36th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE 2014), May 31 – June 7, 2014, Hyderabad, India

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Code Contracts, Invariants, and Robustness
Technical Research
Hall 2, Chair: Andreas Zeller
Trading Robustness for Maintainability: An Empirical Study of Evolving C# Programs
ACM Distinguished Paper
Publisher's Version
Preprint
Abstract: Mainstream programming languages provide built-in exception handling mechanisms to support robust and maintainable implementation of exception handling in software systems. Most of these modern languages, such as C#, Ruby, Python and many others, are often claimed to have more appropriated exception handling mechanisms. They reduce programming constraints on exception handling to favor agile changes in the source code. These languages provide what we call maintenance-driven exception handling mechanisms. It is expected that the adoption of these mechanisms improve software maintainability without hindering software robustness. However, there is still little empirical knowledge about the impact that adopting these mechanisms have on software robustness. This paper addressed this gap by conducting an empirical study aimed at understanding the relationship between changes in C# programs and their robustness. In particular, we evaluated how changes in the normal and exceptional code were related to exception handling faults. We applied a change impact analysis and a control flow analysis in 119 versions of 16 C# programs. The results showed that: (i) most of the problems hindering software robustness in those programs are caused by changes in the normal code, (ii) many potential faults were introduced even when improving exception handling in C# code, and (iii) faults are often facilitated by the maintenance-driven flexibility of the exception handling mechanism. Moreover, we present a series of change scenarios that decrease the program robustness.

Time stamp: 2020-07-12T07:50:28+02:00