Are in-person code review meetings a bad thing?

on Jul 6, 10 • by Brendan Harrison • with 2 Comments

As readers know, we’ve been talking about code reviews pretty regularly here and elsewhere over the past few months. To continue that discussion, here’s a question we run into often: are in-person code reviews as the primary way to communicate, by definition a bad thing? Here’s some more data from...

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As readers know, we’ve been talking about code reviews pretty regularly here and elsewhere over the past few months. To continue that discussion, here’s a question we run into often: are in-person code reviews as the primary way to communicate, by definition a bad thing?

Here’s some more data from the Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Klocwork that shows the majority of respondents still conduct in-person reviews… elsewhere in the survey only 36% of respondents indicated that they worked on a centralized team with everyone in one location. So that means, if 60% still conduct in-person reviews, they’re likely excluding valuable contributors to the review.

 

 

Data that shows majority still conduct in-person code reviews

 

 

Is this practice just being done because “that’s the way it is” or are there good reasons for in-person meetings being the primary way to review code? I could see the odd in-person meeting being necessary for a variety of reasons but given how distributed teams are these days and the variety of tools available to effectively review code remotely, it doesn’t seem that efficient.

There’s a general philosophy gaining more prominence around meeting reduction, whether in software development or elsewhere. We’re seeing many organizations question why their code review process needs to be in-person when it excludes people who aren’t co-located and generally takes up too much of people’s time. What are you seeing?

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2 Responses to Are in-person code review meetings a bad thing?

  1. Gregg Sporar says:

    Yes, we’re seeing many teams that want the power of code review tools in order to help them deal with teams that are separated geographically.

    Having said that, there are some key benefits to in-person meetings. We’ve worked with several customers who combine the two.

    I think the key thing to be careful about here is the term “in-person meetings.” The Forrester study had this question: “For your code reviews, how does the reviewing team primarily communicate?”

    Based on Figure 3 in the study, one of the options for response was “In person.” That term is a bit vague. It would be the logical choice regardless of whether the code review technique was pair programming, ad-hoc over-the-shoulder discussions, or formal meetings at a specific time/location. Those are all three very different techniques, and only the last of them is really the target of the 37Signals entry on the evilness of meetings.

    So to me, the 60% response is not that surprising and might not be a cause for alarm. I noticed in Figure 7 of the study that only 24% of respondents found it a challenge to get “everyone into one location.” Those folks are the ones who are probably at highest risk for not getting review participation from the appropriate team members.

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