This goes out to all the geeky spouses, partners and friends of brand new programmers:
Code review is a cultural practice.
When you sit down to read the work of another, you bring with you all the experience you’ve had up to that point, the code reviews you’ve received, the mistakes you see yourself making and the bits of hard-won knowledge embedded in your coding personality.
Basically, you bring your coding baggage into your review.
When a brand new programmer shares their code with you, they are fundamentally vulnerable. They’re sharing something creative, and like any new creative endeavor, the product is a newborn taking it’s first few, shaky steps.
They are asking for your help and very likely, they’re asking for an indication that they’ve accomplished something. That all the time they just invested in learning something new — paid off.
And, in the case of PyLadies, women are all stepping out on a limb. Some are taking a Coursera class or maybe a workshop, but mostly working alone. We have each other to learn with and we’re all learning something new. Many people are spending 2 nights a week with a group, and another 15-20 hours a week struggling through the very first programs they’ve ever written.
Here’s the very best thing you can say when a PyLady shares her code with you:
“Thanks for sharing this!”
And then, after you’ve had a look:
“I’ve had a look and you’re doing a great job. Tell me about what you’ve written.”
Seriously. That’s about it.
If the PyLady asks specific questions, give your answers. Keep it short and sweet, and encouraging.
I’m laying this out because lots of the women who are trying this stuff out for the first time have loving, geeky spouses and friends who are very excited that the women in their lives are learning to speak their languages. And some of that enthusiasm comes in the form of detailed critique of style, formatting and design.
I’m here to let you off the hook. Just be encouraging, and ask a few open ended questions. That is all you need to do.
Because the reality is: the PyLady is her own worst critic. And, when she comes to a meetup, she can get the detailed help she needs from the other women who are struggling right along with her.
The people in the group have earned the right to share and receive feedback by strugging together. That’s the value of a cohort and one reason why PyLadies, and groups like them, are so important.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get your chance to share some code back, and maybe even write something together. But you build that coding relationship one encouraging step at a time.
If you’re interested in joining PyLadies-PDX, we’re meeting weekly through December, and then starting Monthly meetings on January.
And, if you want to read more about code review in general, here are some additional blog posts I found useful:
- On Code Review – Dave describes code review culture, why people review and the benefits of consistently reviewing, even trival patches
- 5 tips to make good code reviews
- Things everyone should do: Code Review “The biggest advantage of code review is purely social.” — total agreement, great post
- Code Reviews: Good idea, bad idea? “the key factors to successful code reviews are trust and training” and “As with any development tool, just using it is not enough — you must be sure you are using it in the right way”
- Coding Horror — Code Review: Just do it Jeff Atwood links to some dead stuff here (from 2006), but also quotes Code Complete which I found to be a good primer on big group programming projects.