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Defect prediction is an important task in the mining of software repositories, but the quality of predictions varies strongly within and across software projects. In this paper we investigate the reasons why the prediction quality is so fluctuating due to the altering nature of the bug (or defect) fixing process. Therefore, we adopt the notion of a concept drift, which denotes that the defect prediction model has become unsuitable as set of influencing features has changed - usually due to a change in the underlying bug generation process (i.e., the concept). We explore four open source projects (Eclipse, OpenOffice, Netbeans and Mozilla) and construct file-level and project-level features for each of them from their respective CVS and Bugzilla repositories. We then use this data to build defect prediction models and visualize the prediction quality along the time axis. These visualizations allow us to identify concept drifts and - as a consequence - phases of stability and instability expressed in the level of defect prediction quality. Further, we identify those project features, which are influencing the defect prediction quality using both a tree induction-algorithm and a linear regression model. Our experiments uncover that software systems are subject to considerable concept drifts in their evolution history. Specifically, we observe that the change in number of authors editing a file and the number of defects fixed by them contribute to a project's concept drift and therefore influence the defect prediction quality. Our findings suggest that project managers using defect prediction models for decision making should be aware of the actual phase of stability or instability due to a potential concept drift.
Date of Conference: 16-17 May 2009