Whom Are You Going to Call?: Determinants of @-Mentions in GitHub Discussions

Research paper by David Kavaler, Premkumar Devanbu, Vladimir Filkov

Indexed on: 21 Jun '18Published on: 21 Jun '18Published in: arXiv - Computer Science - Software Engineering


Open Source Software (OSS) project success relies on crowd contributions. When an issue arises in pull-request based systems, @-mentions are used to call on people to task; previous studies have shown that @-mentions in discussions are associated with faster issue resolution. In most projects there may be many developers who could technically handle a variety of tasks. But OSS supports dynamic teams distributed across a wide variety of social and geographic backgrounds, as well as levels of involvement. It is, then, important to know whom to call on, i.e., who can be relied or trusted with important task-related duties, and why. In this paper, we sought to understand which observable socio-technical attributes of developers can be used to build good models of them being future @-mentioned in GitHub issues and pull request discussions. We built overall and project-specific predictive models of future @-mentions, in order to capture the determinants of @-mentions in each of two hundred GitHub projects, and to understand if and how those determinants differ between projects. We found that visibility, expertise, and productivity are associated with an increase in @-mentions, while responsiveness is not, in the presence of a number of control variables. Also, we find that though project-specific differences exist, the overall model can be used for cross-project prediction, indicating its GitHub-wide utility.