Software engineering data, that can be made publicly available, is very rare; most people don’t attempt to collect data, and when data is collected, people rarely make any attempt to hang onto the data they do collect.
Having just one person actively searching for software engineering data (i.e., me) restricts potential sources of data to be English speaking and to a subset of development ecosystems.
This post is my attempt to start a crowdsourced campaign to search for software engineering data.
Finding data is about finding the people who have the data and have the authority to make it available (no hacking into websites).
Who might have software engineering data?
In the past, I have emailed chief technology officers at companies with less than 100 employees (larger companies have lawyers who introduce serious amounts of friction into releasing company data), and this last week I have been targeting Agile coaches. For my evidence-based software engineering book I mostly emailed the authors of data driven papers.
A lot of software is developed in India, China, South America, Russia, and Europe; unless these developers are active in the English-speaking world, I don’t see them.
If you work in one of these regions, you can help locate data by finding people who might have software engineering data.
If you want to be actively involved, you can email possible sources directly, alternatively I can email them.
If you want to be actively involved in the data analysis, you can work on the analysis yourself, or we can do it together, or I am happy to do it.
In the English-speaking development ecosystems, my connection to the various embedded ecosystems is limited. The embedded ecosystems are huge, there must be software data waiting to be found. If you are active within an embedded ecosystem, you can help locate data by finding people who might have software engineering data.
The email template I use for emailing people is below. The introduction is intended to create a connection with their interests, followed by a brief summary of my interest, examples of previous analysis, and the link to my book to show the depth of my interest.
By all means cut and paste this template, or create one that you feel is likely to work better in your environment. If you have a blog or Twitter feed, then tell them about it and why you think that evidence-based software engineering is important.
Be responsible and only email people who appear to have an interest in applying data analysis to software engineering. Don’t spam entire development groups, but pick the person most likely to be in a position to give a positive response.
This is a search for gold nuggets, and the response rate will be very low; a 10% rate of reply, saying sorry not data, would be better than what I get. I don’t have enough data to be able to calculate a percentage, but a ballpark figure is that 1% of emails might result in data.
I treat the search as a background task, taking months to locate and email, say, 100-people considered worth sending a targeted email. My experience is that I come up with a search idea or encounter a blog post that suggests a line of enquiry, that may result in sending half-a-dozen emails. The following week, if I’m lucky, the same thing might happen again (perhaps with fewer emails). It’s a slow process.
If people want to keep a record of ideas tried, the evidence-based software engineering Slack channel could do with some activity.
Hello, A personalized introduction, such as: I have been reading your blog posts on XXX, your tweets about YYY, your youtube video on ZZZ. My interest is in trying to figure out the human issues driving the software process. Here are two detailed analysis of Agile estimation data: https://arxiv.org/abs/1901.01621 and https://arxiv.org/abs/2106.03679 My book Evidence-based Software Engineering discusses what is currently known about software engineering, based on an analysis of all the publicly available data. pdf+code+all data freely available here: http://knosof.co.uk/ESEUR/ and I'm always on the lookout for more software data. This email is a fishing request for software engineering data. I offer a free analysis of software data, provided an anonymised version of the data can be made public.