Eye gaze and interaction contexts for change tasks – Observations and potential

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Journal of Systems and Software, ISSN: 0164-1212, Vol: 128, Page: 252-266

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K. Kevic; T. Fritz; B. M. Walters; T. R. Shaffer; B. Sharif; D. C. Shepherd
Elsevier BV
Computer Science
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article description
The more we know about software developers’ detailed navigation behavior for change tasks, the better we are able to provide effective tool support. Currently, most empirical studies on developers performing change tasks are, however, limited to very small code snippets or limited by the granularity and detail of the data collected on developer’s navigation behavior. In our research, we extend this work by combining user interaction monitoring to gather interaction context – the code elements a developer selects and edits – with eye-tracking to gather more detailed and fine-granular gaze context-code elements a developer looked at. In a study with 12 professional and 10 student developers we gathered interaction and gaze contexts from participants working on three change tasks of an open source system. Based on an analysis of the data we found, amongst other results, that gaze context captures different aspects than interaction context and that developers only read small portions of code elements. We further explore the potential of the more detailed and fine-granular data by examining the use of the captured change task context to predict perceived task difficulty and to provide better and more fine-grained navigation recommendations. We discuss our findings and their implications for better tool support.