ICSE 2011: Conversation with Andreas Zeller

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ICSE, the International Conference on Software Engineering,® is the premier software engineering conference, providing a forum for researchers, practitioners and educators to present and discuss the most recent innovations, trends, experiences and concerns in the field of software engineering.

Thankfully, I got to attend ICSE 2011 and, even better, got to record a bunch of Expert to Expert episodes that feature the great Wolfram Schulte leading the conversations with specialists in various areas of computer science and engineering. What a treat! Thank you, Wolfram.

In this video, we meet Andreas Zeller, the creator of delta debugging and, in some sense, the world's preeminent debugger mind. His book, Why Programs Fail, should be on the shelves (and not collecting dust, mind you!) of all software developers. Dr. Zeller is very passionate about the discipline of software engineering—the craft of writing software, of making software systems. In particular, Dr. Zeller is a champion of code assertions! If you can't assert what you mean, then what do you really mean? What does Dr. Zeller really mean with this assertion business? Tune in.

As developers, we know how much time we spend debugging compared to composing. For some of us, all nighters are more a result of bug chasing than feature building or algorithm construction/optimizations—Andreas has a great perspective on debugging and what all developers should do in order to work 9-5 and get plenty of sleep Smiley




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    The Discussion

    • felix9

      hopefully static verification and theorem provers can save even more debugging time ! Smiley

    • GreyCloud

      Good stuff, Delta Debugging sounds great - wish there was a visual studio 2010 add in for it !

    • Charles

      I found it to be quite alarming that most undergraduate CS and CE curriculums do not employ any significant (or any at all...) focus on the art and craft of debugging. When you think about the role debuggers and debugging play in our lives, it just baffles my mind. Of course, there is no magic silver bullet debugger that will find all possible combinations of potential errors... In some sense, this is really a human behavioral problem -> too often we write code without spending enough time up front understanding and then clearly describing what we expect the code can and will do...

      Just like secure coding practices, folks need to be educated on patterns and practices of implicit debugging of code during composition/design time and not blindly rely on the development infrastructure (tooling) machinery to do it for us - compilers and debuggers do the heavy lifting, yes - but we can do much better up front.

      This conversation really opened my eyes. Thank you, Andreas!



    • Richard.Hein

      What is that symbol on Wolfram's shirt?  I've only started watching the first bit of this video, but am totally distracted by the symbol, because I know I recognize it, but can't remember where it is from.  It's driving me up the wall.  Perplexed

    • Charles

      @Richard.Hein: Not sure, but Honolulu is part of the equation, which means Hawaii. Perhaps it's a symbol related to some natural phenomenon or structure/form?



    • felix9
    • Richard.Hein

      @Charles: Ah, it's Team Element ... skateboard company.  LOL Smiley  It says right on the shirt.  Blushing

    • exoteric
      Very much use and appreciate Code Contracts/ dbc. But would like full static support even in express versions of VS so that the full power of static verification and contracts becomes mass-popularized and used by every programmer. Also would like MS to move ideas from Spec# (& Eiffel) into C#/VB and to support saner defaults (non null ref types, immutability specs, etc.)

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