The Code Orb -- Supporting Contextualized Coding via At-a-Glance Views

Nicolas Lopez and Andre van der Hoek
UC Irvine, USA
Tools & Languages

While code is typically presented as a flat file to a developer who must change it, this flat file exists within a context that can drastically influence how a developer approaches changing it. While the developer clearly must be careful changing any code, they probably should be yet more careful in changing code that recently saw major changes, is barely covered by test cases, and was the source of a number of bugs. Contextualized coding refers to the ability of the developer to effectively use such contextual information while they work on some changes. In this paper, we introduce the Code Orb, a contextualized coding tool that builds upon existing mining and analysis techniques to warn developers on a line-by-line basis of the volatility of the code they are working on. The key insight underneath the Code Orb is that it is neither desired nor possible to always present a code’s context in its entirety; instead, it is necessary to provide an abstracted view of the context that informs the developer of which parts of the code they need to pay more attention to. This paper discusses the principles of and rationale behind contextualized coding, introduces the Code Orb, and illustrates its function with example code and context drawn from the Mylyn project.