Have you ever avoided your crush entirely

In the German-speaking world, the word mob programming - for the concept in which a whole group of programmers programs on a single computer - is too close to bullying for many. It has therefore become the term Swarm programming naturalized.

However, if you replace an old metaphor - with driver, navigator, and often also scout, facilitator and housekeeper - with a new one, there is the possibility of further exploring the freedom of thought that this opens up. And at the end even more effective to be programmed in the group.

We have tested this method and put it into practice - and expanded it!

New words, new roles

First of all, it was important to us to find an appropriate, coherent vocabulary. The drone sits at the laptop and writes code. The OVERMIND (all-caps are important here) is the united voice of the Crushwhich includes all participants; including the drone.

There are no other roles. This is important. Only through flat hierarchies can you really make use of swarm intelligence.

Swarm programming process

In the outdated concept of mob programming, one uses the creativity of the masses. Individuals may notice things that the group may have missed.

In practice, however, this concept is hopelessly inefficient. Our swarm programming approach solves this problem: when a member of the swarm notices something, they introduce the idea. All members of the swarm then repeat this idea, simultaneously and in one voice, speaking as the OVERMIND, who tells the drone what to do.

Any discussion is strictly prohibited here and runs counter to the concept of the swarm. The crush is only a crush if it has a consensus. However, with enough practice, we found that the concept of independent thinking can be suppressed well.

The success is obvious: decisions are made faster and thus lead to higher productivity.

Springboard for new processes

With this solid foundation, we were able to quickly introduce additional concepts that further agilize the process.

to hum

Just as the construction of ships is based on the physiognomy of dolphins, software developers can also take an example from nature: All members of the swarm are encouraged to hum when they are not acting as OVERMIND or the swarm with new ideas present. Unnecessary, dissident, deviant voices are prevented and group awareness is strengthened.

Our practical experience shows that this also strengthens concentration! In fact, two-thirds of our participants stated that they had difficulty getting a clear thought at all, which removed all obstacles in the implementation of modern solutions in enterprise Java frameworks. The implementation of complex architectures, which include technologies such as single-consumer Kafka, blockchain, cloud migration without a security concept or the like, is much easier if there is no one who asks the unnecessary question about the meaning behind the technology decision.

Bee dance

Many studies (more than could ever be linked here) show that there are many more visual than auditory thinkers among humans. So why should ideas only be presented verbally?

Just as the bees communicate information over long distances through their dance, developers * can also underline their ideas with body language through rhythmic movements in order to communicate even more clearly. The swarm then has the task of taking part in these movements as OVERMIND. They are repeated so often until they are really in sync with everyone, which drastically reduces miscommunication.

Furthermore, the health benefits of exercise in the workplace cannot be emphasized enough.

Swarm memory

Since the bee dance meant that certain concepts had to be performed up to fifteen times, there was a strong memory effect from this repetition. In fact, no fewer than three participants stated that they had followed the refactorings discussed to their dreams.

So we made use of this effect! Why minutes and documentation when most of the participants could remember everything with such clarity? The time saved was immediately noticeable and we are now thinking out loud about the abolition of our wiki.


The bad (?) News is that our swarm programming needs at least 7 people to be fully effective. (Though also Solo swarm programming a good way to practice the SSSS cycle underlying swarm programming is: Suggest ReflectSequencingto hum.)

The good news, however, is that our method can be scaled up at will. It is therefore at least on a par with conventional frameworks such as SAFE.


Should there be - contrary to expectations - problems, here are a few ideas that could help you reduce impediments.

Flatten hierarchies

The idea of ​​flat hierarchies is not really easy to implement or implement in all companies.

In order to facilitate the assimilation of employees into a workable collective, uniform outfits are recommended. Jeans and black turtlenecks have proven their worth in practice, but hoodies of the same color with a clearly visible company logo help to reduce the cumbersome individuality.

Mitigate divergence

Not all employees fall into class swarm light. The reverse fish-bowl emphasized: The divergent employee sits down on a chair in the middle, the crush speaks instructions that the employee has to repeat.

It is (first) important to avoid eye contact and (second) the crush should never use the employee's name. Names are a relic of individualism and have no place in the swarm!

This exercise is repeated until the employee has fitted into the swarm ten times in a row without errors. We recommend ninety-minute sessions, then pause to drink water, then continue until the problem is resolved.

Infinite potential

These are only the first approaches for a broad field of increasing efficiency. Swarm programming has led to a complete transformation of our corporate culture within a very short time.

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