Code Reading Club

Code Reading Club

Last April, in the darkness of the early pandemic, we were looking for ways to reconnect socially, and to keep our learning flourishing despite tricky conditions.

It was our friends at Neontribe who introduced us to Dr Felienne Hermans and her work on Code Reading Clubs. We tried it, and loved it.

In this post you'll learn about what a Code Reading Club is, the benefits they bring, and how you can start exploring this technique and improving your own team's learning culture.

A snippet of solidity code from an etherium smart contract

What is it?

In essence a Code Reading Club is a bit like a book club, and a bit like a lighthearted kick-about in the park.

A small group meet regularly to read and discuss short pieces of code. Each session is facilitated by a member of the group who has selected the code sample for the occasion, and who guides the group through a series of exploratory exercises. Over time the group improves its technique through practice and by exploring new approaches through different exercises.

What are the benefits?

While the structure is simple and the risk and investment are low we've found the benefits to be astounding.

  1. Experienced developers know that their work invariably involves reading more code than writing it, but little attention is paid to reading technique. By actively training these muscles we get immediate benefits.
  2. Code Reading Clubs encounter unfamiliar languages and patterns all the time. But they do so in safety. This decreases fear of change and is a vector for the introduction of new ideas.
  3. Fledgling developers get valuable insights about how other colleagues leverage their experience to handle the unfamiliar. This accelerates learning appreciably.
  4. Folk from other disciplines such as Design and Product Management can participate. This removes some of the mystique around code and builds a team's ability to hold fluid inter-disciplinary conversations.
  5. Becoming a facilitator for a session is a comparatively low-risk way of building those skills. We can use this to democratise agile ceremonies.
  6. Because the group selects and re-selects the exploratory techniques it finds valuable in order to evolve its practice we can see Code Reading Club as an exemplar of, and training for, agile practice.
  7. It's fun. So much fun we'd still do it even if we weren't getting paid ;-)

How can I start?

If we've piqued your interest you can self-start your own journey using the resources at https://code-reading.org. If you'd like help with a guided approach why not get in touch with rupert@lola.tech?

Backed by science

In closing we'd like to congratulate Dr Felienne Hermans on winning the Dutch Prize for ICT research 2021. We note with surprise that sometimes the value of her work has been challenged. We are here to confirm the business, educational and personal value which it generates. Thanks Felienne!

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