Got Technical Debt? Surfacing Elusive Technical Debt in Issue Trackers
Software Engineering Institute
This presentation on measuring and managing technical debt was given at the 49th CREST Open Workshop Software Architecture and Technical Debt in November 2016.
Concretely communicating technical debt and its consequences is of common interest to both researchers and software engineers. In the absence of validated tools and techniques to achieve this goal with repeatable results, developers resort to ad hoc practices. Most commonly they report using issue trackers or their existing backlog management practices to capture and track technical debt. In a manual examination of 1,264 issues from four issue trackers from open source industry and government projects, we identified 109 examples of technical debt. Our study reveals that technical debt and its related concepts have entered the vernacular of developers as they discuss development tasks through issue trackers. Even when issues are not explicitly tagged as technical debt, it is possible to identify technical debt items in these issue trackers using a categorization method we developed. We use our results and data to motivate an improved definition and an approach to explicitly report technical debt in issue trackers.