[Journal] Studying Software Logging Using Topic Models


Software developers insert logging statements in their source code to record important runtime information; such logged information is valuable for understanding system usage in production and debugging system failures. However, providing proper logging statements remains a manual and challenging task. Missing an important logging statement may increase the difficulty of debugging a system failure, while too much logging can increase system overhead and mask the truly important information. Intuitively, the actual functionality of a software component is one of the major drivers behind logging decisions. For instance, a method maintaining network communications is more likely to be logged than getters and setters. In this paper, we used automatically-computed topics of a code snippet to approximate the functionality of a code snippet. We studied the relationship between the topics of a code snippet and the likelihood of a code snippet being logged (i.e., to contain a logging statement). Our driving intuition is that certain topics in the source code are more likely to be logged than others. To validate our intuition, we conducted a case study on six open source systems, and we found that i) there exists a small number of log-intensive topics that are more likely to be logged than other topics; ii) each pair of the studied systems share 12% to 62% common topics, and the likelihood of logging such common topics has a statistically significant correlation of 0.35 to 0.62 among all the studied systems; and iii) our topic-based metrics help explain the likelihood of a code snippet being logged, providing an improvement of 3% to 13% on AUC and 6% to 16% on balanced accuracy over a set of baseline metrics that capture the structural information of a code snippet. Our findings highlight that topics contain valuable information that can help guide and drive developers’ logging decisions.

Empirical Software Engineering