I have just realized that the last post in this blog is from a while ago, when I was looking for a job, before I left my university position. I’ve happily moved on, and my blogging, though currently infrequent, has also moved on—to this site.

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Looking for a job

My time at the University of Victoria will be over in a few months, so I’m beginning to look for a job. More details here.

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Migrating my personal blog

Although most of my blogging time lately has gone into the Never Work in Theory blog, I might keep posting here about software development research stuff that doesn’t fit there. However, I’ve moved my other blog, which used to be under as well, into its own domain: you can now find it at I’ll be posting there about my news and thoughts, so please update your bookmarks/subscriptions/feeds if you want to keep up to date!

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Empirical Software Engineering at American Scientist

(Crossposted from Never Work in Theory.)

A feature article on recent developments on empirical software engineering, by Greg Wilson and myself, has just been published in the November-December issue of American Scientist. Electronic version available here. Thanks to Morgan Ryan, our editor at American Scientist, for all his help in preparing this piece!

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The IROP paper

If you keep track of recent developments in empirical software engineering, you may have already heard of the fantastic IROP study. I was too busy writing a paper to blog about it when Andreas Zeller presented it at PROMISE 2011, but here I go, in case you haven’t read it.

Basically, Zeller, Thomas Zimmermann, and Christian Bird did what I’m afraid some researchers in our field do on a regular basis: take some mining tools and some data, and then go nuts with them—abuse of them in the most absurd ways imaginable. Luckily, Zeller, Zimmermann, and Bird did it on purpose and as a parody.

Here’s what they did: take Eclipse data on code and errors, and correlate the two to find good predictors of bugs. Sounds sensible. But they did the correlation at the ASCII character level. So it turns out, for Eclipse 3.0, the characters that are most highly correlated with errors are the letters ‘i’, ‘r’, ‘o’, and ‘p’. What is a sensible researcher to do facing these findings? Well take those letters out of the keyboard, of course! Problem solved:

The IROP keyboard

They then go over a supposed half-baked validation study with three interns, who reported great success in adapting to a life without ‘i’, ‘r’, ‘o’, and ‘p’ in their keyboards. Trial feedback:

We can shun these set majuscules, and the text stays just as swell as antecedently. Let us just ban them!

Near the end, the authors go over everything that’s wrong with their approach (lack of theoretical grounding, dishonest use of statistics, and a long et cetera). It’s a fun read, and instructive. Research, in general, needs more parodies. If you like this one, some of my other favourites are:

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Over at “Never Work in Theory”…

Just a reminder—over at the Never Work in Theory blog, we’ve already got about a couple dozen papers with empirical findings that (we think) are relevant for software practice. They’re beginning to cover a wide area: from parallel programming to teamwork dynamics to requirements prioritization to organizational structure. If you think of good and interesting papers that we haven’t discussed yet, drop me a note!

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Greg Wilson at the University of Victoria

Greg Wilson, editor of Beautiful Code, Making Software, and the Architecture of Open Source Applications, author of several other books, creator of the Software Carpentry project, and all-around great guy, will be giving a presentation at the University of Victoria tomorrow (July 7th) at 1pm: “What I learned in seven and a half years of being a professor that might be useful for those of you contemplating academic careers“. Room ECS 660. My guess is that you’ll get a lot out of it if you’re at all connected to software development, even if you’re not contemplating academic careers. All welcome!

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