Studying the Change Histories of Stack Overflow and GitHub Snippets
Stack Overflow is a popular Q&A forum for software developers, providing a large number of copyable code snippets. While GitHub is a collaborative development platform, developers often reuse Stack Overflow code in their GitHub projects. These snippets get revised or edited on each platform. In this work, we study Stack Overflow posts and the code snippets that are reused from these posts in GitHub projects. We investigate and compare the change history of SO snippets with the change history of GitHub snippets. We have applied a stratified random sampling when mining 440,000 GitHub projects to create a dataset representing the change history of the reused snippets; this dataset contains 22,900 GitHub projects, 33,765 Stack Overflow references mapped to 4,634 Stack Overflow posts, and a total of 73,322 commits.
We analyze the evolution patterns of snippets on each platform, compare key trends, and explore the co-change of these snippets. Our results demonstrate that 76% of snippets evolve on Stack Overflow, while only 22% of the reused code snippets evolve in GitHub. Stack Overflow snippets undergo fewer and smaller changes compared to their evolving counterparts on GitHub. The evolution of snippets on both platforms is driven by the original author of the content. Finally, we found that a small percentage of snippets is co-changing across two platforms, while snippets in GitHub and Stack Overflow evolve independently of one another.
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