The Social Software (R)evolution – Margaret-Anne Storey

Peggy researches human and social aspects of software engineering, and this talk will specifically about the impact of social media/web 2.0 on software development, like tagging, blogging, micro-blogging, reputation and such.

Tagging

They looked at how social tagging was used on the web and tried to apply it to source code comments. This led to TagSEA, a tool for creating way points to navigate software more easily. Peggy and her group conducted a case study with TagSEA at IBM. They found that they were used for categorization (on cross-cutting concerns), organization, finding and refinding and for team work. It was interesting to see that some tags ‘hardened’ over time into categories in Jazz.

Micro-blogging

Peggy researched why software engineers tweet, and it turned out that is was often about cool facts in SE, what they have worked on and going to work on (in addition to social tweets) This led to Anja Guzzi’s tool James.

Blogging

This is really an upcoming topic in research, with papers like How do developers blog?: an exploratory study and Measuring API documentation on the web. Blogs seem to be written often just after a commit and are a likely place to find API documentation.

Social coding

Peggy states that GitHub is probably the biggest game changer out there. This raises the question on how GitHub is impacting software engineering. Leif Singer found that the transparency in GitHub promotes testing practices.

Marshall McLuhan

Peggy studied the work of the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan, who thought about media.

Regarding the second quote, Peggy tells us that in the 50s there was a survey done to compare print media with tv, and the conclusion was that people did not really learn in a different way. But that was untrue, since the survey was framed for print media and had to be changed in order to be able to evaluate television. Something similar could very well be true for social media.

McLuhan defines 4 different dimensions in which to look at new media.

Peggy argues that social media amplifies task management and awareness, it retrieves the the ‘oral culture’ of software engineers, that was very common in the early days of the web with forums. This also causes end-user programmers to be more involved, as in the early days, there were no software engineers, programmers were just professional trying to build useful tools for their own job. Finally, StackOverflow is bringing back the portfolio culture, when there were no SE degrees, your code was your resume.

Social media might reverse ‘geek culture’ and create spaghetti code, as programmers just grab pieces of source code from the internet. Finally, social media might obsolete formal documentation and class room education .

The social programmer

This social media revolution also impacts the way people view rock star programmers of today, they are incredibly social. Meetups and groups are really important. Skills change too, you need to ability to search, to network.

Peggy closes with a very very interesting question: if code is a form of communication, is the way we write software (process, culture and tools) a new medium?