Frequent Informal Code Reviews

The traditional code review model is to write a bunch of code and then gather the troops to review it once its done and ready. Following the review the author then spends a couple of hours/days in rework.
In contrast one of the benefits of pair programming is the just in time scrutiny of a second pair of eyes while the code is being developed. This just in time scrutiny helps pick up problems early and the cost of rework is minimal. Pair programming does however have some pitfalls and is not as prevalent as it supporters would like.
There is a middle ground that involves team members spending a few minutes each day informally reviewing any changes that were committed to the source code repository in the previous day. The informal review involves reading the changes and posting questions and comments to the author. This provides “almost in time” feedback and keeps everyone in tune with the changes and direction of the code base.

This approach has the following characteristics:

  • Collective code ownership
  • Frequent informal code reviews
  • Requires regular commits to the repository
  • Requires discipline from team members to frequently review new changes – otherwise thy just build up and we are back to where we began
  • Has effect of improving code quality¬† – people are less likely to commit rubbish with the intent of cleaning it up later since they know they will receive instant feedback

Note that some shops mandate a code review prior to each checkin. While this approach does help keep up the quality of committed code, it does introduce delays and bottlenecks in the checkin process.

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