally, I would like to watch somebody program while I document and confabulate ideas in parallel.

    On that note, any superhero programmers out there who need a stenographic sidekick?

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