On the week of May 18-27, I travelled to Argentina to attend MSR and ICSE. For people not familiar with software engineering research, ICSE is the flagship conference of the field and one of the few that receive an A* rating in the Core conference rankings. All aspiring software engineering researchers aim to publish there, which makes it very competive (~16% acceptance rate). This year, ICSE took place in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires, a place that reminded me of home (well, Athens) more than any other city I have been to.

I really enjoyed ICSE this year. The main track content was quite technical, while the software engineering in practice track was full of interesting tales from the battlefront. I really wish I could be in more than one talks at the same time!

For the first time in 3 years, I did not have anything to present; this allowed me to relax and actually attend lots of talks. Moreover, I also forced myself to take notes during the presentations. What follows is a list of brief summaries of some of the papers whose presentations I attended, based on those notes.

In Transitive class immutability in Java, the authors implement a plug-in type system for Java (based on annotations and the Checker framework) that can check and/or enforce immutability on object hierarchies, transitevely. The authors applied it on existing programs and found bugs and also compared its use with Java’s own final keyword (they found Glacier supperior).

In Clone refactoring with lambda expressions, the authors propose and formally specify a simple refactoring to lambda expressions to eliminate certain types of clones. This paper stood out for its extensive evaluation: the authors successfuly tried their refactoring on 12k (!) clones covered by tests, while it can refactor away 58% of clones in a body of 46k (!!) clones.

In Guided genetic Algorithm Automated crash reproduction my collegue Mozan presented a method that can automatically generate test cases that reproduce crashes, using clever applications of genetic algorithms in Evocrash.

In General framework for dynamic stub injection, the awesome Maria Christakis created a framework that intercepts the Windows dynamic library loader and inserts code that runs before and after method invocations (stubs). They also constructed a DSL that allows the specification of stub locations. They used this tool to find bugs to applications as well tested as Word and Excel.

In To Type or Not to Type: Quantifying Detectable Bugs in JavaScript attempted to quantify the value of pluggable type systems, such as Flow and Typescript. The authors empirically verify that pluggable typesystems can catch at least 15% of public bugs at the cost of 2 tokens per bug! A major win for static typing and a fantastic result overall.

Moving on to user studies, in Classifying developers into core and peripheral the authors presented a graph-based method (basically, extract the fully connected component of the code collaboration graph) that identifies core developers. They validated it by emailing projects and checking each project’s responses with their network based model. From now on, graphs it is then.

In Understanding the Impressions, Motivations, and Barriers of One Time Code Contributors to FLOSS Projects, the authors performed a study very similar to our ICSE 2016 pull request contributor one and found more or less the same results, albeit NOT on GitHub. This means that topics such as developer responsiveness and entry barriers exist beyond GitHub and are therefore crucial to fix.

In Do developers read compiler error messages, the authors explore the issue of compiler message comprehension. They did an eyetracking study to identify what developers look for when reading error messages and where their visual perception stumbles upon. Being one of the very few studies that use eyetracking in our field, this is definetely worth a read.

On the SE in practice front, I ‘ve attended a great talk about CI at Google scale, a quantitative overview of A/B experiments in Bing (did you know that 50% of them are actually deployed?) and a talk about Mike de Jong’s QuantumDB framework for uninterupted schema evolution in continuous delivery environments.

The papers above are just a selection of all the talks I attended this year; I did not cover MSR or various workshops. All in all, a very fulfilling week!


27 May 2017