The Design of Bug Fixes
Emerson Murphy-Hill, Thomas Zimmermann, Christian Bird, and Nachiappan Nagappan
North Carolina State University, USA; Microsoft Research, USA
Track: Technical Research
When software engineers fix bugs, they may have several options as to how to fix those bugs. Which fix they choose has many implications, both for practitioners and researchers: What is the risk of introducing other bugs during the fix? Is the bug fix in the same code that caused the bug? Is the change fixing the cause or just covering a symptom? In this paper, we investigate alternative fixes to bugs and present an empirical study of how engineers make design choices about how to fix bugs. Based on qualitative interviews with 40 engineers working on a variety of products, data from 6 bug triage meetings, and a survey filled out by 326 engineers, we found a number of factors, many of them non-technical, that influence how bugs are fixed, such as how close to release the software is. We also discuss several implications for research and practice, including ways to make bug prediction and localization more accurate.