Refactoring Community Smells in the Wild: The Practitioner’s Field Manual
Community smells have been defined as sub-optimal organizational structures that may lead to social debt. Previous studies have shown that they are highly diffused in both open- and closed-source projects, are perceived as harmful by practitioners, and can even lead to the introduction of technical debt in source code. Despite the presence of this body of research, little is known on the practitioners’ perceived prominence of community smells in practice as well as on the strategies adopted to deal with them. This paper aims at bridging this gap by proposing an empirical study in which 76 software practitioners are inquired on (i) the prominence of four well-known community smells, i.e., Organizational Silo, Black Cloud, Lone Wolf, and Radio Silence, in their contexts and (ii) the methods they adopted to “refactor” them. Our results first reveal that community smells frequently manifest themselves in software projects and, more importantly, there exist specific refactoring practices to deal with each of the considered community smells.