Strategies in programming programmable controllers: A field study on a professional programmer

Willemien Visser 1
1 PSYCHO ERGO - Ergonomic Psychology
Inria Paris-Rocquencourt
Abstract : One of the questions raised at the end of the First Workshop on Empirical Programmers (see 17), and which subsequently became the title of a Future Directions paper, was "By the way, did anyone study any real programmers?" (7). Our answer is "Yes." It is our wish in presenting this paper to contribute to the understanding of some aspects of "programming-in-the-large," in particular those concerning the specific strategies that the programmer uses. A professional programmer constructing a program that was to control an automatic machine tool installation was observed full time for four weeks in his daily work. In this paper, we chose to focus on the strategies used, under the hypothesis that they differ, at least partially, from those observed to date in most novice, student programmers working on artificial, limited problems. We observed some strategies already known to be at work in "programming-in-the small": planning, top-down and bottom-up processing, schema-guided information processing. However, other strategies seem indeed to be characteristic of programming in a work context: the frequent use of example programs, the importance of analogical reasoning, and the search for homogeneity (for comprehension and maintenance reasons). Finally, the opportunistic nature of the activity we observed also seems to be a characteristic of real programming activity.
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Willemien Visser. Strategies in programming programmable controllers: A field study on a professional programmer. G. M. Olson and S. Sheppard and E. Soloway. Empirical Studies of Programmers: Second workshop (ESP2), Ablex, pp.217-230, 1987. ⟨hal-00641376⟩

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