Autonomy Is An Acquired Taste: Exploring Developer Preferences for GitHub Bots

Amir Ghorbani, Nathan Cassee, Derek Robinson, Adam Alami, Neil Ernst, Alexander Serebrenik, Andrzej Wasowski

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Software bots fulfill an important role in collective software development, and their adoption by developers promises increased productivity. Past research has identified that bots that communicate too often can irritate developers, which affects the utility of the bot. However, it is not clear what other properties of human-bot collaboration affect developers' preferences, or what impact these properties might have. The main idea of this paper is to explore characteristics affecting developer preferences for interactions between humans and bots, in the context of GitHub pull requests. We carried out an exploratory sequential study with interviews and a subsequent vignette-based survey. We find developers generally prefer bots that are personable but show little autonomy, however, more experienced developers tend to prefer more autonomous bots. Based on this empirical evidence, we recommend bot developers increase configuration options for bots so that individual developers and projects can configure bots to best align with their own preferences and project cultures.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the International Conference on Software Engineering
Pages (from-to)1405-1417
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Human Aspects
  • Software Bot
  • Pull Request


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