Recording Programming Sessions

I got Screenflow and a Snowflake with the intent to make screencasts, but found another use for them, that might be more valuable.

It started with me testing out my equipment. I wasn’t ready to do a scripted screencast, so I just coded for an hour, while talking, and looked at the results. I found that talking to myself out loud helped me figure things out more quickly in a couple of cases. And since I was testing my gear, talking to myself didn’t feel all that strange.

Some time after watching it, I wondered what it would be like to record myself frequently. Maybe if I did something really cool, I could take a look back and try to see what my thought process was, and it would reinforce it. Or, if I was in a slump, I could use it to remind myself what I’m capable of.

Then I asked myself whether it’s practical. The answer I got was a resounding “Sure it is!”. Space and processing power are cheap. With the default settings, Screenflow documents take roughly a gig an hour. 500 gigabyte hard drives can be had for under a hundred bucks. If I record 5 hours a day, which is a *lot*, it’s about a dollar a day for the space. Screenflow doesn’t take much processing power, or if it does, it doesn’t interfere with the work that I’m doing.

I’m not sure what the most clear analogy is to other fields, but there are obvious parallels. Disk Jockeys commonly record their experiments. Team sport coaches record their players’ performances.

I’m really excited about this. I can get part of the benefit of pair programming by talking out loud and learning from yourself, without the need for a willing partner. It’s also a journal that’s remarkably easy to write. It does take a lot of time to read, though, so I’ll probably only play back my favorite sessions, and I’ll only play bits and pieces of them most of the time.

The only caveat is I might feel like I’m my own big brother. I might as well get used to that, though, as I expect in the future there will be wearable video cameras that transparently archive everything. In fact, something like that’s probably already been built.

I still plan to do some screencasting. Stay tuned!

2 Replies to “Recording Programming Sessions”

  1. I remember learning that people can understand others at speeds of up to 2 or 3 times as fast as they normally talk. As an example of this, some people record lectures and play them back at twice the speed so they can review the information in half the time. This usually only applies to audio though, but you might benefit from speeding up the playback of your screencasts as well.

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