Understanding what’s going on helps you become a better software developer…

BIld av Twighlightzone från Pixabay


I’m a big fan of the Matrix movies, but well, to be honest, who isn’t:) I like the scene where Morpheus gives Neo the choice of two pills – one to know the truth and the other one to go on living his life as previously.

Well, sometimes I feel the same when I do my programming tasks – do I really want to know what the code does, or just make a quick fix and move on? I would say that it’s 50-50 for me – sometimes I feel like contributing and sometimes I just fix the problem and move on.

In this paper, the authors conduct an experiment to understand how and when software developers make mistakes. They find that “[the] study suggests that a relatively high number of mistakes are related to communicating with stakeholders outside of the development team.

Having worked with metrics teams all over the globe, I’ve noticed that the communication with the stakeholders is often the largest problem that you can have. The stakeholders don’t speak “requirements” and we do not understand “wants” of the stakeholders. But, well, it’s not what the paper is about.

What I like about the paper is the systematic approach to the study – using experiments and a technique for teaching the developers how to work with their limitations. This is what the authors recommend as remedies (quoted directly from the paper):

  • Know your own weaknesses. Every developer is different and struggles with different concepts. Our analysis shows a variety of types of errors that developers make. Developers becoming more conscious of the human errors they commonly make and actively checking for these can help reduce errors.
  • Use cognitive training. We have shown that using cognitive training, like the OODA loop, seems to help decision making and can reduce the human errors a developer makes.
  • Simplify your workload. One of the biggest causes of human error reported by the developers in our study was the complexity of the development environment. Reducing the cognitive load by simplifying the complexity of the development environment could reduce human errors. Actions such as minimizing the number of simultaneous development tasks and closing down unnecessary tools and windows can help reduce the cognitive load.
  • Communicate carefully with stakeholders outside your team. Our study suggests that a relatively high number of mistakes are related to communicating with stakeholders outside of the development team. Ensuring that communication is clearly understood seems important to reducing mistakes.

Author: Miroslaw Staron

I’m professor in Software Engineering at IT faculty. I usually blog about interesting articles (for me) and my own reflections on the development of Software Engineering, AI, computer science and automotive software.