Every programmer may dread the thought of a colleague peeking over his or her shoulder, double-checking code, but SAS Global Forum paper winner David Scocca has offered his tips for making code reviews a painless process. His paper, Communicating Standards: A Code Review Experience, is a must-read. Here’s a peek at some of his top three tips:
1. Think positive: Entering the process with an optimistic outlook can improve the process for both managers and programmers alike. For managers, Scocca recommends approaching code reviews as an educational, not punitive exercise. One way to banish the negative connotations of a review is to record participation of all parties involved. As a programmer, staying positive can turn code reviews into an on opportunity to collaborate with colleagues without a project deadline looming overhead. Some of Scocca’s coworkers even used them as an opportunity to pick the brains of more experienced programmers.
2. Create clear guidelines: Having your whole team on the same page is essential to having a smooth and efficient code review. Your group’s standards may be scattered across several different documents, but Scocca recommends compiling them into one master guide. In addition to a one-stop document for standards, he also suggests creating uniform checklists for reviewers. Programmers can then reference these materials to prepare themselves for future reviews. Clear communication can be especially helpful when it comes to tricky areas like reviewing programs with inherited code, and sticking to one set of standards makes the process fair and transparent
3. Be open to feedback: One of the developers at Scocca’s firm mentioned that “it’s hard not to be defensive when someone finds fault with your work (even when justified),” and while this reaction is common, it hinders professional development. Thanks to changing his outlook and focusing on being more receptive, this developer eventually described the process as “positive.” In another instance, Scocca notes that one of the reviewers became a mentor to his reviewee. On the management side, being open to feedback can help streamline the process and address the negative perception of code reviews in your team.
Interested in hearing how you can handle the issue of inherited code? Or see how Scocca’s firm reacted to the new code review? Read more of David Scocca’s SAS Global Forum winning paper to find out.