A Case Study of Paired Interleaving for Evaluating Code Search Techniques

Author : Damevski, Kostadin; Shepherd, David; Pollock, Lori
Booktitle : European Conference on Software Maintenance and Reengineering (CSMR/WCRE)
Date : Feb 2014
Publisher : IEEE
Keyword(s) : code search, feature location, online paired interleaving, field studies
Document Type : In Conference Proceedings

Abstract :

Source code search tools are designed to help developers locate code relevant to their task. The effectiveness of a search technique often depends on properties of user queries, the code being searched, and the specific task at hand. Thus, new code search techniques should ideally be evaluated in realistic situations that closely reflect the complexity, purpose of use, and context encountered during actual search sessions. This paper explores what can be learned from using an online paired interleaving approach, originally used for evaluating internet search engines, to comparatively observe and assess the effectiveness of code search tools in the field. We present a case study in which we implemented online paired interleaving for code search, deployed the tool in an IDE for developers at multiple companies, and analyzed results from over 300 user queries during their daily software maintenance tasks. We leveraged the results to direct further improvement of a search technique, redeployed the tool and analyzed results from over 600 queries to validate that an improvement in search was achieved in the field. We also report on the characteristics of user queries collected during the study, which are significantly different than queries currently used in evaluations.