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Code Code Evolution: Understanding How People Change Data Science Notebooks Over Time

by   Deepthi Raghunandan, et al.
University of Maryland
University of Washington

Sensemaking is the iterative process of identifying, extracting, and explaining insights from data, where each iteration is referred to as the "sensemaking loop." Although recent work observes snapshots of the sensemaking loop within computational notebooks, none measure shifts in sensemaking behaviors over time – between exploration and explanation. This gap limits our ability to understand the full scope of the sensemaking process and thus our ability to design tools to fully support sensemaking. We contribute the first quantitative method to characterize how sensemaking evolves within data science computational notebooks. To this end, we conducted a quantitative study of 2,574 Jupyter notebooks mined from GitHub. First, we identify data science-focused notebooks that have undergone significant iterations. Second, we present regression models that automatically characterize sensemaking activity within individual notebooks by assigning them a score representing their position within the sensemaking spectrum. Finally, we use our regression models to calculate and analyze shifts in notebook scores across GitHub versions. Our results show that notebook authors participate in a diverse range of sensemaking tasks over time, such as annotation, branching analysis, and documentation. Finally, we propose design recommendations for extending notebook environments to support the sensemaking behaviors we observed.


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