Fragile base-class problem, problem?

  • Aminata Sabané
  • Yann-Gaël Guéhéneuc
  • Venera Arnaoudova
  • Giuliano Antoniol
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10664-016-9448-2

Cite this article as:
Sabané, A., Guéhéneuc, YG., Arnaoudova, V. et al. Empir Software Eng (2016). doi:10.1007/s10664-016-9448-2
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Abstract

The fragile base-class problem (FBCP) has been described in the literature as a consequence of “misusing” inheritance and composition in object-oriented programming when (re)using frameworks. Many research works have focused on preventing the FBCP by proposing alternative mechanisms for reuse, but, to the best of our knowledge, there is no previous research work studying the prevalence and impact of the FBCP in real-world software systems. The goal of our work is thus twofold: (1) assess, in different systems, the prevalence of micro-architectures, called FBCS, that could lead to two aspects of the FBCP, (2) investigate the relation between the detected occurrences and the quality of the systems in terms of change and fault proneness, and (3) assess whether there exist bugs in these systems that are related to the FBCP. We therefore perform a quantitative and a qualitative study. Quantitatively, we analyse multiple versions of seven different open-source systems that use 58 different frameworks, resulting in 301 configurations. We detect in these systems 112,263 FBCS occurrences and we analyse whether classes playing the role of sub-classes in FBCS occurrences are more change and–or fault prone than other classes. Results show that classes participating in the analysed FBCS are neither more likely to change nor more likely to have faults. Qualitatively, we conduct a survey to confirm/infirm that some bugs are related to the FBCP. The survey involves 41 participants that analyse a total of 104 bugs of three open-source systems. Results indicate that none of the analysed bugs is related to the FBCP. Thus, despite large, rigorous quantitative and qualitative studies, we must conclude that the two aspects of the FBCP that we analyse may not be as problematic in terms of change and fault-proneness as previously thought in the literature. We propose reasons why the FBCP may not be so prevalent in the analysed systems and in other systems in general.

Keywords

Inheritance Overriding Composition Fragile base-class Change proneness Fault proneness Empirical study 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aminata Sabané
    • 1
  • Yann-Gaël Guéhéneuc
    • 1
  • Venera Arnaoudova
    • 2
  • Giuliano Antoniol
    • 1
  1. 1.Ecole Polytechnique de MontréalMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Washington State UniversityWashingtonUSA