Alexander Bird Software • Blog

Learning to build useful, valuable software as part of a team.

The Active Code Reviewee

Getting the most from a quiet reviewer

A constructive, collaborative, non-confrontational code review culture can make a big impact by disseminating knowledge throughout the team, and improving the overall quality of the code. What do you do when you find yourself on a team that doesn't do code reviews regularly?

It should be easy enough to ask a peer for a code review

Hey, do you have a few minutes to come by my desk and do a code review for me?

But if your reviewer isn't in the habit of reviewing, you may need to drive the review if you want to get something out of it. As the person who's code is being reviewed, you may need to ask pointed questions or even explain how to review code. I'm calling that role an active code reviewee.

There are other situations where you might need to be an active reviewee:

This is not a new problem

Consider Better Questions for Better Design Feedback, an article about eliciting feedback on UI designs. Dan Brown says:

What is the single worst question to ask after presenting a design?

“So what do you think?”

Last week when I was prompting my code reviewer for more feedback, I think I went with

Do you have any feedback?

which I don't think is much better than "So what do you think?".

What I should have asked instead

Here are some ideas for more constructive and specific questions to ask your code reviewer:

You can probably think of many more questions that fit well with your team, project goals, context, etc. The point is to have some questions ready.

To sum up

When you have to be an active reviewee, take some time in advance to list what are you hoping to improve through this review? During the review, ask specific questions to elicit that sort of feedback from your reviewer.

Happy collaborating!

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Written 2019-05