All posts by casaout

FlowLight: How a Traffic Light Reduces Interruptions at Work (CHI’17)

We are extremely happy to announce our newest project, FlowLight, a traffic-light-like light for knowledge workers to reduce their interruptions at work, and makes them more productive! The research project, published with the title “Reducing Interruptions at Work: A Large-Scale Field Study of FlowLight”, was conducted in close collaboration with researchers at ABB. It was also awared with an Honorable Mention award.

Authors: Manuela Züger, Christopher Corley, André N. Meyer, Boyang Li, Thomas Fritz, David Shepherd, Vinay Augustine, Patrick Francis, Nicholas Kraft, Will Snipes

In the media: Our work was also featured on The Telegraph, Wall Street Journal, GeekWireNBC NewsNew AtlasDigitalTrends, Business StandardThe New Yorker, New ScientistTechXplore, MailOnline/DailyMail, ScienceDaily, The Times (UK), News For Everyone, Evening Express, Yahoo News, India TodayPPP Focus, The StatesmanRadio Canada, LiveAtPC, Cantech Letter, Business Standard, Engineering 360, New Atlas, BT, Telengana TodayLe Matin (French), 20min.ch (German), Radio Energy (German), Die Presse (German), PresseText (German), Tages-Anzeiger (German) CnBeta (Chinese), PopMech (Russian), PcNews (Russian), Teknikan Maailma (Finnish), Utusan (Malaysian), Irish Examiner, Knowridge, CKNW Radio, Thrive GlobalTech.Rizlys, Appsforpcdaily.comEurekAlert, Lancashire Post, MetroNews, user-experience-blog (DE), Corriere della Sierra (Spanish), Breaking NewsUBC News, UBC Science, and many other blogs.

Reducing interruptions at the workplace

Various previous work has emphasized how bad constant interruptions and fragmentation of work is for knowledge workers’ productivity, the quality of their work, and also their motivation at work. When we were observing knowledge workers at their work in a previous study, we realized that signals, such as wearing headphones or closing their office door, were often used to visualize that they don’t want to be interrupted right now. However, this manual approach was often considered as quite cumbersome and not everybody was aware of these signs. Also, the long-term impact on teams and their work was unclear. This is why we developed the FlowLight, a physical traffic-light like LED combined with an automatic interruptibility measure based on computer interaction data.

The Research

In a large-scale and long-term field study with 449 participants from 12 different countries, we found, amongst other results, that the FlowLight reduced interruptions of participants by 46%, increased their awareness on the potential disruptiveness of interruptions, and most participants are still using it today!

These, and many other insights, can be found in detail in our publication to the CHI’17 conference (pre-print). Below, you find a video showcasing FlowLight:

This is a first step towards making knowledge workers more aware of, and reducing, interruptions at work. In the future, we plan to add extended computer interaction context and biometric sensing to improve FlowLight’s algorithm, to make it even more accurate.

Presentation & Demo at CHI’17

In case you are planning to attend the CHI’17 Conference in Denver next week, make sure to come to our presentation and learn much more about the FlowLight! The talk will take place on Monday, 9th 2017 at 11.30a to 12.50p.

You can find out more about (or soon order) FlowLight on this website.

 

A few more impressions:

 

“The Work Life of Developers: Activities, Switches and Perceived Productivity” accepted at TSE’17

We are happy to announce that our paper “The Work Life of Developers: Activities, Switches and Perceived Productivity” was accepted for the Transactions of Software Engineering (TSE) journal. You can access a pre-print here.

This work was conducted by André Meyer (UZH), Laura Barton (UBC), Gail Murphy (UBC), Thomas Zimmermann (Microsoft) and Thomas Fritz (UZH)

Make Developers Productive

Many software development companies strive to enhance the productivity of their engineers. All too often, efforts aimed at improving developer productivity are undertaken without knowledge about how developers spend their time at work and how it influences their own perception of productivity and well-being. For example, a software developers’ work day might be influenced by the tasks that are performed, by the infrastructure, tools used, or the office environment. Many of these factors result in activity and context switches that can cause fragmented work and, thus, often have a negative impact on the developers’ perceived productivity, quality of output and progress on tasks.

