How are Websites Used During Development and What are the Implications for the Coding Process?

31 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2022

See all articles by Omar Alghamdi

Omar Alghamdi

The University of Manchester

Sarah Clinch

The University of Manchester

Rigina Skeva

University of Manchester - Department of Computer Science

Caroline Jay

University of Manchester

Abstract

Websites are frequently used to support the development process. This paper investigates how websites are used when writing code and programmers’ perceptions of the potential impact of this on their behaviour and the quality of the resulting software. We interviewed 18 programmers (13 students enrolled in undergraduate computer science courses, and 5 experienced professionals), and analysed the data thematically. The findings were used to develop a survey, which was distributed to 276 programmers (251 students, 25 experienced professionals). The results indicate that use of websites, especially Stack Overflow, is viewed as an essential part of programming by both students completing coursework and professionals developing code in industry.We also found that developers have experience of encountering a diverse set of problematic code snippets online, that copying code from websites without checking its quality or understanding how it worked is common, and that using online resources in this way had a potentially counter-productive effect on learning. Based on these findings, we make a number of recommendations, including better consideration of online code reuse in taught programmes, co-development and code-reuse practices in professional settings, and software licensing training for professional developers.

Keywords: Stack Overflow, online code snippets, problematic code, human memory, computer science education, professional practice

Suggested Citation

Alghamdi, Omar and Clinch, Sarah and Skeva, Rigina and Jay, Caroline, How are Websites Used During Development and What are the Implications for the Coding Process?. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4206818 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4206818

Omar Alghamdi (Contact Author)

The University of Manchester ( email )

United Kingdom

Sarah Clinch

The University of Manchester ( email )

United Kingdom

Rigina Skeva

University of Manchester - Department of Computer Science ( email )

Caroline Jay

University of Manchester ( email )

Oxford Road
Manchester, N/A M13 9PL
United Kingdom

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