Google Research

Pushback: Characterizing and Detecting Negative Interpersonal Interactions in Code Review

International Conference on Software Engineering (2020)

Abstract

During code review, developers critically examine each others’ code to improve its quality, share knowledge, and ensure conformance to coding standards. In the process, developers may have negative interpersonal interactions with their peers, which can lead to frustration and stress; these negative interactions may ultimately result in developers abandoning projects. In this mixed-methods study at one company, we surveyed 1,317 developers to characterize the negative experiences and cross-referenced the results with objective data from code review logs to predict these experiences. Our results suggest that such negative experiences, which we call “pushback”, are relatively rare in practice, but have negative repercussions when they occur. Our metrics can predict feelings of pushback with high recall but low precision, making them potentially appropriate for highlighting interactions that may benefit from a self-intervention.

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