To fill this gap, we run an in-situ study with professional software developers from different companies, investigating developers’ work practices and the relationship to the developers’ perceptions of productivity more holistically, while also examining individual differences. One of the big questions we set out to answer is if there are observable trends in how developers perceive this productivity and how they can be potentially used to quantify productivity.

In-Situ Study to Investigate Productive Work Days

We deployed a monitoring application that logs developers’ interaction with the computer (e.g. programs used, user input) and asked 20 professional software developers to run it during 2-3 work weeks. We further asked participants to regularly self-report their perceived productivity, and the tasks and activities they have performed, every 90 minutes.

Corroborating earlier findings, we found that developers spend their time on a wide variety of activities and switch regularly between them, resulting in highly fragmented work. The findings further emphasize how individual developers’ work days are. For example, while some participants tend to span their work days out over as many as 21.4 hours (max), most developers keep more compact work hours, on average 8.4 (SD=1.2) hours per day. From that time, they spend on average 4.3 (SD=0.5) hours on their computer. And surprisingly little of it with development related activities (e.g. coding, testing, debugging): only about 30% of that time. The rest of the work day is split up into emails (15%), meetings (10%), web browsing (work related: 11%, unrelated: 6%) and other activities.

A next step was to investigate fragmentation of work in more details: Apart from meetings, developers remain only between 0.3 and 2.0 minutes in an activity before switching to another one. These very short times per activity and the variety of activities a developer pursues each day illustrate the high fragmentation of a developer’s work. From participant’s self-reported, perceived productivity we found that although there was a lot of variation between individuals, the plots can be categorized into three broad groups: morning people, afternoon people, and those whose perceived productivity dipped at lunch. Morning people often come to work a little bit earlier, and get the most important things done before the crowd arrives. Afternoon people usually arrive later and spend most of their mornings with meetings and emails, and get stuff done in the afternoon, thus feeling more productive then. These results suggest that while information workers in general have diverse perceived productivity patterns, individuals do appear to follow their own habitual patterns for each day.

Can we somehow quantify productivity?

We built explanatory models (stepwise linear regressions) to describe which factors (of the collected data) contributes to the productivity ratings reported by the study participant. We observe that productivity is a personal matter that varies greatly among individuals. There are some tendencies, however, such as that more user input is most often associated with a positive, and emails, planned meetings and work unrelated websites with a negative perception of productivity.

Existing, previous work predominantly focused on a single or small set of outcome measures, e.g. the lines of code or function points written. While these measures can be used across developers, e.g. for comparisons, they neglect to capture the individual differences in factors that impact the way that developers’ work. This suggests that measures or models that attempt to quantify productivity should take the individual differences into account, and what is perceived as productive or not; and capture the developer’s work more holistically, rather than just by a single outcome measure. Such individual models could then be used to provide better and more tailored support to developers, for instance to foster focus and flow at work. For example, we could help developers avoid interruptions at inopportune moments (see our FlowLight), increase the awareness about work and productivity using a retrospective view or help users to schedule a more productive work day, that avoids unproductive patterns as much as possible.

Finally, we examined if we can predict high and low productivity sessions based on the collected data for individual participants, using logistic regression. The results are promising and suggest that even with a relatively small number of reported productivity self-reports, it is possible to build personalized, predictive productivity models.

Contact André Meyer in case you have any questions or suggestions.

Our paper “Software Developers’ Perceptions of Productivity” got nominated for the distinguished paper award at FSE’14!

HK_SciencePark_Auditorium We are currently attending the FSE’14 conference in Hong Kong where we presented our paper on software developers’ perceptions of productivity in front of a great audience in the Charles K. Kao Auditorium (i.e. the golden egg) in the Hong Kong Science park. We were also very happy to learn that our paper was nominated for the “Distinguished Paper Award” – we will know more tonight 😉

In the meantime, if you want to read the paper, you may find it here.

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Survey on the Role of Music During Your Software Engineering Work

In some domains, studies have shown that music can improve the productivity of workers for some tasks. We invite you to participate in our survey about the role music plays during your software engineering work. Your answers will help us to find out more on how to improve developer productivity.

The following survey should take less than 10 minutes of your time. With your participation you get the chance to enter our lottery to win one of two Amazon gift certificates with a value of $50 each.

This is the link to the survey: http://bit.ly/musicUZH
Edit: The survey is now closed, thanks to everyone who participated.

