🔬 Research Summary by Humphrey O. Obie, an Adjunct Research Fellow with the HumaniSE Lab at Monash University; his research is at the intersection of human values and software and AI systems.
[Original paper by Humphrey O. Obie, Juliet Ukwella, Kashumi Madampe, John Grundy, and Mojtaba Shahin]
Overview: This paper delves into the perceptions and experiences of developers concerning the value of transparency in software development. Through interviews with experienced developers, the research shows the significance of transparency as a cornerstone in software development, emphasizing its role in fostering trust, accountability, and ethical practice.
In today’s digital world, software applications have become integral to our daily lives, influencing everything from communication to healthcare. However, as these applications grow in influence, how much do we truly understand the values embedded within them and the violations of these values? This research seeks to understand developer’s perspectives on one such value: transparency. Transparency is an attribute of communication in software development that enables stakeholders to answer their questions about the software system during its software life cycle. Transparency also encompasses openness, clarity, and visibility of software applications’ inner workings, processes, and actions. Transparent software applications give users insight into how their data is collected, used, and protected. They enable users to understand the algorithms and decision-making processes behind automated systems.
By interviewing five experienced developers, this preliminary study aimed to comprehend how these professionals perceive transparency, its potential violations, and their methods to rectify such breaches. The findings offer a glimpse into key aspects related to developers’ understanding of transparency, violations of this value of transparency, and the process of addressing such reported values-violations.
Transparency as a Core Value
All participants unanimously recognized transparency as a pivotal value in software development. They associated it with honesty and accountability, emphasizing its role in clear communication during the development process. For developers, transparency is about being open and keeping stakeholders informed about progress and potential issues.
Balancing Transparency with Practical and Ethical Considerations
While transparency is paramount, developers also highlighted the need to balance it with other practical and ethical considerations. For instance, certain aspects need to be concealed from clients due to changing project scopes. This shows the intricate balance developers maintain, ensuring transparency while also navigating various challenges.
Detecting and Addressing Violations
Developers have a systematic approach to handling transparency violations. They first identify the root cause and then develop corrective action plans, followed by collaborative problem-solving and rigorous testing. The study revealed that developers are not only aware of potential transparency violations but also have strategies in place to address them effectively.
The research emphasizes the importance of collaboration in addressing transparency violations Developers believe that involving relevant stakeholders, such as team members or clients, leads to more effective problem-solving and resolution. This collaborative approach ensures that the implemented solutions are robust and address the core issues.
Testing and Verification
Once a solution is implemented, developers highlight the importance of testing and verification. They believe that rigorous testing ensures the effectiveness of the implemented solution, ensuring that the transparency violation is effectively addressed.
Between the lines
The findings of this study are important in the current technological landscape. They highlight the importance that developers place on transparency, suggesting a strong ethical foundation in software development practices. However, the study also reveals the challenges developers face in maintaining transparency, especially when other practical or ethical considerations come into play. While the study provides valuable insights, exploring how these perceptions of transparency vary across different demographics, cultures, and domains, with a bigger sample size of study participants would be interesting.