PPIG WIP 2009 Report

PPIG Workshop: 

Gabriela Pavel


The last edition of the work-in-progress meeting of the Psychology of Programming Interest Group was held by The Centre for Research in Computing, at the KMI Podium, The Open University, Milton Keynes. The meeting was a chance for discussions between professionals and students in both computing and psychology fields. Editorial guidance was provided by Maria Kutar, from the University of Salford, and Thomas Green  who is affiliated with the University of Leeds.

The work in progress workshop occurred on the 8th and 9th of January 2009 with a group of approximately sixteen participants from and led to interesting discussions.

The workshop started with the talk on software visualization, given by the invited speaker, Dr. Jim Buckley from the University of Limerick. Dr. Buckley. Jim gave a talk entitled 'Software Visualization: Did anyone ask what the software developers want?' and treated members of the audience with a range of tantalizing visualisations and spoke about his collaborations with industry.  It was great to hear comments about developers from industry clearly benefiting directly from PPIG related research.  Software visualisation, along with related areas of visual programming languages and algorithm animation represent strong themes that have been addressed and considered by different PPIG researchers.

The programme continued with six presentations distributed over three sessions and contained presentations from software development and cognition.

Christopher Martin presented an ethnographic study on the solving of programming problems. The presentation highlighted the importance of understanding the programmer in its environment to select the software development tools who have the advantages to support the programmer in his work. The work environment was also the topic of the presentation given by Christopher Douce who focused on understanding the IT worker in his work place.

Software development implies also the understanding of cohesion and the correct use of identifier names. Steve Counsell studied cohesion metrics and found that cohesion improvement is dependant of the size of the code analysed. Simon Butler investigated the link between readability of the source code and the quality of the the identifier names.

Within the cognition-based part of the workshop, Maria Kutar proposed a theoretical framework for cognitive dimensions.  Rather than presenting foundations based upon or within psychology or cognitive psychology, Maria proposed the possibility of philosophical foundations. The third presentation of the morning session was by Gabriela Pavel who focused on understanding the question of how to support the learning of concepts from images.

The work-in-progress meeting provided interactivity during the presentations but also during the three interesting workshop sessions. Thomas Green and Luke presented the Inform language (wikipedia) to demonstrate how the computer can help the programming by using a set of sentences written in natural language. Luke Church reviewed the rules of building games and participants had the chance to image games for given rules. Marian Petre focused on the nature of evidence, reflected in how people present their contribution to knowledge and what methods are to be used for this purpose.

The first day continued the workshop discussions during the dinner at the Ye Olde Swan, to whom we thank for the menu and the hostpitality. We also have to mention the reception of the Berril Building for the lunch and to KMI admin team for the coffee breaks provided. We are grateful to the participants who made this workshop an opportunity to discuss matter of interest for people from the PPIG.

The work-in-progress event was an interesting experience thanks to the participants, the admin teams from Computing and KMI departments of the University, and the organizers. I thank especially to Prof. Marian Petre, Prof. Thomas Green and Dr. Maria Kutar whose help was very important before and during the workshop.