3. Peer Deskcheck/Over The Shoulder Review

Pros: Quick, easy to implement, can be done remotely
Cons: Not as in-depth, difficult to obtain metrics, no verification of follow-through
Perfect for: Almost everyone, especially when combined with other forms of peer review


A peer deskcheck, or over the shoulder review, is considered the least formal and generally most common form of peer review. As the descriptor “over the shoulder” suggests, these reviews are typically done by having another developer visit another’s work station and stand behind them as they go over the code they’ve worked on. This kind of review has been made even easier with today’s technology, as there are many screen sharing and remote desktop options available that mean a reviewer wouldn’t even have to leave their own station to perform the check. They’re fast, easy to implement, and add that fresh set of eyes that pair programming lacks.

The primary issue with deskcheck reviews is that because the author is the one in control of the presentation, the reviewer may not have a chance to check the code too thoroughly. The use of checklists and specific analysis methods may help increase effectiveness, however, it’s not a perfect solution. Even with the use of a checklist, a reviewer may still miss defects, especially in complex code, simply because they don’t have the chance look it over to the extent necessary.

Over the shoulder reviews can be a valuable way to help developers review and revise their work as they go along.
Over the shoulder reviews can be a valuable way to help developers review and revise their work as they go along.

4. Pass Around

Pros: Easy to implement, great for involving remote developers, doesn’t interrupt a developer’s work day
Cons: Hard to monitor, hard to verify follow-through
Perfect for: Companies with teams who can easily multitask and/or prefer online communication

According to Northeastern University’s Five Types of Review, pass around code checks are the second most common form of peer review. In this process, the author packages up the files they’ve worked on and emails them to other developers to have examine changes and provide feedback. In this way, the pass around method is able to overcome two of the major drawbacks of an over the shoulder peer deskcheck: reviewers are able to take their time and do a thorough check of the code, and the presence of multiple reviewers means that not only will there be feedback, there will be plenty of it. And because reviewers can perform the check at their leisure, it can be done when they are ready to take a break from their own work instead of forcing them to stop at a designated time that may be inopportune for them. Finally, because pass arounds are done via email or a check-in system, it’s incredibly easy to distribute the code in need of review to anyone, regardless of location.

However, that doesn’t mean that pass around reviews are without flaw. The biggest drawback is that it can rapidly become difficult to track changes in code, especially on a large project with frequent updates. Emails between developers concerning different aspects of the code may become convoluted, something that can be compounded by the inclusion of developers in another time-zone, especially overseas. Because developers are working at different times of the day – or on entirely different days! – it may take reviewers longer to go through any notes attached to the code before they can even begin to provide their own feedback. For this reason, project managers may still be unsure whether or not a block of code is getting the attention it requires, or that the defects are being properly handled. Furthermore, gathering metrics from pass around reviews is nigh impossible to determine efficiency or monitor the progress of the project.


We hope this helps make your search for the perfect review process a little easier. If you still need some assistance, please comment below or feel free to contact us. Make sure to like and share!

2017-06-06T14:04:26-04:00February 25th, 2016|Business Practices, Software Development, Tips and Tricks|

About the Author:

Andrew is a technical writer for Deep Core Data. He has been writing creatively for 10 years, and has a strong background in graphic design. He enjoys reading blogs about the quirks and foibles of technology, gadgetry, and writing tips.

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