40th International Conference on Software Engineering
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Journal or Book Title
Proceedings of the 40th International Conference on Software Engineering
2018 ACM/IEEE 40th International Conference on Software Engineering
May 27-June 3, 2018
Programmers often consult an online Q&A forum such as Stack Overflow to learn new APIs. This paper presents an empirical study on the prevalence and severity of API misuse on Stack Overflow. To reduce manual assessment effort, we design ExampleCheck, an API usage mining framework that extracts patterns from over 380K Java repositories on GitHub and subsequently reports potential API usage violations in Stack Overflow posts. We analyze 217,818 Stack Overflow posts using ExampleCheck and find that 31% may have potential API usage violations that could produce unexpected behavior such as program crashes and resource leaks. Such API misuse is caused by three main reasons---missing control constructs, missing or incorrect order of API calls, and incorrect guard conditions. Even the posts that are accepted as correct answers or upvoted by other programmers are not necessarily more reliable than other posts in terms of API misuse. This study result calls for a new approach to augment Stack Overflow with alternative API usage details that are not typically shown in curated examples.
Zhang, Tianyi; Upadhyaya, Ganesha; Reinhardt, Anastasia; Rajan, Hridesh; and Kim, Miryung, "Are Code Examples on an Online Q&A Forum Reliable?" (2018). Computer Science Conference Presentations, Posters and Proceedings. 46.