The Case for Peer Review


worth the gain in bug-fixing, code maintainability, or in mentoring new developers.  The techniques that provide the benefits of peer code review while mitigating the pitfalls and managing developers' time are competitive advantages that no one wants to reveal.

Unfortunately for these successful software development organizations, we make a living making lightweight, agile code review accessible and efficient for everyone.  And that's the subject of this CM Crossroads Article Series.

I'm interested.  Gimme the details!

So code review works, but what if developers waste too much time doing it?  What if the social ramifications of personal critiquing ruin morale?  How can review be implemented in a measurable way so you can identify process problems?

In this article series we will cover case studies of review in the real world and show which conclusions you can draw from them (and which you can't).  We will give our own case study of 2500 reviews.  We will give pro's and con's for the five most common types of review.  We will explain how to take advantage of the positive social and personal aspects of review as well as ways managers can mitigate negative emotions that can arise.  We will explain how to implement a review within a CMMI/PSP/TSP context.  We will give specific advice on how to construct a peer review process that meets specific goals.  Finally, we will describe a tool that our customers have used to make certain kinds of reviews as painless and efficient as possible.

Code review can be practical, efficient, and even fun.  Stay tuned!

(Special thanks to Steven Teleki ( for his insights into the parallel between the rise of OOP and the modern rise of peer code review.)

About the author

Jason Cohen's picture Jason Cohen

Jason Cohen is the author of Best Kept Secrets of Peer Code Review, the definitive work on the new process of Lightweight peer review with 7,000 copies in circulation. Jason conducted and published the largest case study of peer code review at Cisco Systems®—2,500 reviews over 10 months with a real, delivered product. Jason is also the founder of Smart Bear Inc., makers of Code Collaborator that assists developers and managers with lightweight peer code review processes. Jason has spoken at many conferences, trade shows, and ACM/IEEE society meetings across the country.

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