Technical Reports

The ICICS/CS Reading Room

UBC CS TR-2005-23 Summary

Remaining Oriented During Software Development Tasks: An Exploratory Field Study, July 17, 2005 Brian S. de Alwis and Gail C. Murphy, 24 pages

Humans have been observed to become \emph{disoriented} when using menu or hypertext systems. Similar phenomena have been reported by software developers, often manifesting as a feeling of \emph{lostness} while exploring a software system. To investigate this phenomena in the context of software development, we undertook a field study, observing eight developers of the open-source Eclipse project for two hours each as they conducted their normal development work. We also interviewed two other developers using the same tools but who were working on a closed-source system. The developers did report some instances of disorientation, but it was a rare occurrence; rather we observed strategies the developers used to r emain \emph{oriented}. Based on the study results, we hypothesize factors that contribute to disorientation during programming tasks as well as factors that contribute to remaining oriented. Our results can help encode best practices for code navigation, can help inform the development of tools, and can help in the further study of orientation and disorientation in software development.

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