anthony galvin

Music to code by

What does work sound like.

What should work sound like.

If you walked the floors of a successful, creative digital agency with your eyes closed could you tell if ‘things’ were getting done.

I noticed that @crashposition had a couple of playlists called “Music for coding and thinking” - which got me thinking about the way developers use music.

One of the 12 items on the Joel Test is a quiet working environment, without distractions. For many developers, what this means in practice is a quiet environment where they can put on some oversized headphones to filter out interruptions and side conversations - and create their own carefully controlled musical accompaniment to coding.

In most cases developers are trying to create or maintain ’flow’. Flow is for many coders the thing that gives them most satisfaction - the point where almost effortlessly working code seems to shoot from the brain through the keyboard and onto the screen without interruption. Coding downhill, with your feet off the pedals.

For many developers a day with good flow is a ‘good day at the office’.

Flow can be deceptive - extended periods of head down development without collaboration or an alternative viewpoint can result in a spaghetti code pile up of insane proportions. I’ve worked on plenty of projects where someone sat up all night writing code poetry  - 'fixing everything’ - because they were in the zone - only to leave the team saddled with the Object Oriented equivalent of doggrel.

Collaboration is a key attribute of a good developer, something that is especially true within an agency environment, but also true for anyone who isn’t just a 'lone wolf’ developer. Which means how effective is 'headphones on, head down coding’? Finding the right channel and balance of communication is important - traditionally IRC has provided the right level of persistence and real time for most developer discussion, but increasingly new tools such as HipChat and Campfire are finding ground. This seems to be especially true with more distributed remote teams.

So what to listen whilst coding, or rephrased, is there a musical shortcut to achieving ‘flow’. If it was that simple then I’d have one playlist or a couple of tunes to listen to on loop that would instantly transport me to the land of easy coding. If only it was that simple.

#coding #work #music #flow #playlists #development

2014-01-20 15:39:27 GMT permalink