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Social and Technical Evolution of the Ruby on Rails Software Ecosystem

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Presentation by Eleni Constantinou (postdoctoral researcher at the Software Engineerin Lab of the University of Mons, Belgium) during the Workshop on Ecosystem Architecuters (WEA2016), Copenhagen, Denmark, 29 November 2016.
Abstract: Software ecosystems evolve through an active community of developers who contribute to projects within the ecosystem. However, development teams change over time, suggesting a potential impact on the evolution of the technical parts of the ecosystem. The impact of such modifications has been studied by previous works, but only temporary changes have been investigated, while the long-term effect of permanent changes has yet to be explored. In this paper, we investigate the evolution of the ecosystem of Ruby on Rails in GitHub in terms of such temporary and permanent changes of the development team. We use three viewpoints of the Rails ecosystem evolution to discuss our preliminary findings: (1) the base project; (2) the forks; and (3) the entire ecosystem containing both base project and forks.

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Social and Technical Evolution of the Ruby on Rails Software Ecosystem

  1. 1. Social and Technical Evolution of Software Ecosystems A Case Study of Rails Eleni Constantinou, Tom Mens 4th International Workshop on Software Ecosystem Architectures (WEA 2016)
  2. 2. 1 Research Team
  3. 3. Introduction Software ecosystem •  Collection of software projects that are developed and evolve together in the same environment [1] Ecosystem environment •  Development team ⇒ Social aspect •  Source code artefacts ⇒ Technical aspect Modifications •  Social: Contributors joining/leaving •  Technical: New/obsolete source code files [1] M. Lungu. Towards reverse engineering software ecosystems. Int'l Conf. Software Maintenance, pages 428-431, 2008. 2
  4. 4. Introduction Evolution •  Longevity •  Growth Ecosystem sustainability Negative impact of major social changes A sustainable software ecosystem can increase or maintain its user/developer community over longer periods of time and can survive inherent changes such as new technologies or new products (e.g. from competitors) that can change the population (the community of users, developers etc) [2] [2] D. Dhungana, I. Groher, E. Schludermann, S. Biffl. Software ecosystems vs. natural ecosystems: learning from the ingenious mind of nature. Eur. Conf. on Software Architecture: Companion Volume, pages 96-102, 2010. 3
  5. 5. Background 4 Time Unit 1 Time Unit 2 Time Unit 3 … Time Unit N-2 Time Unit N-1 Time Unit N S T A R T E N D Software Ecosystem Evolution Technical Artefacts Technical Artefacts
  6. 6. Definitions 5 Social Metrics Leavers(t) Joiners(t) Stayers(t) TeamTurnover(t) TeamAbandonment(t) Technical Metrics Obsolete(t) New(t) Maintained(t) FileTurnover(t) FileAbandonment(t)
  7. 7. Dataset •  Ruby on Rails •  Largest/most popular Ruby project •  GHTorrent dataset [2] (2016-09-05 dump) •  Timespan: April 2008 – September 2016 •  Time unit: year quarters •  Commit activity •  Base project/Forks/Ecosystem [2] G. Gousios. The GHTorrent dataset and tool suite. Working Conf. Mining Software Repositories, pages 233-236, 2013. 6
  8. 8. Dataset Problems - Noise •  Forks can be simple copies of the base project •  Non source code files or irrelevant files can be committed (e.g., temporary files) •  One-time and occasional contributors 7
  9. 9. Dataset Filters 1.  Forks Filter: Merged back to the base 2.  Files Filter: Source code files 3.  Contributors Filter: Contributors whose AVG activity is equal/greater than 2 quarters Base Forks Ecosystem Count 1 1,896 1,897 Contributors 1,827 2,154 3,121 Commits 43,195 25,938 69,133 Base Forks Ecosystem Count 1 692 693 Contributors 430 681 765 Commits 40,660 22,923 63,583 8
  10. 10. Research Questions RQ1 How does the commit activity of the ecosystem (in base and forks) evolve over time? RQ2 How does the development population and file activity change over time? RQ3 How do changes in the development team affect the file activity of the ecosystem? 9
  11. 11. RQ1 How does the commit activity of the ecosystem (in base and forks) evolve over time? Forks since quarter 13 (July 2011) •  Increasing commit activity •  Development effort heavily depends on forks since October 2012 (quarter 18) 10
  12. 12. RQ2 How does the development population and file activity change over time? Base Project Forks Ecosystem Core contributors: Small number of people join/leave the ecosystem 11
  13. 13. RQ2 How does the development population and file activity change over time? Base Project Forks Ecosystem Forks: Increasing trend Low number of obsolete files 12
  14. 14. RQ2 How does the development population and file activity change over time? Percentage % TeamTurnover 25 ± 12 TeamAbandonment 14 ± 10 FileTurnover 15 ± 11 FileAbandonment 10 ± 7 Moderate social and technical modifications Ecosystem growth 13
  15. 15. RQ3 How do changes in the development team affect the file activity of the ecosystem? 25% of obsolete files were maintained by Leavers 14
  16. 16. Findings •  Intensive use of the fork and push mechanisms of GitHub since July 2011 (quarter 13) •  Both the development team and files showed a roughly linearly increasing trend •  Moderate impact of Leavers on the technical part of the ecosystem 15
  17. 17. Do Leavers engage in other ecosystems? Ecosystem Active in Ruby JavaScript 18,038 Python 10,211 Java 7,363 16 Ecosystem Abandoned Ruby Percentage JavaScript 13,814 77% Python 8,131 79% Java 5,132 70%
  18. 18. Threats to validity Multiple user accounts •  Less common within the same GitHub repository •  Identity merging [3] Rails project •  Large/significant Ruby project •  Entire Ruby ecosystem Effort measurement •  Commit squashing •  LOC 17 [3] M. Goeminne and T. Mens, “A comparison of identity merge algorithms for software repositories,” Science of Computer Programming, vol. 78, no. 8, pages 971–986, 2013
  19. 19. Conclusion •  Case study of the Rails evolution in GitHub •  Magnitude and effect of socio-technical changes •  Moderate impact of modifications on the ecosystem •  Sustainable ecosystem •  Socio-technical growth •  Longevity 18
  20. 20. Ongoing/Future Work •  Ruby ecosystem in GitHub (>60K projects) •  Leavers knowledge and specialization (relative entropy) •  Ecosystem migration (Ruby à JavaScript) •  Practices eliminating the effect of occasional contributors 19
  21. 21. Thank you! 20

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