The International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE) is less than a month away. I will miss it this time —I didn’t submit any papers, and it will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, so it’s too far to go to simply hang out and show my pretty face.
However, it seems that ICSE is getting more and more interesting every year. In its Vancouver iteration last year, Rob DeLine pointed out that only about 20% of the papers in the program dealt with software development “as though it were created by people working together,” while 80% abstracted people away. He proposed that the proportion should be flipped, as it is unlikely that for many of the topics that matter in software research we can proceed usefully as if people didn’t matter.
Looking through the program today (pdf) it seems that the situation is improving. I don’t have access to the abstracts, so I’m going merely by title, but I count about 19 papers out of 54 (without including the Education or Practice tracks) that appear to be considering people issues seriously or half-seriously –that is over a third, or about 35% of all papers: not a majority but a growing and sizable fraction. Significantly, many of them were written by younger researchers.
Greg Wilson recently mused that we might have a sea change in the ICSE community in the coming years as these researchers take positions of influence; this year’s program is not enough to detect a trend but at least it indicates that this might be happening. As someone who has argued for the importance of human aspects in software development (and, yes, as someone who has built his still-young career on these issues), I think this is good news.