An empirical study of the influence of static type systems on the usability of undocumented software
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Although the study of static and dynamic type systems plays a major role in research, relatively little is known about the impact of type systems on software development. Perhaps one of the more common arguments for static type systems in languages such as Java or C++ is that they require developers to annotate their code with type names, which is thus claimed to improve the documentation of software. In contrast, one common argument against static type systems is that they decrease flexibility, which may make them harder to use. While these arguments are found in the literature, rigorous empirical evidence is lacking. We report on a controlled experiment where 27 subjects performed programming tasks on an undocumented API with a static type system (requiring type annotations) as well as a dynamic type system (which does not). Our results show that for some tasks, programmers had faster completion times using a static type system, while for others, the opposite held. We conduct an exploratory study to try and theorize why.
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