Using Software Archaeology to Measure Knowledge Loss in Software Projects Due to Developer Turnover

TitleUsing Software Archaeology to Measure Knowledge Loss in Software Projects Due to Developer Turnover
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsIzquierdo-Cortazar, D, Robles, G, Ortega, F, Gonzalez-Barahona, JM
Secondary Title2009 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS 2009)
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Place PublishedLos Alamitos, CA, USA
ISBN Number978-0-7695-3450-3
Keywordsattrition, case study, developers, evince, evolution, gimp, growth, knowledge collaboration, lines of code, nautilus, quality, sloc, turnover

Developer turnover can result in a major problem when developing software. When senior developers abandon a software project, they leave a knowledge gap that has to be managed. In addition, new (junior) developers require some time in order to achieve the desired level of productivity. In this paper, we present a methodology to measure the effect of knowledge loss due to developer turnover in software projects. For a given software project, we measure the quantity of code that has been authored by developers that do not belong to the current development team, which we define as orphaned code. Besides, we study how orphaned code is managed by the project. Our methodology is based on the concept of software archaeology, a derivation of software evolution. As case studies we have selected four FLOSS (free, libre, open source software) projects, from purely driven by volunteers to company-supported. The application of our methodology to these case studies will give insight into the turnover that these projects suffer and how they have managed it and shows that this methodology is worth being augmented in future research.

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