Thursday, September 18, 2008

Debugging Reinvented: Asking and Answering Why and Why Not Questions about Program Behavior

This paper is an interesting follow up to an earlier paper I read about Why Lines. If you're not familiar, a Why Line is a debugging tool that instruments a piece of code, allows you to execute the code (for a brief time, ~ a minute), then use a custom UI to ask questions about the output (ie. Why is this circle red?). Experimental results (on an admittedly small test size) showed dramatic improvement in debugging time.

There was a paragraph in this paper that I feel the authors glossed over. It concerned translating user submitted bug reports into Why Line questions. My applying some computational linguistics techniques, I bet it would be possible to automatically generate one or many Why Line questions from a bug report. Combine that with the previously presented technique on automatic bug triage, and you have a system which will (in theory) automatically assign bugs to particular developers, and present them with a Why Line question that will allow them to quickly assess the problem.

Also, I'm pretty sure there's something that can be gained in an organization by archiving/databasing their Why Line traces, but I'm not sure what yet.

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