Designing for Cognitive Diversity: Improving the GitHub Experience for Newcomers

Italo Santos, Joao Felipe Pimentel, Igor Wiese, Igor Steinmacher, Anita Sarma, Marco A. Gerosa

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Social coding platforms such as GitHub have become defacto environments for collaborative programming and open source. When these platforms do not support specific cognitive styles, they create barriers to programming for some populations. Research shows that the cognitive styles typically favored by women are often unsupported, creating barriers to entry for woman newcomers. In this paper, we use the GenderMag method to evaluate GitHub to find cognitive style-specific inclusivity bugs. We redesigned the "buggy"GitHub features through a web browser plugin, which we evaluated through a between-subjects experiment (n=75). Our results indicate that the changes to the interface improve users' performance and self-efficacy, mainly for individuals with cognitive styles more common to women. Our results can inspire designers of social coding platforms and software engineering tools to produce more inclusive development environments.General Abstract - Diversity is an important aspect of society. One form of diversity is cognitive diversity - differences in cognitive styles, which helps generate a diversity of thoughts. Unfortunately, software tools often do not support different cognitive styles (e.g., learning styles), disproportionately impacting those whose styles are not supported. These individuals pay a cognitive "tax"each time they use the tools. In this work, we found "inclusivity bugs"in GitHub, a social coding platform. We then redesigned these buggy features and evaluated them with users. Our results show that the redesign makes it easier for the group of individuals whose cognitive styles were unsupported in the original design, with the percentage of completed tasks rising from 67% to 95% for this group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2023 IEEE/ACM 45th International Conference on Software Engineering
Subtitle of host publicationSoftware Engineering in Society, ICSE-SEIS 2023
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Pages1-12
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9798350322613
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023
Event45th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Software Engineering: Software Engineering in Society, ICSE-SEIS 2023 - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: May 14 2023May 20 2023

Publication series

NameProceedings - International Conference on Software Engineering
Volume2023-May
ISSN (Print)0270-5257

Conference

Conference45th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Software Engineering: Software Engineering in Society, ICSE-SEIS 2023
Country/TerritoryAustralia
CityMelbourne
Period5/14/235/20/23

Keywords

  • cognitive styles
  • diversity and inclusion
  • human factors
  • human-computer interaction
  • open source

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software

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