Software search is not a science, even among scientists: A survey of how scientists and engineers find software

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Abstract

Improved software discovery is a prerequisite for greater software reuse: after all, if someone cannot find software for a particular task, they cannot reuse it. Understanding people's approaches and preferences when they look for software could help improve facilities for software discovery. We surveyed people working in several scientific and engineering fields to better understand their approaches and selection criteria. We found that even among highly-trained people, the rudimentary approaches of relying on general Web searches, the opinions of colleagues, and the literature were still the most commonly used. However, those who were involved in software development differed from nondevelopers in their use of social help sites, software project repositories, software catalogs, and organization-specific mailing lists or forums. For example, software developers in our sample were more likely to search in community sites such as Stack Overflow even when seeking ready-to-run software rather than source code, and likewise, asking colleagues was significantly more important when looking for ready-to-run software. Our survey also provides insight into the criteria that matter most to people when they are searching for ready-to-run software. Finally, our survey also identifies some factors that can prevent people from finding software.

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APA

Hucka, M., & Graham, M. J. (2018). Software search is not a science, even among scientists: A survey of how scientists and engineers find software. Journal of Systems and Software, 141, 171–191. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jss.2018.03.047

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