Posts Tagged ‘ca640’

Critical Review of Tesseract

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

For CA640 we were supposed to pick a paper from International Conference of Software Engineering 2009 (ICSE 2009) and critically review it.

I chose to review Tesseract: Interactive Visual Exploration of Socio-Technical Relationships in Software Development.

You can find the review in PDF here. Its abstract reads:

This critical review of a paper, which presents Tesseract and was handed in for the ICSE 2009, focusses on
strength and weaknesses of the idea behind Tesseract: Visualising and exploring freely available and loosly coupled fragments (mailing lists, bug tracker or commits) of Free Software development.
Tesseract is thus a powerful data miner as well as a GUI to browse the obtained data.

This critique evaluates the usefulness of Tesseract by questioning the fundamental motivation it was built on, the data which it analyses and its general applicability.

Existing gaps in the original research are filled by conducting interviews with relevant developers as well as providing information about the internal structure of a Free Software project.

Tesseract is a program that builds and visualises a social network based on freely available data from a software project such as mailing lists, bug tracker or commits to a software repository. This network can be interactively explored with the Tesseract tool. This tool shows how communication among developers relates to changes in the actual code. The authors used a project under the GNOME umbrella named Rhythmbox to show their data mining and the program in operation. GNOME is a Free/Libre Software Desktop used as default by many Linux distributions including the most popular ones, i.e. Ubuntu and Fedora. To assess Tesseracts usability and usefulness, the authors interviewed people not related to Rhythmbox asking whether Tesseract was usable and provided useful information.

The paper was particularly interesting for me because the authors analysed data from the GNOME project. As I am a member of that development community, I wanted to see how their approach can or cannot increase the quality of the project. Another focus was to help their attempt to improve GNOME by highlighting where they may have gaps in their knowledge of its internals.

During this critique, I will show that some assumptions were made that do not hold for Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) in general and for GNOME in particular either because the authors simply did not have the internal knowledge or did not research carefully enough. Also I will show that the used data is not necessarily meaningful and I will attempt to complement the lacking data by presenting the results of interviews I conducted with actual GNOME developers. This will show how to further improve Tesseract by identifying new usage scenarios. Lastly, this text will question the general usefulness of Tesseract for the majority of Free Software projects.

MSN Shutdown in 2003

Monday, March 8th, 2010

During CA640 I was made to write an ethical review which I was supposed to hand in using a dodgy webservice. Since it got 90% people mugged me to make it available ;-) Of course, I don’t have a problem with that, so people now have a reference or know what to expect when they enter the course.

You can find the PDF here and its abstract reads:

At the end 2003 Microsoft closed the public chat-rooms of its Internet service called MSN.
MSN was pushed by Children’s Charities because they feared an abuse of these chat-rooms.
In some countries, however, the service was still available but subject to a charge.
This review raises ethical questions about Microsoft’s and the Children’s Charities’ behaviour because making the people pay with the excuse of protecting children is considered ethically questionable.
Also the Children’s Charities pushed for closure of a heavily used service although there is absolutely no evidence that children would be safer after closing down a chat-room.

If you are not interested in the non-technical details you might be interested to know that I use a Mercurial Hook on the server side to automatically compile the LaTeX sources one I push changes to the server:

$ cat .hg/hgrc
[hooks]
changegroup.compile = export FILE=paper && hg up -C && pdflatex --interaction=batchmode $FILE && bibtex $FILE && pdflatex --interaction=batchmode $FILE && pdflatex --interaction=batchmode $FILE

And then I just symlink that resulting PDF file to my public_html directory.

Why I cannot use turnitin.com

Monday, December 28th, 2009

turnitin logoWe are were supposed to use a proprietary webservice to hand in a paper:

You should also upload the essay to turnitin.com using the password key:

5vu0h5fw and id: 2998602

Late entries will suffer a penalty.

I cannot use this service. The simplest reason being that I cannot agree to their ToS.

Let me clarify just by picking some of their points off their ToS:

By clicking the “I agree — create profile” button below You: (1) represent that You have read and understand

As I am not a native speaker of neither English nor law-speak, I cannot  agree that I fully understand those ToS.

With the exception of the limited license granted below, nothing contained herein shall be construed as granting You any right, […]

Whatever that means, it sounds scary to me.

You further represent that You are not barred from receiving the Services or using the Site under the laws of the United States or other applicable jurisdiction.

I am sorry but I do not know whether this holds for me.

You may not modify, copy, distribute, transmit, display, perform, reproduce, publish, license, create derivative works from, transfer, or sell any information, Licensed Programs or Services from the Site without the prior written consent of iParadigms,

Lucky me, that I did not agree to their ToS yet so that I can copy them and bring them up here…

You further agree not to cause or permit the disassembly, decompilation, recompilation, or reverse engineering of any Licensed Program or technology underlying the Site. In jurisdictions where a right to reverse engineer is provided by law unless information is available about products in order to achieve interoperability, functional compatibility, or similar objectives, You agree to submit a detailed written proposal to iParadigms concerning any information You need for such purposes before engaging in reverse engineering.

I seriously do not want to write a proposal to this company for every new website I will build just because they use a <form> or some AJAX.

You are entirely responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of Your password

I cannot do that because I do not even know how they store my password (we are talking about an ASP program after all…).

You agree to use reasonable efforts to retain the confidentiality of class identification numbers and passwords. In no circumstance shall You transmit or make Your password or class identification number or any other passwords for the Site or class identification numbers available in any public forum, including, but not limited to any web page, blog, advertisement or other posting on the Internet, any public bulletin board, and any file that is accessible in a peer-to-peer network.

Yeah, sure. Nobody will find it on the page itself anyway.

This User Agreement is governed by the laws of the State of California, U.S.A. You hereby consent to the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of state and federal courts in Alameda County, California, U.S.A., in all disputes arising out of or relating to the use of the Site or the Services.

Might sound weird, but I do not want to be arraigned in the USA.

You agree not to use the Site in any jurisdiction that does not give effect to all provisions of these terms and conditions, including without limitation this paragraph.

Of course, I do not know enough about this jurisdiction to agree to those ToS.

Needless to say, that I do not want my data to fall under the American 9-11 Patriot Act.

Besides the above mentioned legal issues, I also have ethical concerns to contribute to the profit of a dodgy company by providing them my written essay so that they can use that to check other works against mine. If I believed in copyright, I could probably claim infringement as well.

Other topics, such as the violation of the presumption of innocence, are covered by resources on the web. And there is plenty of it. The most interesting ones include this and this.

Admittedly, I could care not as much as I do, but being an academic also means to think critically.

I more or less sent this email to the lecturer and it turned out that it’s not compulsory to use this dodgy service! *yay*

The future, however, is not safe yet, so more action is needed…