Communication, Collaboration, and Bugs: The Social Nature of Issue Tracking in Software Engineering

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Issue tracking systems help organizations manage issue reporting, assignment, tracking, resolution, and archiving. Traditionally, it is the Software Engineering community that researches issue tracking systems, where software defects are reported and tracked as ‘bug reports’ within an archival database. Yet issue tracking is fundamentally a social process and, as such, it is important to understand the design and use of issue tracking systems from that perspective. Consequently, we conducted a qualitative study of the use of issue tracking systems by small, collocated software development teams. We found that an issue tracker is not just a database for tracking bugs, features, and inquiries, but also a focal point for communication and coordination for many stakeholders within and beyond the software team. Customers, project managers, quality assurance personnel, and programmers all contribute to the shared knowledge and persistent communication that exists within the issue tracking system. We articulate various real-world practices surrounding issue trackers and offer design implications for future systems.
Information interfaces, Software Management