Technical debt, or how I stopped worrying and love the code

ICSME ’15, or 31st International Conference on Software Maintenance and Evolution, was held this year in Bremen last week. As a co-located event, MTD’15 (Seventh International Workshop on Managing Technical Debt) was organised on 2nd of October. Technical debt is a metaphor for ‘duct-tape’ present in a code base of a software system. In the hectic development pace, a software team might cut some corners in order to deliver new features more rapidly, and thus produce some code that is not quite right in that sense that it might hinder the development later on. Thus, allegorigally the team takes the technical debt to gain from faster delivery, but has to pay some interest later on in the form of slower development.

Neil Ernst welcomes us to MTD15

Neil Ernst welcomes us to MTD15

I had an opportunity to visit the workshop to present a paper, Decision-Making Framework for Refactoring, by me (Marko Leppänen), Samuel Lahtinen and Kati Kuusinen from TUT, and by Simo Mäkinen and Tomi Männistö from University of Helsinki, Juha Itkonen from Aalto, Jesse Yli-Huumo from Lappeenranta University of Technology and Timo Lehtonen from Solita. So, the paper was authored as a joint collaboration with four universities and an industrial partner.

The paper presents a decision-making process for refactoring, which is the process of improving the code without affecting the actual functionality. Refactoring is the main method of paying back the technical debt present in a software system. We focused on larger scale refactorings, which are not incorporated in the daily coding, but require some coordination of work and planning.

The workshop was quite refreshing, as the presentations were short and the focus was more on discussion and actual workshopping. We also had a good keynote by Arie van Deursen, who is a full professor in Software Engineering at Delft University of Technology, Netherlands. Arie presented the threats caused by technical debt in modern software systems, possibly even causing massive disruptions in critical domains, such as banking.

What comes to the city of Bremen, I regretfully didn’t have much time to spend there, so I have only this one photo to show you. I took it at my hotel lobby and it depicts the symbol of Bremen – Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten.


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