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Context Is King: The Developer Perspective on the Usage of Static Analysis Tools


Vassallo, Carmine; Panichella, Sebastiano; Palomba, Fabio; Proksch, Sebastian; Zaidman, Andy; Gall, Harald (2018). Context Is King: The Developer Perspective on the Usage of Static Analysis Tools. In: 25th International Conference on Software Analysis, Evolution and Reengineering, SANER 2018, Campobasso, Italy, 20 March 2018 - 23 March 2018, 38-49.

Abstract

Automatic static analysis tools (ASATs) are tools that support automatic code quality evaluation of software systems with the aim of (i) avoiding and/or removing bugs and (ii) spotting design issues. Hindering their wide-spread acceptance are their (i) high false positive rates and (ii) low comprehensibility of the generated warnings. Researchers and ASATs vendors have proposed solutions to prioritize such warnings with the aim of guiding developers toward the most severe ones. However, none of the proposed solutions considers the development context in which an ASAT is being used to further improve the selection of relevant warnings. To shed light on the impact of such contexts on the warnings configuration, usage and adopted prioritization strategies, we surveyed 42 developers (69% in industry and 31% in open source projects) and interviewed 11 industrial experts that integrate ASATs in their workflow. While we can confirm previous findings on the reluctance of developers to configure ASATs, our study highlights that (i) 71% of developers do pay attention to different warning categories depending on the development context, and (ii) 63% of our respondents rely on specific factors (e.g., team policies and composition) when prioritizing warnings to fix during their programming. Our results clearly indicate ways to better assist developers by improving existing warning selection and prioritization strategies.

Abstract

Automatic static analysis tools (ASATs) are tools that support automatic code quality evaluation of software systems with the aim of (i) avoiding and/or removing bugs and (ii) spotting design issues. Hindering their wide-spread acceptance are their (i) high false positive rates and (ii) low comprehensibility of the generated warnings. Researchers and ASATs vendors have proposed solutions to prioritize such warnings with the aim of guiding developers toward the most severe ones. However, none of the proposed solutions considers the development context in which an ASAT is being used to further improve the selection of relevant warnings. To shed light on the impact of such contexts on the warnings configuration, usage and adopted prioritization strategies, we surveyed 42 developers (69% in industry and 31% in open source projects) and interviewed 11 industrial experts that integrate ASATs in their workflow. While we can confirm previous findings on the reluctance of developers to configure ASATs, our study highlights that (i) 71% of developers do pay attention to different warning categories depending on the development context, and (ii) 63% of our respondents rely on specific factors (e.g., team policies and composition) when prioritizing warnings to fix during their programming. Our results clearly indicate ways to better assist developers by improving existing warning selection and prioritization strategies.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper), refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Informatics
Dewey Decimal Classification:000 Computer science, knowledge & systems
Scopus Subject Areas:Physical Sciences > Software
Physical Sciences > Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
Language:English
Event End Date:23 March 2018
Deposited On:29 Jan 2021 05:53
Last Modified:30 Jan 2021 21:01
Publisher:IEEE Computer Society
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1109/SANER.2018.8330195
Related URLs:https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8330195
Other Identification Number:merlin-id:20334

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