Richard,

Concerning student subjects in SE experiments:
people use the subjects they can afford.  If you


Then perhaps research based on these papers should come
with a health warning that the work only exists to increase
the authors paper count so they can get promoted and has no
connection with industrial practice.

use experienced software engineers, they expect
to be paid for their time.

My experience is that it is possible to get professionals for
short periods of time for free, i.e., they will volunteer.

Large amounts of funding are obtained for all sorts of
experiments. Software academics need to be more ambitious.

The money to work with professionals certainly isn't
going to come from central government.

If governments are serious about improving software then
they need to start paying for proper experiments to be run.

It also has to be said that if you want to tell how
readable alternative notations are, you don't WANT
experienced professionals, because then you will get
"how much does this look like Blub."

Readability research in software has not yet started.
With few exceptions 'readability' papers are examples in
incompetent research.

A real experiment:
http://shape-of-code.coding-guidelines.com/2012/10/13/agreement-between-code-readability-ratings-given-by-students/

Perhaps this work will one day be considered the start of
readability research in software:
http://emipws.org/

As for computing academics, I worked in Silicon Valley
for several years, and have been working on a program
that currently contains 340 thousand raw lines of C and
Smalltalk, and have learned a heck of a lot from it.

Yes, but you are one of those weird academics who sometimes
knows what he is talking about ;-)

The key point again is society's reward structure.
Universities reward *publications*, not working code.

The problem is what low quality work software journals are
willing to publish.

If you do something different every year, you get
more publications than if you maintain something for
several years.  In fact, if you spend time writing

Exactly.  Imagine if chemists and biologists could get
away with publishing papers that did not involve experiments
or only did experiments involving stuff they happened to have
lying around.

Academic software engineering has got itself into a vicious low quality circle that forces people to churn out tosh and deincentivises
good stuff that requires hard work.

working code rather than publishing fluff, you will
effectively be *punished*.

Oh, here's another "reward structure" issue.
I'm involved in teaching a software engineering paper.
One year I gave the students a maintenance project to
do instead of a development project.  They HATED it.
When students hate a project, they give you poor
evaluations.  When you get poor evaluations from students,
you get a "are you really happy in your job?" questions
from the University.  This result is pressure to give
students projects they *enjoy* rather than projects
that are *good for them*.

I still think maintenance is extremely important, so if
anyone has ideas for a software maintenance project that
might *not* cost me bad evaluations I'm very interested
to take suggestions.






--
Derek M. Jones           Software analysis
tel: +44 (0)1252 520667  blog:shape-of-code.coding-guidelines.com

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