User Experience Design in Software Product Lines

Abstract: User experience design is an important part of software product development, and yet software product line engineering has largely ignored this topic. This paper presents a set of industry best practices for user experience design in software product lines. We conducted multiple-case case study research using two different product lines within the multinational company Siemens AG: in a healthcare software division and in an industrial automation software division. We performed a preliminary exploratory study that will serve as a baseline for future research in the design, implementation, and management of user experience design in the context of software product lines. Practitioners can use our findings and the resulting best practices to improve their user experience design, particularly within
healthcare and industrial automation software product lines.

Keywords: User experience design, UXD, user interface design, software product lines, SPL, engineering best practices, case study research, handbook method

Reference: Nikolay Harutyunyan, Dirk Riehle. “User Experience Design in Software Product Lines.” In Proceedings of the 52nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS 2019), to appear.

The paper is available as a PDF file.

Why I Still Teach Scrum

Scrum is an agile method (framework) that when instantiated can be rather ornate. Most developers, when I talk to them, tell me that when given a choice they would not be doing Scrum. While Scrum may have felt much lighter than the competition back in the nineties, today it weighs in as rather heavy.

Given this, I wanted to reflect on why I still teach Scrum (and have a blog post to point any of my students to).

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Paid vs. Volunteer Open Source Work in China (Projects) 3 / 3

We just finished redoing our original analysis of paid vs. volunteer work in open source for Gitee, a Chinese-dominated code hosting platform from China. We wanted to understand where China stands in open source. Previous blog posts looked at base data, e.g. the half/half split between paid and volunteer work, as well as developer behavior, e.g. that dominantly paid developers still volunteer in their spare time.

In this third and final blog post, I would like to look at projects and how commercially dominated (or not) they are. For the purposes of this analysis, a developer is a (pure) paid developer, if 95% or more of their commits are done during regular working hours, and a developer is a (pure) volunteer, if 95% or more of their commits are done outside of these working hours. Obviously, this is a very conservative definition. How commercial a project is then depends on the percentage of (pure) paid developers and how non-commercial depends on the percentage of (pure) volunteer developers. The following figures shows how many projects exist for the percentage distributions of either pure paid or pure volunteer developers. Please observe the logarithmic y-axis.

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Paid vs. Volunteer Open Source Work in China (Developers) 2 / 3

We just finished redoing our original analysis of paid vs. volunteer work in open source for Gitee, a Chinese-dominated code hosting platform from China. We wanted to understand where China stands in open source. The previous blog post explained the half / half split between paid vs. volunteer time in terms of total work on open source.

So far, we only discussed commits, now I would like to discuss committer behavior, in particular, whether there are pure paid developers, who only work Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm, i.e. during regular working hours, and pure volunteers, working only outside those hours. Compared to our data for the Western world, the Chinese data is less conclusive. The following figure bins developers into the respective categories, and the following table spells out the bins (categories) explicitly. For the figure, please note the logarithmic scale of the y-axis.

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Paid vs. Volunteer Open Source Work in China 1 / 3

In 2014 we published a study on paid vs. volunteer work in open source, using a representative sample of open source projects from 2008 (i.e. before GitHub). In 2008, open source activity was decidedly Western, with little contributions from China. In 2017, I finally found a student to redo the analysis for China. More specifically, the student was to use what we had identified as the most popular Chinese language code hosting platform and perform the same analysis we had done years earlier. In this sequence of blog posts, I’ll present some of his results. The full thesis can be found on my research group’s blog.

The analysis is based on data from Gitee, a Chinese-language code hosting platform hosted in China, and one of the leading platforms. A first interesting piece of data is that despite its decidedly Chinese focus, 22.4% of all committers to Gitee projects work overseas. They may well be Chinese (at least they are capable of reading and writing Chinese), and I find this number surprisingly large, but we don’t know more than that.

Most interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the weekly work pattern on Gitee is similar to the one in the Western world. The following figure displays this work rhythm. As we can see, work intensity is highest Monday to Friday during regular working hours, similar to Western work patterns.

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Quote for Unicum Beruf on How IT Changes Your Job (in German)

German student magazine Unicum (Beruf) asked for a quote on the impact that IT and the software industry is having on everyone’s job, so here it is:

Die IT verändert die Arbeitsweisen in vielen Berufen. Initial galt dies nur für die IT-Branche selbst und hier insbesondere für die Softwareentwicklung, inzwischen aber sind deren Arbeitsweisen auch in nicht-IT-Unternehmen und Fachabteilungen angekommen. Von der inzwischen ubiquitären Email und der elektronischen Text- und Tabellenverarbeitung über Text-Messaging hin zu heutigen Formen dezentraler entkoppelter Zusammenarbeit wie sie Dienste wie git und GitHub ermöglichen. Aber nicht nur spezifische Software beinflusst die Arbeitswelt, Unternehmen folgen häufig auch den Metaphern der Softwarewelt und wollen heutzutage “agil” sein, wie von der agilen Softwareentwicklung seit 20 Jahren vorgelebt.

The quote or whatever they’ll make of it will appear in an upcoming Unicum issue.

You might also like my paper on the open source developer career.

The Challenge of Product Management in Commercial Open Source

Open source is a viable business strategy for software vendors to disrupt existing markets and conquer new ones. Just why is it easy in some markets and hard in others? I argue that you need to cut the product in such a way that there is a clear separation between what a never-paying community-user wants and what a commercial customer needs. In addition, you need to tie the commercial features closely to your company’s intellectual property and capabilities to keep competitors at bay. If you can do that, you are in the right place. If you can’t, you may want to get out of there.

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The Cardinal Sin of Commercial Open Source?

Redis is a popular open source database. Its proprietor, Redis Labs, recently announced that some add-on modules will not be open source any longer. The resulting outcry led to a defense and explanation of this decision that is telling. I have two comments and a lesson about product management of commercial open source.

The two comments are about messaging, both ways: What Redis Labs is telling the world and what the open source world is telling Redis Labs and the rest of the world.

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What’s better: Submit to ICSE or TSE? (Conference or Journal?)

When planning a publication strategy for a dissertation, invariably the question comes up where to submit your papers. Ph.D. students naturally are biased towards conferences, because if a paper gets accepted to a conference they get to travel to a (usually) nice place. I nip this bias in the bud right away: For a journal paper, every Ph.D. student gets a conference to attend for free. This lets us focus then on the economic value of a journal vs. a conference paper and how to best reap the benefits of hard research work. Here, I’m a contrarian (to most colleagues): I’m in favor of journals. It is also the economically smart choice for a Ph.D. student.

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