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Research in progress

28 January, 2012

Pretty quiet around here. Sometimes this means I’m having some kind of crisis.* Sometimes it just means I’ve actually been doing some work. This time, happily, it’s the latter.

For my PhD, I’ve been collecting videos of software developers explaining their code. I’m delighted that, after many months of networking and hassling people and leaving the country at very short notice, I’ve collected a decent set of videos, screencaptures, interviews and questionnaires (if you were involved in this in any way, you have my eternal gratitude :D). Now the running-around-hassling-people is on the back burner** while I catch up on the transcription and analysis.

I should have been collecting expert beard length metrics, too.

Onboarding (artist's impression)

Transcribing these materials is very, very slow, but also pretty interesting if you want to know what developers actually do. I also have a collection of wonderful quotes that made me laugh, none of which I am permitted to share with you.

No, really :P

Participant confidentiality.


* I discovered recently that if I’m not online very much, my parents will start to worry that I’ve been evicted from my house.

** That’s not to say I wouldn’t like more data if it happened to come my way…

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3 comments

  1. I read this trick for transcription a while back, but I guess with your confidentiality needs it wouldn’t work for your case:
    http://waxy.org/2008/09/audio_transcription_with_mechanical_turk/

    Pretty cool idea though – parallelized (quicker) and cheaper.


    • That’s a good trick, but you’re right, I can’t use it for these videos. It’s ok though, my supervisor says it’s good for me to be Immersed In The Data. And I think she’s right: I generally have another text file open next to the transcription in progress for all the stuff I notice as I go along.

      Plus the Mechanical Turk guys might not have the background to identify all the tech jargon, in-joke variable names and made-up nonsense. I mean, have you ever stopped to listen to what developers are actually *saying*? Possibly you have to be one to understand one…


  2. I can only admire your fortitude. I can’t think of anything more likely to drive me to suicide than listening to modern software developers discussing… discussing… actually, what do they discuss? It can’t be software development, because judging by results none of them have a clue how to do that any more… and while the term “code” has never been more appropriate I wonder how many of them can even find it in these benighted ‘point and click’ days…

    Cynical, moi? 😉



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