How to setup your mobbing station

To get the most out of mob programming, it is crucial to setup a dedicated mobbing station. To begin, you’ll want to select an appropriate table and display. To take your setup to the next level, you’ll want to pay attention to the physical environment, acoustics, and ergonomics. This will enable your team to mob comfortably for extended periods, setting you up to realize the many benefits of mob programming.


The foundation of a mobbing station

At the fundamental level, a mobbing station consists of a table facing a large display. The table should be large enough to seat three people side-by-side, at minimum. The display should be large enough that people in the second row can read individual lines of code, in practice no smaller than 46”. But this is just the beginning.

Get a table that seats at least three people, and a display that’s at least 46”.

Get a table that seats at least three people, and a display that’s at least 46”.

Choosing the physical environment for your mobbing station

It’s important to setup your mobbing station in the right physical environment. To start, the station should be in an open setting. This is important for two reasons. First, it invites stakeholders to join the group. Second, it gives teammembers the notion of space. Working in an open space mitigates the buildup of pressure from mob interactions, and makes it easy for teammembers to step back.

What does this mean in practice? Instead of choosing to setup your mobbing station in a conference room, go for a spot with at least two open sides. You can delineate your space with dividers, such as rolling whiteboards. Don’t totally close your space off, though. It’s important to make your station inviting for stakeholders like UX designers and software architects. Now that you have a good setting, you’ll want to think about sound.

Acoustics and orientation for your mobbing station

It’s also important to pay attention to acoustics when you setup your mobbing station. You’ll want a buzz that stimulates activity, but that doesn’t throw people off their flow. To realize this, start off in an open environment near other teams. The proximity of productive work will drive you on. Furthermore, you’ll want to think about how you orient your team.

Properly orienting your mobbing station will help you manage visual and acoustic stimuli. With regards to visual stimulus, your screen will shield you well from distractions directly in front. It doesn’t stop there though. You’ll also want to shield the areas directly to the sides of your display, since humans are wired to respond to peripheral movement. For this, you can choose to setup your mobbing station against a wall, or to place dividers on either side of your displays.

Use dividers such as whiteboards to help your team manage acoustic and visual stimuli.

Use dividers such as whiteboards to help your team manage acoustic and visual stimuli.

As you settle on your mobbing station’s orientation, it’s smart to use acoustic shielding elements. This will benefit your team, and your neighbors. Remember, mob programming conversations can get lively. To get started, you can use whiteboards on wheels. For even more effect, you can use acoustic dividers and ceiling panels. Don’t go overboard, though. You want to foster a healthy buzz that drives you on.

Proper ergonomics for your mobbing station

To enable your team to mob sustainably, it’s important to support proper ergonomics. The top elements to pay attention to are the display and the table. The top of the display should be no higher than eye-level of a standing teammate. The table should afford switching between standing and sitting. Correspondingly, there should also be standing and sitting options available. Yet these are just the basics.

Set the top of your display at eye level of a standing teammate.

Set the top of your display at eye level of a standing teammate.

There are several additional elements you can consider to upgrade your ergonomic setup. To start, you can offer a variety of seats. Think task chairs, bar stools, exercise balls, and sofas. Beyond encouraging movement, this variety supports the different postures of mob programming: from forward-leaning focus to reclining reflection. Other elements to consider are the input devices. Opt for a mechanical keyboard that all teammembers can agree on using, and consider an ergonomic mouse. You’ll be running mob marathons in no time.

Computer and displays for your mobbing station

For any team, the most effective way of mob programming is on one computer. For teams committed to mobbing, it’s highly recommended to get a dedicated server for your mobbing station. For teams experimenting, it’s important to select one computer and one environment. Sticking to one machine goes a long way to optimizing your mob programming flow.

It’s also recommended to use more than one display. This simplifies managing multiple windows and enables your team to keep better track of messaging apps. They don’t all have to be large either. You can complement your primary 46”+ display with a more modest monitor. Whatever choice you make, there’s always opportunity to improve on it.

Continuously improving your mobbing station

Keep in mind that your mobbing station setup is never set in stone. As with any agile way of working, it’s important to hold regular retrospectives and experiment to continuously improve your setup. Once a week is a good start. You may choose to adjust the screen height, get additional screens, or change the placement of dividers. There’s not one correct way.

You may also find that your mobbing station looks different from someone else’s. Some may be more enclosed. Some may prefer to stand versus sit. This is normal. Different teams will favor different configurations, all dependent on the individuals that make up each mob. In fact, seeing how others teams setup their mobbing station is a valuable opportunity to learn.

Main takeaways for your mobbing station

To maximize the benefits of mob programming, you’ll want to setup a dedicated mobbing station. Getting an appropriate table and display is just the start. To ensure your team is comfortable mobbing for extended periods, you’ll want to choose an open environment, setup visual and acoustic shielding, and offer ergonomic seating and input devices. And remember, no setup is ever final. You’ll want to run regular retrospectives and experiment to continuously improve your mobbing station. With all that in mind, you’ll be mob programming like never before!