Category Archives: NoteWorthy

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), (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:


“Using (Bio)Metrics to Predict Code Quality” is currently one of the most downloaded articles in software engineering

We are happy to announce that our paper “Using (Bio)Metrics to Predict Code Quality Online”, written by Sebastian Müller and Thomas Fritz, was one of the most downloaded software engineering articles in June and July 2016. With 1709 downloads in 6 weeks, it scored the second place of all ACM software engineering articles. According to ACM, this is the first time that any paper was downloaded more than 1000 times.


Image source: ACM SIGSOFT Software Engineering Notes. Volume 41 Number 4.

The paper investigates the use of biometrics, such as heart rate variability (HRV) or electro-dermal activity (EDA) to determine the difficulty that developers experience while working on real world change tasks and automatically identify code quality concerns while a developer is making a change to the code. It can be accessed here.

Paper accepted for ICPC ’15

We are excited to announce that out paper “Discovering Loners and Phantoms in Commit and Issue Data” has been accepted for the 23rd IEEE International Conference on Program Comprehension (ICPC 2015) in Florence, Italy.

The interlinking of commit and issue data has become a de-facto standard in software development. Modern issue tracking systems, such as JIRA, automatically interlink commits and issues by the extraction of identifiers (e.g., issue key) from commit messages. However, the conventions for the use of interlinking methodologies vary between software projects. For example, some projects enforce the use of identifiers for every commit while others have less restrictive conventions. In this work, we introduce a model called PaLiMod (Partial Linking Model) to enable the analysis of interlinking characteristics in commit and issue data. We surveyed 15 Apache projects to investigate differences and commonalities between linked and non-linked commits and issues (RQ1). Based on the gathered information, we created a set of heuristics to interlink the residual of non-linked commits and issues (RQ2).


We observed that in the majority of the analyzed projects, the number of commits linked to issues is higher than the number of commits without link. On average, 74% of commits are linked to issues and 50% of the issues have associated commits. Based on the survey data, we identified two interlinking characteristics which we call Loners (one commit, one issue) and Phantoms (multiple commits, one issue). For these two characteristics, we proposed heuristics to automatically interlink non-linked commit and issue data. The evaluation results showed that our approach can achieve an overall precision of 96% with a recall of 92% in case of the Loner heuristic and an overall precision of 73% with a recall of 53% in case of the Phantom heuristic.

The results of our evaluation indicate that the proposed PaLiMod model and heuristics enable an automatic interlinking and can indeed reduce the residual of non-linked commits and issues in software projects.

Paper Accepted for SANER’15

Our paper “SQA-Profiles: Rule-based Activity Profiles for Continuous Integration Environments” has has been accepted as full research paper for the 2015 IEEE International Conference on Software Analysis, Evolution, and Reengineering in Montreal, Canada.


More information about the approach is available on the project’s website:

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.




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.


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.

(c) Meyer, Fritz, Murphy, Zimmermann


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.