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Research Project on Distributed Real-Time Help with Scientific Programming

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We (at UNC-CH CS) are developing a system that allows humans to offer distributed synchronous help (with screen sharing) to programmers facing difficulty . The more immature the programmer facing difficulty, the lower-hanging the fruits of course, but anyone could use a second pair of eyes at some point. The help will be provided by those who do not know the peculiarities of the application, so we we are looking at application-independent difficulties/ help. We ere developing algorithms to automatically detect difficulty based on interaction with the programming environment/editor. Plus we will allow explicit indication of (surmountable/insurmountable) difficulty. As needing human help is normally a rare but costly event, the larger the community we can target, the better.

This post is to determine if this community could use such help - in particular when accessing XSEDE resources. To make difficulty inferences, we need to track user actions. The easiest way to do that is to require the use of a web-based shell such as a Chrome shell.

If you would not mind trying such a system sometime in the near future - few months to a couple of years, please reply back to this post or email: Your input will help determine if we pursue difficulties in scientific programming in general and xsede use in particular.

Thanks for reading this rather long message!


PS: if you are interested in the foundations for this work see: Jason Carter, Prasun Dewan. "Mining Programming Activity to Promote Help," ECSCW, 2015, p. 23. or