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How Developers Use the Dynamic Features of Programming Languages: The Case of Smalltalk

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Proceedings (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2011
Author Callau Oscar, Robbes Romain, Tanter Eric, Roethlisberger David,
Project Synchronizing Models and Code
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Proceedings (peer-reviewed)

Title of proceedings Mining software repositories, MSR 2011
DOI 10.1145/1985441.1985448

Open Access

Abstract

The dynamic and reflective features of programming languages are powerful constructs that programmers often mention as extremely useful. However, the ability to modify a program at runtime can be both a boon--- in terms of flexibility---, and a curse---in terms of tool support. For instance, usage of these features hampers the design of type systems, the accuracy of static analysis techniques, or the introduction of optimizations by compilers. In this paper, we perform an empirical study of a large Smalltalk codebase---often regarded as the poster-child in terms of availability of these features---, in order to assess how much these features are actually used in practice, whether some are used more than others, and in which kinds of projects. These results are useful to make informed decisions about which features to consider when designing language extensions or tool support.
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