Early prediction for merged vs abandoned code changes in modern code reviews

Code Review Process - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics



The modern code review process is an integral part of the current software development practice. Considerable effort is given here to inspect code changes, find defects, suggest an improvement, and address the suggestions of the reviewers. In a code review process, several iterations usually take place where an author submits code changes and a reviewer gives feedback until is happy to accept the change. In around 12% cases, the changes are abandoned, eventually wasting all the efforts.


In this research, our objective is to design a tool that can predict whether a code change would be merged or abandoned at an early stage to reduce the waste of efforts of all stakeholders (e.g., program author, reviewer, project management, etc.) involved. The real-world demand for such a tool was formally identified by a study by Fan et al. (2018).


We have mined 146,612 code changes from the code reviews of three large and popular open-source software and trained and tested a suite of supervised machine learning classifiers, both shallow and deep learning-based. We consider a total of 25 features in each code change during the training and testing of the models. The features are divided into five dimensions: reviewer, author, project, text, and code.


The best performing model named PredCR (Predicting Code Review), a LightGBM-based classifier achieves around 85% AUC score on average and relatively improves the state-of-the-art (Fan et al., 2018) by 14%–23%. In our extensive empirical study involving PredCR on the 146,612 code changes from the three software projects, we find that (1) The new features like reviewer dimensions that are introduced in PredCR are the most informative. (2) Compared to the baseline, PredCR is more effective towards reducing bias against new developers. (3) PredCR uses historical data in the code review repository and as such the performance of PredCR improves as a software system evolves with new and more data.


PredCR can help save time and effort by helping developers/code reviewers to prioritize the code changes that they are asked to review. Project management can use PredCR to determine how code changes can be assigned to the code reviewers (e.g., select code changes that are more likely to be merged for review before the changes that might be abandoned).