Spontaneously High Performing — Embedded

Marian Petre spoke to us about her research on how to make software developers better at developing software.

Marian is an Emeritus Professor of the School of Computing & Communications at the Open University in the United Kingdom. She also has a Wikipedia page

The short version of How Expert Programmers Think About Errors is on the NeverWorkInTheory.org page along with other talks about academic studies on software development topics.  

The longer version is a keynote from Strange Loop 2022: “Expert Software Developers’ Approach to Error”.

This concept as well as many others are summarized in Software Design Decoded: 66 Ways Experts Think (Mit Press) by Marian Petre and Andre van der Hoek (MIT Press, 2016). The book’s website provides an annotated bibliography. Marian has also co-written Software Designers in Action: A Human-Centric Look at Design Work.

She is current conducting inquiries into:

  • Code dreams: This research studies whether software developers dream about coding – and, if so, the nature of those dreams.  Following on from work on software developers’ mental imagery and cognitive processes during programming, this project investigates developers’ experience of coding in their dreams (whatever form that takes), and whether the content of such dreams provides insight into the developers’ design and problem solving.

  • Invisible work that adds value to software development: The notion of ‘invisible work’ – activity that adds value in software development but is often overlooked or undervalued by management and promotion processes – arose repeatedly in discussions at Strange Loop 2022.  Developers asked for evidence they could use to fuel conversations — and potentially promote change — in their organisations. This research aims to capture the main categories of ‘invisible work’ identified by developers (e.g., reducing technical debt; improving efficiency; addressing security; development of tools and resources; design discussions; …), and to gather concrete examples of the value that work adds to software.