First Impressions of AirPair

I heard about AirPair, a service that provides on demand remote pair programmers, at last years RailsConf. I was very intrigued, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I had the perfect excuse to try it out. I started working on a project with an aggressive timeline that used a few technologies I wasn’t too familiar with. I signed up for an AirPair account, explained my needs, and put in both a time and hourly budget (their experts cost anywhere from $100/hr all the way up to $300/hr). I also decided to put in a $1000 credit to the account, since they gave a small discount if you pre-purchased their services like this. About 20 minutes later I was connected with one expert, and within the hour I had a second option to choose from.

I was pretty exhausted, so took the night to think through which expert I’d choose in the back of my mind as I rested. When I got up the next morning, I ended up choosing the first programmer because I really thought he had some strong experience in the tech stack that I would be using. I went to AirPair’s website and tried booking him for an initial session from 1-3pm. Their user interface for selecting the time was actually kind of tricky, and to them it looked like I wanted to book from 3-5pm. This was fine since I was also free then. They had invited me to a private slack community, which I went to. I talked to both the founder of the company as well as the expert I would be programming with to solidify the details.

A few hours later I began my first AirPair session! It took a few minutes for them to send me the proper Google Hangout, and then there were some microphone issues, but we got programming quickly after. The expert that I paired with was great. We talked a bit about our backgrounds, what I needed help ramping up with, and the tasks that I needed to accomplish. Once we finished this initial phase of our session we quickly moved on to the actual pairing.

I shared my screen with my AirPair expert, and he immediately started driving while I moved the mouse and typed. He was very skilled at this, and gave clear instructions with succinct explanations for everything. Over the course of the next hour and a half I was able to install and grasp the basics of phonegap, which is something I’ve worked with only tangentially before. We ran into quite a few problems, and having an expert pairing right along side me turned what could have been hours of endlessly combing through stack overflow into minutes of discussion and resolution. The value of this can not be overstated. A programmer’s time is very expensive, and there are lots of cases where it’s simply more cost effective to pay AirPair to do a knowledge transfer via remote pair programming then trying to learn something on your own. What took an hour and a half could have taken me 10 times longer on my own, making the ROI a complete no brainer.

After our initial session I had another the next day, and made more progress emulating the app on iOS and Android, and have already scheduled another session for tomorrow morning to go over some more problematic areas of the app. Overall I’m very impressed with how organized, available (I picked some very strange times on short notice), well-matched, and valuable the service is. AirPair is definitely onto something, and it wouldn’t be outrageous to call them the Uber of Developers - a comparison that is overused but I think actually applies in this case. I have a few more hours still paid for, and beyond that I’m sure I’ll keep on buying more - it’s a really great service. I highly recommend anyone who wants to move faster on a project to try out AirPair, and see for yourself - you won’t regret it.