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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Project history as a group memory : learning from the past Cubranic, Davor


New members of software development teams must come up-to-speed on a large amount of information before becoming productive, even if they have previous software development experience. Often, this knowledge is gained through mentoring: an experienced colleague monitors the newcomer's progress on his or her first assigned tasks, and provides feedback and advice. The mentor is the person the newcomer turns to for help when stuck; these interactions are typically informal and lightweight, such as quick questions asked over the cubicle divider or at the water cooler. However, these light-weight channels are not always available in virtual teams, where the members of the team are not collocated. Moreover, workers are less likely to help their non-collocated colleagues, making it even harder for a newcomer to come up to speed on a project. The thesis of this dissertation is based on the idea that the collection of all artifacts created in the course of development of a software system implicitly forms a group memory—a repository of information that a work group can use to benefit from its past experience to respond more effectively to the present needs. I call this implicitly-formed group memory a project memory and make three claims: (1) that newcomer software developers can use information from the project memory about past modifications completed on the project to help them effectively perform modification tasks to the system; (2) that the project memory can be built largely automatically, requiring minimal adjustments in work practices of software developers; and (3) that the automatically-built group memory can recommend artifacts useful to the current modification task. To validate the claims of this thesis, I have developed a project memory model and associated tool, called Hipikat, that recommends relevant artifacts from the memory during a software modification task. This dissertation describes the memory model, the implementation of Hipikat, and its use in a series of case studies to validate the thesis claims.

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