Focus of activities planned for 2023

Derek Jones from The Shape of Code

In 2023, my approach to evidence-based software engineering pivots away from past years, which were about maximizing the amount of software engineering data gathered.

I plan to spend a lot more time attempting to join dots (i.e., finding useful patterns in the available data), and I also plan to spend time collecting my own data (rather than other peoples’ data).

I will continue to keep asking people for data, and I’m sure that new data will become available (and be the subject of blog posts). The amount of previously unseen data obtained by continuing to read pre-2020 papers is likely to be very small, and not worth targetting. Post-2020 papers will be the focus of my search for new data (mostly conference proceedings and arXiv’s software engineering recent submissions)

It would be great if there was an active community of evidence-based developers. The problem is that the people with the necessary skills are busily employed building real systems. I’m hopeful that people with the appropriate background and skills will come out of the woodwork.

Ideally, I would be running experiments with developer subjects; this is the only reliable way to verify theories of software engineering. While it’s possible to run small scale experiments with developer volunteers, running a workplace scale experiment will be expensive (several million pounds/dollars). I don’t move in the circles frequented by the very wealthy individuals who might fund such an experiment. So this is a back-burner project.

if-statements continue to be of great interest to me; they represent decisions that relate to requirements and tests that need to be written. I used to spend a lot of time measuring, mostly C, source code: how the same variable is tested in nested conditions, the use of else arms, and the structuring of conditions within a function. The availability of semgrep will, hopefully, enable me to measure various aspect of if-statement usage across different languages.

I hope that my readers continue to keep their eyes open for interesting software engineering data, and will let me know when they find any.