We will keep your survey responses anonymous. We will NOT attribute answers to any particular participant. At the end of the survey, you are asked to insert your mail address voluntarily to contact you in case you want to participate in the lottery.

We would greatly appreciate your participation! Thank you!

Please feel free to contact Thomas Fritz at fritz@ifi.uzh.ch if you have any further questions.

A pre-print of “Software Developers’ Perceptions of Productivity” for FSE’14 is available!

We just published a pre-print of our paper “Software Developers’ Perceptions of Productivity” for FSE’14, the 22nd ACM SIGSOFT International Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering (FSE 2014). The paper was written by André N. Meyer, Thomas Fritz, Gail C. Murphy and Thomas Zimmermann.

Abstract

The better the software development community becomes at creating software, the more software the world seems to demand. Although there is a large body of research about measuring and investigating productivity from an organizational point of view, there is a paucity of research about how software developers, those at the front-line of software construction, think about, assess and try to improve their productivity. To investigate software developers’ perceptions of software development productivity, we conducted two studies: a survey with 379 professional software developers to help elicit themes and an observational study with 11 professional software developers to investigate emergent themes in more detail. In both studies, we found that developers perceive their days as productive when they complete many or big tasks without significant interruptions or context switches. Yet, the observational data we collected shows our participants performed significant task and activity switching while still feeling productive. We analyze such apparent contradictions in our findings and use the analysis to propose ways to better support developers in a retrospection and improvement of their productivity through the development of new tools and a sharing of best practices.

PersonalAnalytics-FSE14-Figure3
(c) Meyer, Fritz, Murphy, Zimmermann

Download

You may find the pre-print here.
You can find the survey and interview questions and the visualization of the observational data here. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Our paper “Software Developers’ Perceptions of Productivity” has been accepted for FSE 14

We are very excited to announce that our paper “Software Developers’ Perceptions of Productivity” has been accepted for 22nd ACM SIGSOFT International Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering (FSE 2014), which will be held in Hong Kong, China. The paper was written by André N. Meyer, Thomas Fritz, Gail C. Murphy and Thomas Zimmermann.

Abstract

The better the software development community becomes at creating software, the more software the world seems to demand. Although there is a large body of research about measuring and investigating productivity from an organizational point of view, there is a paucity of research about how software developers, those at the front-line of software construction, think about, assess and try to improve their productivity. To investigate software developers’ perceptions of software development productivity, we conducted two studies: a survey with 379 professional software developers to help elicit themes and an observational study with 11 professional software developers to investigate emergent themes in more detail. In both studies, we found that developers perceive their days as productive when they complete many or big tasks without significant interruptions or context switches. Yet, the observational data we collected shows our participants performed significant task and activity switching while still feeling productive. We analyze such apparent contradictions in our findings and use the analysis to propose ways to better support developers in a retrospection and improvement of their productivity through the development of new tools and a sharing of best practices.

Download

You may find the camera ready version here. You can find the survey and interview questions and the visualization of the observational data here. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Information Fragments – SEAL & Adesso Innovation Snack

Innovation Snacks are technology talks about research and development activities, technologies, and tools. It is a joint event series of s.e.a.l. and adesso, in which researchers and practitioners meet for breakfast and technical talks about the current state and future of software engineering. Today, my colleagues (Florian Stucki & Philipp Nützi) and I had the chance to present our information fragments tool, a prototype we developed in the past semester (HS13). The idea of the tool is that it aggregates data from various project data sources (from code, to work items, to people information) and visualizes the combination of the data to answer different stakeholders’ (developers, testers, managers, customers) questions in an intuitive web interface by visualizing the data in various ways. The tool can easily be extended with any other repository (that offers its data via web service), such as requirements, use cases, etc. For more information, please refer to the files here.

CSMR-WCRE14 paper accepted: Supporting Continuous Integration by Mashing-Up Software Quality Information

Please find more information here.

view-dev-test

Paper title: Supporting Continuous Integration by Mashing-Up Software Quality Information
Paper authors: Martin BrandtnerEmanuel Giger, and Harald Gall
Paper preprint: http://goo.gl/XaOm2F
Paper BibTeX: http://goo.gl/eSCjXA
Tool demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYPoETy_pu4
Conference: IEEE CSMR-WCRE 2014
Windows 8 app store: http://goo.gl/ZUWrvm