human code review

Why Human Code Review Works Best in Online Coding Education

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Human code review. It’s like Marmite – you either hate it or you love it.  Either way, it’s a necessary and useful step in the web development process, especially if your approach is agile and you’re open to frequent, fast iterations. Coders are not the only people who derive significant benefits from peer review – copywriters, accountants, and even lawyers have found it to be an invaluable tool. It provides a “second pair of eyes” to look over how an issue has been resolved and ask some fundamental questions before you push the “go live” button. In the educational context, we believe that human code review is indispensable. Here’s why:


Who Needs Human Code Review?

Human code reviewers ask questions like:

  • Are there inconsistencies or logic errors in the code (a.k.a “gremlins that have crept in”)?
  • Are the existing automated tests sufficient in their ability to account for any changes in the code?
  • Are style guidelines being followed correctly?

As Palantir Technologies, suggests, code reviews are not only essential for newbies, they are helpful for even the most senior member of a team. This is because code reviews are not only about fishing out flaws and finding ways to improve on code. It’s about “mentorship and collaboration, and minimally diversifying the understanding of code in the code base.”


Human Code Review is a Two-Way Street

There seems to be a misconception amongst devs that code reviewers are laborious nitpickers who are out to poke holes in their code. We’d like to debunk this myth once and for all. It might surprise you to learn that code review is a two-way process – the reviewer benefits as much from the interaction as the coder does. This is because the process is a learning curve, created by the sharing of knowledge. The coder in question may use a technique or algorithm that reviewers can learn from. Likewise, reviewers may be familiar with newer programming techniques that may speed up the coding process or make it more efficient. No one wants to waste time going around in circles when the solution is a quick fix. That’s where experienced reviewers come in. As an educational tool, code reviews are the best way to find out whether you’re on the right track.


Be Prepared for the Working World

In the big wide world of web development, life is fast-paced and often, there is little room for error. As a web developer, you may find yourself in charge of large corporate databases or apps. Think about the development team behind the world’s largest stock exchanges. Now that’s some real pressure. That’s why human code review is so integral to the education process – it fosters a sense of accountability that will prepare you for the workplace. Your career as a web developer will require you to take initiative, make decisions on your feet and code until it becomes second nature. The code review process prepares you for the kind of environment where you are always improving and brushing up on your skills. For a coder, the learning process never ends.  


Develop an Efficiency-First Mindset

If you’ve chosen the route of online coding education as a way to kickstart your career as a web developer, at some point you will be exposed to automated code reviewing tools. Feel free to use them, but as José Castro advises, automated review systems simply cannot replace human reviewers. Instead, it’s meant to save reviewers valuable time “by spotting those issues that are recurrent and can be spotted automatically; these can be coding style issues, performance, code complexity, etc.” A number of experts on the subject agree that nothing can replace a good set of attentive human eyes. Human code review is about achieving quality in the long term – it won’t only provide you with a quick fix, it will give you the opportunity to learn where you went wrong and why. As you become accustomed to the process of “code, review, repeat” you’ll find a rhythm that will accelerate your workflow and improve the quality of your code. The axiom, “quality over quantity,” has never been more apt.

Automated tools are effective, but human or manual code review is still the last port of call in the biggest dev houses across the world. A more experienced developer will understand the pitfalls of solving problems using code, in a way that a machine simply can’t. There’s no artificial replacement for human experience.

We believe in the power of human code review to produce students that thrive as career developers. In fact, we’ve based our whole new business model on it. Connect with us and find out how you can become a code reviewer with Cogrammar.