University of Limerick
Sharif_2012_opensource.pdf (2.15 MB)

Open source programmers’ information seeking

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posted on 2022-10-05, 11:24 authored by Khaironi Yatim Sharif
Several authors have proposed information seeking as an important perspective for the study of software maintenance and evolution, and have characterized information seeking empirically in commercial software evolution settings. However, there is little research reported in the literature that describes the information seeking behavior of open source (OS) programmers, even though OS contexts would seem to exacerbate information seeking problems for maintenance programmers. In the OS setting, team members are typically delocalized from each other and are more likely to use asynchronous communication. In addition, the information seeking behavior of OS system maintainers is an increasingly important research topic, due to the increasing body of OS software needing to be maintained and users’ increasing reliance on OS software systems. Such an increased reliance and prevalence means that there is increased demand for software maintenance of OS systems and it is this area that this thesis will strive to address. This thesis reports on a series of empirical studies that classify OS programmers’ information needs during maintenance. In these studies, types of information needs are identified through a Grounded Theory based analysis of the questions that appear in their developer mailing lists. Then the prevalence of these information needs, on different mailing lists, are quantified and the responses obtained are characterized. In doing so, several interesting observations are made about the types of information these programmers seek, the likelihood that they will receive responses and the number of responses they are likely to get. The findings of this thesis largely reflect the academic articles in this area, documenting programmer's focus on implementation specific detail and team awareness. However interesting additional insights were gained with respect to the importance of the technology around software evolution in an OS context, and the programmers' design and documentation information needs. Also, a surprisingly low rate of response from the OS community to mailing list requests was noted.


First supervisor

Jim Buckley



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Also affiliated with

  • LERO - The Irish Software Research Centre

Department or School

  • Computer Science & Information Systems

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