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Developer-centric models: easing access to relevant information in a software development environment

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Title: Developer-centric models: easing access to relevant information in a software development environment
Author: Fritz, Thomas
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Computer Science
Copyright Date: 2011
Publicly Available in cIRcle 2011-04-18
Abstract: During the development of a software system, large amounts of new information, such as source code, work items and documentation, are produced continuously. As a developer works, one of his major activities is to consult portions of this information pertinent to his work to answer the questions he has about the system and its development. Current development environments are centered around models of the artifacts used in development, rather than of the people who perform the work, making it difficult and sometimes infeasible for the developer to satisfy his information needs. We introduce two developer-centric models, the degree-of-knowledge (DOK) model and the information fragments model, which support developers in accessing the small portions of information needed to answer the questions they have. The degree-of-knowledge model computes automatically, for each source code element in the development environment, a real value that represents a developer's knowledge of that element based on a developer's authorship and interaction data. We present evidence that shows that both authorship and interaction information are important in characterizing a developer's knowledge of code. We report on the usage of our model in case studies on expert finding, knowledge transfer and identifying changes of interest. We show that our model improves upon an existing expertise finding approach and can accurately identify changes for which a developer should likely be aware. Finally, we discuss the robustness of the model across multiple development sites and teams. The information fragment model automates the composition of different kinds of information and allows developers to easily choose how to display the composed information. We show that the model supports answering 78 questions that involve the integration of information siloed by existing programming environments. We identified these questions from interviews with developers. We also describe how 18 professional developers were able to use a prototype tool based on our model to successfully and quickly answer 94% of eight of the 78 questions posed in a case study. The separation of composition and presentation supported by the model, allowed the developers to answer the questions according to their personal preferences.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/33716
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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