Episode 2

Kaylea Champion and Mako Hill on Detecting Risk in Digital Infrastructure


October 18th, 2021

31 mins 18 secs

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About this Episode


Kaylea Champion and Benjamin Mako Hill

Show Notes

Today, we have two guests, Kaylea Champion and Mako Hill, both from the University of Washington in Seattle. Kaylea is a PhD candidate in the Department of Communication and Mako is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication. The grant that Kaylea and Mako were working on is called “Detecting Risk in Digital Infrastructure” and they go in depth and explain what it’s all about. We also hear more about the tertiary review they wrote and another paper that is in peer review, where they are expecting to take it and where they are working to see how they can grow this research into something larger. Also, we learn about Community Data Science Collective, which is their research group, and listen to how Kaylea and Mako define what Digital Infrastructure means to them. Go ahead and download this episode now to learn more!

[00:01:37] Kaylea tells us more about the grant called “Detecting Risk in Digital Infrastructure” and how the project started, and she mentions Nadia Eghbal’s work on Roads and Bridges and the issue with Heartbleed.

[00:04:39] Richard asks Kaylea how she started figuring out what quality means when applied directly to code, and Mako shares more about the literature review they did on quality of research and quality measurement research in software engineering.

[00:11:13] Kaylea fills us in on what she found out in terms of under production of code.

[00:13:16] Kaylea and Mako explain what happens with the packages that don’t have high bug reports or don’t have low bug reports and if they are accounted for.

[00:18:18] We learn more about packages as a whole in software development in Debian and Linux, and more about the methods in the paper.

[00:23:04] Mako and Kaylea had this grant form Sloan and Ford, part of the Digital Infrastructure Fund, so we find out where they took it afterwards. They have a tertiary article and another paper in peer review, where are they expecting to take it and where are they working now to see how they can grow this research into something larger. Mako tells us a little bit about their research called, Community Data Science Group, that you can check out.

[00:27:47] Kaylea and Mako define what Digital Infrastructure means to them.

[00:30:23] Find out where you can follow Kaylea and Mako online.

Grant Details

Grant title: Detecting Risk in Digital Infrastructure

Grantees: Benjamin Mako Hill, Kaylea Champion

Description: Widely-used components of digital infrastructure are relatively neglected. We developed a new technique for identifying ‘underproduction’ -- the mismatch that can emerge between what consumers use and what producers create. We propose that developer communities use data on software importance and quality to help prioritize their efforts. Complicating this picture is our finding that many approaches to measuring software quality have a limited and contradictory validation record.


[00:27:50] “Because although Digital Infrastructure artifacts are what I study, Digital Infrastructure is really about people, and it’s about communities, it’s about how people are working together to build amazing things, it’s about the person who’s pager goes off in the middle of the night to fix what’s gone wrong, it’s about the person banging away at their keyboard to try to make things better for the rest of us. It’s really about how people collaborate to find problems, to find bugs, and intervene to save us in ways that we would never even know in the dark of night or in the early light of morning. All the people who kind of work together to produce this amazing environment that we all have to communicate, to conduct education, to record this podcast. Everything we rely on now I think with modern technology is so dependent on the actions of communities and volunteers and individuals and the collaborations that they conduct.”