On code reuse from StackOverflow: An exploratory study on Android apps

  R. Abdalkareem, E. Shihab, and J. Rilling

Abstract: Context: Source code reuse has been widely accepted as a fundamental activity in software development. Recent studies showed that StackOverflow has emerged as one of the most popular resources for code reuse. Therefore, a plethora of work proposed ways to optimally ask questions, search for answers and find relevant code on StackOverflow. However, little work studies the impact of code reuse from StackOverflow. Objective: To better understand the impact of code reuse from StackOverflow, we perform an exploratory study focusing on code reuse from StackOverflow in the context of mobile apps. Specifically, we investigate how much, why, when, and who reuses code. Moreover, to understand the potential implications of code reuse, we examine the percentage of bugs in files that reuse StackOverflow code. Method: We perform our study on 22 open source Android apps. For each project, we mine their source code and use clone detection techniques to identify code that is reused from StackOverflow. We then apply different quantitative and qualitative methods to answer our research questions. Results: Our findings indicate that 1) the amount of reused StackOverflow code varies for different mobile apps, 2) feature additions and enhancements in apps are the main reasons for code reuse from StackOverflow, 3) mid-age and older apps reuse StackOverflow code mostly later on in their project lifetime and 4) that in smaller teams/apps, more experienced developers reuse code, whereas in larger teams/apps, the less experienced developers reuse code the most. Additionally, we found that the percentage of bugs is higher in files after reusing code from StackOverflow. Conclusion: Our results provide insights on the potential impact of code reuse from StackOverflow on mobile apps. Furthermore, these results can benefit the research community in developing new techniques and tools to facilitate and improve code reuse from StackOverflow.

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