It Will Never Work in Theory

Short summaries of recent results in empirical software engineering research

2017-11-26: Developer Testing in the IDE
Keywords: Programming Practices

Moritz Beller, Georgios Gousios, Annibale Panichella, Sebastian Proksch, Sven Amann, and Andy Zaidman: "Developer Testing in The IDE: Patterns, Beliefs, And Behavior". IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 2017, 10.1109/TSE.2017.2776152. Software testing is one of the key activities to software quality in practice. Despite its importance, however, we have a remarkable lack of knowledge on how developers test in real-world projects. In this paper, we report on the surprising results of a large-scale field study with 2,443 software engineers whose development activities we closely monitored over the course of 2.5 years in four Integrated Development Environments (IDEs). Our findings question several...

2017-11-26: Abbreviated vs. Full-Word Identifier Names
Keywords: Programming Languages

Giuseppe Scanniello, Michele Risi, Porfirio Tramontana, and Simone Romano: "Fixing Faults in C and Java Source Code: Abbreviated vs. Full-Word Identifier Names". ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology, 25(2), October 2017, 10.1145/3104029. We carried out a family of controlled experiments to investigate whether the use of abbreviated identifier names, with respect to full-word identifier names, affects fault fixing in C and Java source code. This family consists of an original (or baseline) controlled experiment and three replications. We involved 100 participants with different backgrounds and experiences in total. Overall results suggested that there is no difference in terms of...

2016-12-01: Hiatus
Keywords: Community

This site is on hiatus until further notice: in the wake of recent political events, our community's energy and attention should be focused on more important things. If you can, please get involved in projects like this.

2016-10-05: Test-Driven Development
Keywords: Testing

Davide Fucci, Giuseppe Scanniello, Simone Romano, Martin Shepperd, Boyce Sigweni, Fernando Uyaguari, Burak Turhan, Natalia Juristo, and Markku Oivo: "An External Replication on the Effects of Test-driven Development Using a Multi-site Blind Analysis Approach", ESEM 2016. Context: Test-driven development (TDD) is an agile practice claimed to improve the quality of a software product, as well as the productivity of its developers. A previous study (i.e., baseline experiment) at the University of Oulu (Finland) compared TDD to a test-last development (TLD) approach through a randomized controlled trial. The results failed to support the claims. Goal: We want to validate the original...

2016-10-02: Revisiting the Anatomy and Physiology of the Grid
Keywords: Software Architecture, Grid Computing

Chris A. Mattmann, Joshua Garcia, Ivo Krka, Daniel Popescu, and Nenad Medvidovic: "Revisiting the Anatomy and Physiology of the Grid", Journal of Grid Computing, 13(1), March 2015. A domain-specific software architecture (DSSA) represents an effective, generalized, reusable solution to constructing software systems within a given application domain. In this paper, we revisit the widely cited DSSA for the domain of grid computing. We have studied systems in this domain over the last ten years. During this time, we have repeatedly observed that, while individual grid systems are widely used and deemed successful, the grid DSSA is actually underspecified to the...

2016-10-02: FIDEX: Filtering Spreadsheet Data using Examples
Keywords: Spreadsheets, Programming by Example

Xinyu Wang, Sumit Galwani, and Rishabh Singh: "FIDEX: Filtering Spreadsheet Data using Examples", OOPSLA 2016. Data filtering in spreadsheets is a common problem faced by millions of end-users. The task of data filtering requires a computational model that can separate intended positive and negative string instances. We present a system, FIDEX, that can efficiently learn desired data filtering expressions from a small set of positive and negative string examples. There are two key ideas of our approach. First, we design an expressive DSL to represent disjunctive filter expressions needed for several real-world data filtering tasks. Second, we develop an efficient...

2016-10-01: Apex: Automatic Programming Assignment Error Explanation
Keywords: Education, Tools, Program Analysis, Symbolic Execution

Dohyeong Kim, Yongwhi Kwon, Peng Liu, I Luk Kim, David Mitchel Perry, Xiangyu Zhang, and Gustavo Rodriguez-Rivera: "Apex: Automatic Programming Assignment Error Explanation", OOPSLA 2016. This paper presents Apex, a system that can automatically generate explanations for programming assignment bugs, regarding where the bugs are and how the root causes led to the runtime failures. It works by comparing the passing execution of a correct implementation (provided by the instructor) and the failing execution of the buggy implementation (submitted by the student). The technique overcomes a number of technical challenges caused by syntactic and semantic differences of the two implementations....

2016-09-30: Purposes, Concepts, Misfits, and a Redesign of Git
Keywords: Programming Tools, Software Design

Santiago Perez De Rosso and Daniel Jackson: "Purposes, Concepts, Misfits, and a Redesign of Git", SPLASH 2016. Git is a widely used version control system that is powerful but complicated. Its complexity may not be an inevitable consequence of its power but rather evidence of flaws in its design. To explore this hypothesis, we analyzed the design of Git using a theory that identifies concepts, purposes, and misfits. Some well-known difficulties with Git are described, and explained as misfits in which underlying concepts fail to meet their intended purpose. Based on this analysis, we designed a reworking of Git (called...

2016-09-21: Paradise Unplugged
Keywords: Diversity

Denae Ford, Justin Smith, Philip J. Guo, and Chris Parnin: "Paradise Unplugged: Identifying Barriers for Female Participation on Stack Overflow", FSE'16. It is no secret that females engage less in programming fields than males. However, in online communities, such as Stack Overflow, this gender gap is even more extreme: only 5.8% of contributors are female. In this paper, we use a mixed-methods approach to identify contribution barriers females face in online communities. Through 22 semi-structured interviews with a spectrum of female users ranging from non-contributors to a top 100 ranked user of all time, we identified 14 barriers preventing them...

2016-09-16: Five From ICER'16
Keywords: Education

These papers were all presented at the 12th Annual International Computing Education Research conference in Melbourne earlier this month, and give a good sense of what CS education researchers are looking at and what they're finding. Elizabeth Patitsas, Jesse Berlin, Michelle Craig, and Steve Easterbrook: "Evidence That Computer Science Grades Are Not Bimodal", 10.1145/2960310.2960312. Although it has never been rigourously demonstrated, there is a common belief that CS grades are bimodal. We statistically analyzed 778 distributions of final course grades from a large research university, and found only 5.8% of the distributions passed tests of multimodality. We then devised a...