Exploring, Exposing, and Exploiting Emails to Include Human Factors in Software Engineering

Alberto Bacchelli
University of Lugano, Switzerland

Researchers mine software repositories to support software maintenance and evolution. The analysis of the structured data, mainly source code and changes, has several benefits and offers precise results. This data, however, leaves communication in the background, and does not permit a deep investigation of the human factor, which is crucial in software engineering. Software repositories also archive documents, such as emails or comments, that are used to exchange knowledge among people— we call it “people-centric information.” By covering this data, we include the human factor in our analysis, yet its unstructured nature makes it currently sub-exploited. Our work, by focusing on email communication and by implementing the necessary tools, investigates methods for exploring, exposing, and exploiting unstructured data. We believe it is possible to close the gap between development and communication, extract opinions, habits, and views of developers, and link implementation to its rationale; we see in a future where software analysis and development is routinely augmented with people-centric information.