Thursday, May 6, 2010

Intangible Benefits of In-Person Peer Reviews

Beyond finding bugs, in my opinion, in-person reviews also provide the following intangible benefits:
  • Synergy of comments: one reviewer's comment triggers something in another reviewer's head that leads to more thorough reviews.
  • Training: probably not everyone on your team has 25 years+ experience. Reviews are a way for the younger team members to learn about everything having to do with embedded systems.
  • Focus: we'd all rather be doing something than be in a meeting room, but a review meeting masks human interrupts pretty effectively -- if you silence your cell phone and exit your e-mail client.
  • Pride: make a point of saying something nice about code you are reviewing. It will help the ego of the author (we all need ego stroking!) and give the new guys something concrete to learn from.
  • Consistency: a group review is going to be more effective at encouraging code and design consistency and in making sure everything follows whatever standards are relevant. In on-line reviews you might not make the effort to comment upon things that aren't hard-core bugs, but in a meeting it is much easier to make a passing comment about finer points of style that doesn't need to be logged as an issue.
So if you're going to spend the effort to do reviews, it is probably worth spending the extra effort to make them actual physical meetings rather than e-mail pass-arounds. Chapter 22 of my book discusses peer reviews in more detail.

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