Google Research

Do Developers Learn New Tools On The Toilet?

Proceedings of the 2019 International Conference on Software Engineering (to appear)

Abstract

Maintaining awareness of useful tools is a substantial challenge for developers. Physical newsletters are a simple technique to inform developers about tools. In this paper, we evaluate such a technique, called Testing on the Toilet, by performing a mixed-methods case study. We first quantitatively evaluate how effective this technique is by applying statistical causal inference over six years of data about tools used by thousands of developers. We then qualitatively contextualize these results by interviewing and surveying 382 developers, from authors to editors to readers. We found that the technique was generally effective at increasing software development tool use, although the increase varied depending on factors such as the breadth of applicability of the tool, the extent to which the tool has reached saturation, and the memorability of the tool name.

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