The Code Review Clinic ran on week 2 (8-12 November 2021) of the Research Software Camp: Beyond the Spreadsheet. There was one session in the morning and one in the afternoon from Monday to Friday. Our aim was to allow first time/beginner coders to get general but targeted feedback on their code from an expert.
We welcomed applications from first time / beginner coders mostly, but accepted applications from other levels of expertise too.
Participants shared a snippet of their code for review, from a short script or a couple of functions / subroutines (a maximum of 400 lines of code). If the submitted piece of code was part of a larger project, it would ideally be representative of the general coding practices on that project.
The selection process was based on the availability of volunteer reviewers and carried out on a first come, first serve basis. That is, if we only had one volunteer reviewer with expertise on C++, then we’d select the first suitable C++ code submission. We had a limit of 20 slots, 10 in the morning, and 10 in the afternoon.
Why submit your code
The clinic was not meant to be a formal discussion of an entire project, but rather an opportunity for both reviewers and code authors to have a conversation, exchange research software practices, and learn from each other’s experiences.
Remember that software never comes out perfect, so think of a code review as someone proofreading your code. It’s good to have a fresh pair of eyes to look over it as they may find flaws you couldn’t have spotted yourself.
What to expect from a clinic
The code review clinic sessions are 30 mins informal meetings whereby a code author discusses their code with the reviewer (someone with extensive experience with coding and reviewing other people’s codes).
A code review starts with the author of the code walking the reviewer through the code, explaining the details of the implementation. The reviewer(s) ask as many questions as they want until they feel they have a good understanding of the code.