Dual KVM Pairing

Previously when I’ve pair programmed (2 people programming at the same computer at the same time) I’ve always used one keyboard, screen and mouse (KVM – V means Video). In the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying out ‘dual KVM’ pairing though – in this scenario each programmer has their own keyboard, mouse and monitor, where the screens are setup to mirror each other (each person sees exactly the same thing)

This style of pairing isn’t new, and certainly is common on other teams at DRW, I just hadn’t used it before. In fact I had concerns, the principal ones being:

  1. Wouldn’t something be lost in communication with not having a shared physical screen? (I point at things on the screen fairly often when pairing)
  2. Wouldn’t programmers be constantly aware that they might be fighting each other for control of the mouse pointer / cursor if they had their own keyboard and mouse?

It turns out that I really like this style of pairing. My concerns with communication about the screen are largely alleviated by turning on line numbers in the code editor, and the keyboard and mouse fighting isn’t nearly the problem I feared. The benefits are chiefly ergonomic, but they are significant. Being able to look straight forward, and not having to lean in towards the keyboard and mouse makes work a lot more comfortable. The only thing I slightly miss is being able to use 2 screens for a stretched desktop, but that’s a price worth paying – I can always switch back the screens to this mode when I’m not pairing.

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