Elon Computing Sciences


Amber K. Smith (Dr. Megan Squire) Department of Computing Sciences

Pastebins services are web sites designed to make it easier to share (and in some cases execute) code snippets among developers. This research describes how software developers using three different social media to communicate (mailing lists, IRC, and Stack Overflow) react and adjust to this new supplementary collaboration tool, called a pastebin service.

Mailing lists and IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channels are both heavily used between software development teams to easily communicate between all members. They are slightly different in the fact that IRC channels are used for quick simple questions or comments similar to instant message systems while mailing lists generally have more content and are used for tasks such as sending updates or voting on ideas with all members. In comparison, Stack Overflow is a question and answer web site for the general public. Anyone can view and answer your question even if they are not on your software development team. >

Using mailing list archives, IRC logs, and a database dump from Stack Overflow, we examine the adoption of this pastebin tool by social programmers through the lens of classic Diffusion of Innovation (DoI) theory. We then compare the way social programmers on three different types of social media decided whether to accept or reject the new pastebin tool. We find that the common reasons social programmers give for accepting and rejecting pastebin are mostly typical and follow the DoI closely: the tool provides relative advantage, simplicity, etc. We also find that the most prevalent stated reason for rejection of the pastebin is one of compatibility of values; there is an expectation that a tool designed to supplement the developers' own communications should have the same level of longevity and permanence as the original communication channel. Additionally, we confirm the DoI's diffusion under interconnected communication networks: on Stack Overflow, individuals in "communication proximity" also tended to react to the innovation in similar ways.