The Social Nature of Issue Tracking in Software Engineering

Bertram, D. (2009)
The Social Nature of Issue Tracking in Software Engineering. Master's thesis, Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, December.

View Publication and Related Materials

PDF PaperPDF Paper (2009-Bertram.MScThesis.pdf)


Issue tracking systems help organizations manage issue reporting, assignment, tracking, resolution, and archiving. Traditionally, issue tracking systems have been largely viewed as simple data stores where software defects are reported and tracked as "bug reports" within an archival database. Yet, as issue tracking is fundamentally a social process, it is important to understand the design and use of issue tracking systems from that perspective. Consequently, I (and my colleagues) conducted a qualitative study of issue tracking systems as used by small, collocated software development teams. We found that an issue tracker is not just a database for tracking bugs, features, and inquiries, but also a focal point for communication and coordination for many stakeholders within and beyond the immediate software team. Customers, project managers, quality assurance personnel, and programmers all contribute to the shared knowledge and persistent communication that exists within the issue tracking system. These results were all the more striking because in spite of the teams being collocated-and the frequent, face-to-face communication afforded by such collocation---the issue tracker was still used as a fundamental communication channel. Through my analysis of the interviews conducted during the study, I identified five roles that issue tracking systems play within such teams, six areas where stakeholder perceptions of various aspects of the issue tracker varied, and---as a direct result of those differing perceptions---seven considerations for the design of future issue tracking and software development coordination tools. I also presented a set of three interface design sketches to a subset of my research participants and solicited their feedback.

Bibtex entry

@MASTERSTHESIS { 2009-Bertram.MScThesis,
AUTHOR = { Bertram, D. },
TITLE = { The Social Nature of Issue Tracking in Software Engineering },
SCHOOL = { Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary },
ADDRESS = { Calgary, Alberta, Canada },
YEAR = { 2009 },
MONTH = { December },