The Techniques Programmers use to Cope with Crosscutting using Arcum

Macneil Shonle, William G. Griswold and Sorin Lerner
December 5, 2008

At their most essential, aspect languages, program analysis tools, and refactoring tools attempt to give programmers mechanisms to make it more cost effective to manage the crosscutting behavior in their programs. Arcum is a tool to help manage crosscutting that lets programmers define custom program checks and program transformations, using a declarative language. In this paper we present a study aimed at investigating how programmers use Arcum for managing the complexity of crosscutting. In particular, we recorded and transcribed three pairs of programmers performing a variety of tasks using Arcum. By informally analyzing the language in the transcript, we identify the metaphors that the participants used to think about crosscutting design idioms, and the development styles that they used to build solutions. Based on these observations, we reflect on how the use of Arcum relates to traditional programming and AOP approaches, and propose improvements to be made to the development environment to help programmers handle the challenges of crosscutting code. A key observation was that the programmers actively and ingeniously sought ways to force the tool to give early feedback, suggesting that AOP tools like Arcum could do more to support early feedback.

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