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Little is known about the specific kinds of questions programmers ask when evolving a code base and how well existing tools support those questions. To better support the activity of programming, answers are needed to three broad research questions: (1) what does a programmer need to know about a code base when evolving a software system? (2) how does a programmer go about finding that information? and (3) how well do existing tools support programmer?s in answering those questions? We undertook two qualitative studies of programmers performing change tasks to provide answers to these questions. In this paper, we report on an analysis of the data from these two user studies. This paper makes three key contributions. The first contribution is a catalog of 44 types of questions programmers ask during software evolution tasks. The second contribution is a description of the observed behavior around answering those questions. The third contribution is a description of how existing deployed and proposed tools do, and do not, support answering programmers' questions.


Yann-Gaël Guéhéneuc, 2014/01/08

In this paper, the authors seek to provide the typical questions asked by developers during real change tasks. Knowing such questions could help designing tool support that is more efficient than today's tool support. It could also help refining models of program comprehension. Thus, it complements nicely previous works on models of program comprehension, programmers' questions, and empirical studies of change. This paper includes a very interesting list of references but unfortunately does not relate in details the cited previous work with the 44 questions discussed in the paper. In particular when it describes other works on programmers' questions, it does not explicitly relate previous works by:

  1. Jonhson and Erdem who studied Usenet newsgroup and classified questions as goal oriented, symptom oriented, and system oriented;
  2. Herbsleb and Kuwana who studied design meetings and classified questions according to their targets (evolve, task assignment, interface, realization, and identity), attribute (who, what, how, why, when), and lifecycle stages (requirements, design, implementation, maintenance);
  3. Letovsky who studied programmers and classified their conjectures as why, how, what, whether, and discrepency;
  4. Erdos and Sneed, based on their personal experience, who reported questions such as “where is a particular subroutine/procedure invoked” and “what are the arguments and results of a given function”;
  5. Erdem et al. who reused their study of Usenet newsgroups and classified questions based on their topic, type, and relation;
  6. Ko et al. who studied co-located software teams and classified questions as about writing code, submitting change, triaging bugs, reproducing a failure, understanding execution behaviour, reasoning about a design, and maintaining awareness;

The authors observed two sets of developers: pair programmers in an artificial environment (pairs of students performing change tasks on an unknown system) and in a real environment (professional developers performing changes on a system that their company develops).

asking_and_answering_questions_during_a_programming_change_task.1389182292.txt.gz · Last modified: 2018/03/04 02:53 (external edit)