A mini review of the field of Programming Psychology

From Twitter: @matseinarsen August 30th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

This is an exploratory blog: I started this with the intention of exploring the subject matter of Programming Psychology myself, and sharing what I found with others. Hopefully that would also lead others to share things back. Now the first thing found is that there is actually (to my naive surprise) a living research field in Programming Psychology, related to the better-known HCI (Human-Computer Interaction).

Among the resources out there, there is an interest group – The Psychology of Programming Interest Group, that organizes annual workshops and publishes a newsletter. Although the page seems dead, there is apparently was a 2009 workshop. The group has also been around for 21 years, so it is no new-comer.

Also, nothing exists before it has it’s own Wikipedia page. Although short, it directed me to the book Psychology of Computer Programming by Gerard M. Weinberg, who also have several other interesting-sounding books, like Understanding The Professional Programmer. Although, from my point of view, the programming is more interesting than the programmer, and with a title sounding like that, it seems more like a management book than a science book.  However, if I get my hands on it will definitively be an interesting read. As for the first-mentioned book, it will be intersting to see if it still holds up: it was published in 1971 and is apparently a classic. Also, Mr. Weinberg has a home page with a very worthy aim!

Also, in academic work, the page of Jorma Sajaniemi came up pretty quick. His page has some very interesting stuff on variable roles and OO methodology that goes really to the core of human computer programming.  He also provided a link to the Journal of Human Technology which adds nicely to the other relevant science journals I’ve gathered – you’ll find them in the list of links. Among other academic work, the Natural Programming lab at CMU seems to have interesting stuff going on.

As for other bloggers, the PPIG has a list of their blogging members, and I’ll just blatantly copy it here:

I’ve also found quite a few articles on their own, but I’ll try to include them later in separate articles after I’ve managed to read through them all myself. However, this annotated bibliography on the Psychology of Programming is a great academic starting point!

When I started looking into this I actually thought this was some afterthought few people had ever looked into. It turns out that anything you start on, someone else out on the Internet is already doing a Ph.D. on… I am happy to see there is good material to work with, of course – but I’m also a bit disappointed as I actually hoped I could set out and do my own experiments and break some new ground as a happy amateur.  However – I still hope to do the latter, although the bar is raised now and some obvious material is already covered.

So, is your blog missing or are you a PoP researcher not mentioned? Please let me know in the comment field and I will gladly add you to the link list and the post!

A blog about Programming Psychology

From Twitter: @matseinarsen August 30th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

First of all, welcome to the blog! Second, what is this about?

To start out, “programming” is about computer programming, the art of instructing computer behaviour through language. The “psychology” part is about the scientific study of the mind, brain and human behaviour.  Put together it makes up the stuff this blog is dedicated to explore: the part human brains play in the process of computer programming.

And does that mean asking computer programmers about their childhood?

How fun that ever may be, not really. The intention is to find and share good resources on how programmers and others understand their code, how different methodologies such as SCRUM and XP affect the people programming, applying existing ideas from psychology on programming, such as exploring individual differences, personality types and cognitive processes.

Ultimately, how much our idea of computer programming is of a lone brain communicating with a machine on the machine’s terms, this is rarely the case. Our programming languages are made as much for humans as they are for machines – or rather are bastardized attempts of considering both. Programming is in most professional forms also a form of engineering, where co-operating and communicating with other humans are just as, or more, important than the actual act of building programs.

And who is writing it? I am Mats Stafseng Einarsen. I have 10 years of experience in professional software engineering, as well as a degree in Psychology. Now I want to explore computer programming using the tools of Psychology, such as controlled experiments, statistics, surveys and individual differences measures.  I don’t intend this to be a pure blog, but also a starting point for programmers who want to participate in some experiments and tests and check up on the results. Ultimately, I also want to implement some ideas in real code!

So is it a personal blog? Not really, it just happens to be just one person involved.. If you want to help out, write posts, notify me about some resources, make a cool graphic, help out creating some experiments in your language of choice, please get in touch!

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