The Rubbing Elbows pattern is a solution to the problem of productivity reaching a plateau. If you always develop software by yourself, you may eventually get the feeling that there are superior techniques that you don’t know about. In order to fix this, you must rub elbows with another software developer. This means you must work on a hands-on task, side-by-side. This is necessary because there are some things that can only be learned when you are sitting with another software developer working to accomplish something. There are many little techniques that can only be picked up when collaborating closely with somebody. The author uses pair programming as an example of this pattern. Apprentices should always look for opportunities to work on teams that use the technique of pair programming. However, pair programming isn’t the only application of this pattern. You can collaborate on a number of things such as a presentation, academic paper, or an open source project’s sprint. The goal of this pattern is to find ways to expose yourself to the working habits of other skilled people so that you can pick up on those habits and refine your skills.
I think that this pattern makes a lot of sense. If you are programming by yourself all the time, you will almost certainly reach a plateau because you aren’t being exposed to new ideas and techniques. Reading this pattern made me realize how important it is to work side-by-side with other people. It is true that by doing this you will pick up on the small techniques that the other person uses, and will learn things that can’t be taught in a book or classroom. I really liked the Richard Sennett quote about the ideal craft workshop. It captures the idea that gaining knowledge isn’t just about listening to words, but absorbing the thousands of little techniques that make up a skill. After reading this pattern I have a greater appreciation for pair programming, as I now realize the benefits of working on a task right next to somebody. Overall I found this pattern very useful and it has inspired me to rub elbows with fellow software developers.