Category Archives: Code Reviews

The Wisdom of Peers: A Motive for Exploring Peer Code Review in the Classroom

A major part of my Master’s degree requirements was my research paper.  If you heard me lament over the past year or so about my “thesis”, I was referring to this research paper.

Anyhow, after lots of hard work, my research paper was finally signed off by my supervisor, Dr. Greg Wilson, and second reader Dr. Yuri Takhteyev.  A huge thanks to both of them!

Here’s the abstract, followed by a download link for the PDF.  Enjoy!

Abstract

Peer code review is commonly used in the software development industry to identify and fix problems during the development process. An additional benefit is that it seems to help spread knowledge and expertise around the team conducting the review. So is it possible to leverage peer code review as a learning tool? Our experiment results show that peer code review seems to cause a performance boost in students. They also show that the average total peer mark generated by students seems to be similar to the total mark that a graduate-level teaching assistant might give. We found that students agree that peer code review teaches them something – however, we also found they do not enjoy grading their peers’ work. We are encouraged by these results, and feel that they are a strong motive for further research in this area.

Click here to download my research paper

Stallin’…

I know, I know.  I left you all hanging at the edge of your seat with my last blog post, and I still haven’t posted my idea for recognizing good code review.

I’m bogged down with school work, and I’m aiming to have the first draft of my research paper done next week.  So that’s taking 100% of my resources.

Just be patient.  I’ll post my idea soon.

Recognizing Good Code Review

While the benefits of code review are proven, documented, numerous and awesome, it doesn’t change the fact that most people, in general, don’t like doing it.

I guess code review just isn’t really all that fun.

So a few months ago, I broadcast the idea of turning code review into a game. It was my way of trying to mix things up – “let’s add points, and have reviewers/developers competing to be the best participant in the code review process”.

Well, if there’s one thing that my supervisor Greg has taught me, it’s how I shouldn’t rush headlong into something before all of the facts are in.  So before I decide to do something like game-ifize code review, I should take a look at some prior work in the area…

Enter this guy:  Sebastian Deterding.

In particular, check out the following slide-show.  Flip through it if you have the time.  If you don’t have the time, scroll down, where I get to the salient point with respect to game-ificating code review.

Here’s the slide-show. Be sure to read the narrative at the bottom.

The Salient Point

Sebastian seems to be saying that adding points to apps and trying to incite competition does not make something a game.  If it did, then this should be countless hours of fun.

Without play, there is no game. Points do not equal a game.  It’s not nearly that simple.

Free Pizza and Pop

I’m going to divert for a second here.

Last week, a company set themselves up a couple of booths in the lobby of the Bahen Center where I work.  They were there to recruit university students to work for their company – either as interns, or full-timers.

They were also handing out free pizza and pop.

Needless to say, I wanted a few slices – but I figured it would be polite if I engaged them in conversation before waltzing off with some of the free food and drink they’d brought.

So I sparked up a conversation with one of the recruiters, and he told me about the company.  I’m going to call this recruiter Vlad.

I ended up gently steering the conversation towards code review, and I asked my inevitable question:

“So, do you guys do code review?”

I felt like a dentist asking a patient if he’s been flossing.  Vlad waffled a bit, but the general impression was:

“Not as much as we should.  We don’t have a prescribed workflow. It’d be hard to persuade all of the teams to do it.”

And then we started talking about code review in general.  It turns out that Vlad had worked in a few companies where they’d done code review, and he always felt a little short changed.  He said something along the lines of:

“I never felt compelled to do reviews.  They just sort of happened…and I did it, and it felt like…unrecognized effort.  I mean, what’s the incentive?  Do you know what I mean?  There’s incentive for the software, but I’m talking incentive for me.  And some people did really lousy reviews…but my reviews were treated the same as theirs.  I didn’t get recognized, and didn’t get rewarded if I did a good review.  So it was hard for me to do them.  I want to be recognized for my good reviews, for my good contributions.”

I wish I’d had a tape-recorder running so I could have gotten Vlad’s exact words.  But that’s what I remember him saying.

Feedback and Recognition

Maybe instead of trying to game-ulize code review, I can instead hear what Vlad is saying and work off of that.

With the code review that Vlad participated in, all of the feedback went to the code author, and none went to the reviewers.  And the reviewers are the ones who are doing all of the heavy lifting!  As a reviewer, Vlad also wants feedback, and recognition for code review done well.

There’s a company in Toronto that specializes in feedback like this.  They’re one of the major players in the Toronto start-up scene, and have built a pretty sweet suite of tools to facilitate quick and easy feedback/recognition.

The company is called Rypple.  And maybe that’s the name of the application, too.  (checks website) Yeah, it’s both.

So Rypple has this feature called Kudos that let’s people publicly acknowledge the good work of their team.

Normally, I don’t pimp companies.  And it upsets me when people comment on my blog, and their sub-text is to try to sell their product or service.  However, I think this video is relevant, so I’m posting their demo video so you can see how Kudos work:

Click here if you can’t see the video.

The Idea

So Rypple’s idea is to have a feed that the team subscribes to, and publicly display things like Kudos.  The badges for the Kudos are also limited in how many you can give per week, so they’re a valuable commodity that can’t just be handed out all over the place.  Cool idea.

So there’s one approach – use a service like Rypple to give your reviewers better feedback and recognition.

Or maybe we could build an extension for Review Board that does something similar, and more oriented around code review.

It’s not oriented like a game, like I had originally envisioned.  But somehow, I think this idea has more meaning and traction than just “adding points”.

More on this idea in a few days.  But please, comment if you have any thoughts or ideas to add.

Review Board Issue Tracking: A Sneak Peek

So I wrote my (hopefully) last mid-term ever last night, and in celebration, I thought I’d put together a little video showing off the issue tracking feature I’m hoping to put into Review Board.

It’s still in it’s very early stages.  The code hasn’t been reviewed.  I’m still really really open to suggestions and feedback on this.  So please, comment here, or on the reviewboard-dev list.

So here it is – enjoy!

(Click here if you can’t see the video)