9 songs to never - ever - pair program to

Many programmers love to listen to music while coding; but pair programmers should be extra careful about what they choose to play

bieber-600x450_0.jpgREUTERS/Mike Cassese
Unless you or your pair programming partner is a tweenaged girl, it's best to avoid playing the Biebs when coding

The question of whether music boosts productivity is an age old one. Studies have been conducted, some supporting one side of the argument, others supporting the other. To me, these studies are a waste of time. The effect of music on productivity depends on the person (not to mention the music). Some people (like me) feel that music really does help them to focus, while others (like my wife) can’t work with music playing. C’est la vie!

Of course, listening to music isn’t an option for some jobs (e.g., judge, airline pilot, televangelist) while other careers seem tailor made to being done while grooving out. Programmer is definitely one of the latter professions. Sitting at a computer by your lonesome all day, with access to an essentially unlimited amount and variety of tunes through your mobile device or computer, just begs for it. 

Many folks have shared, discussed and analyzed the perfect music to code to. I’m not going to add to that well-worn discussion. Sure, when I was coding, I had my favorite tunes to get me going; for example, I always found the Smashing Pumpkins went well with Perl. But, again, whatever works for you, music or silence, Beethoven or Cee Lo, more power to you.

However, with the rise of pair programming, I think there’s a whole new angle to this discussion. What if one person likes to code to music but the other doesn’t? What if they both like to have music playing, but one prefers Django Reinhardt and the other Kanye West?

I never pair programmed, but this has gotten me to thinking: assuming two people pair programming together both want to listen to music while they work, regardless of their individual tastes, what music, or songs, should definitely be avoided at all costs? It seems to me that the wrong choice of music could pretty severely affect the chemistry of the pair and the quality of their output.

To that end, I’ve come up with my own list of 9 Songs to Never - Ever - Pair Program To

Afroman Because I Got High - If either you or your partner partake of the wacky weed, this song is only going to lead to one or both of you on the couch watching SpongeBob and OD’ing on Oreos and canned cake frosting.

Pink Floyd One of These Days - If you and your pair programming partner aren’t getting along, playing a song that features the line, “One of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces” probably isn’t the way to go.

Anything by Van Halen - The last thing your project needs is two programmers getting into fisticuffs over who was the better VH lead singer: David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar (not that it should even be a discussion; Diamond Dave was Van Halen).

Beck Jackass - Great song (which samples from another great song) but, be careful if you decided to queue up this one; your partner may take it the wrong way.

Starland Vocal Band Afternoon Delight - Unless you and your coding partner are a couple, this 70s classic could send the wrong message to your partner (AWKWARD!). Even if you were a couple, this could inspire some activity which could definitely hurt productivity.

The Beatles Helter Skelter - Now, I love the Beatles just about as much as I love my kids. But, even I would strongly recommend against playing a song that was an inspiration to Charles Manson when working closely with another. No need to fan any pyschotic embers that may be smoldering in your partner.

Lynyrd Skynyrd Freebird - It’s going to be hard to get your partner to focus when he or she is standing there swaying with a lighter in hand.

Jimi Hendrix The Star Spangled Banner - If you’re an Agile shop, this will be very bad for your velocity, unless you consider playing air guitar work.

Justin Bieber Baby - If you’re a 30-something programmer and not a tweenaged girl, this song is only going to release of flood of repressed middle school memories. It’s hard to code through tears.

Of course, this is just the list of one 40-something man. I’m sure your list may differ. Please share...

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