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Social Adaptation: When Software Gives Users a Voice

Final Report Summary - SOCIAD (Social Adaptation: When Software Gives Users a Voice)

SOCIAD, an acronym derived from “SOCIal ADaptation: when software gives users a voice” is a project funded by an FP7 Marie Curie Career Integration Grant awarded to Dr Raian Ali to support his integration, career and research at his new environment: Bournemouth University in the UK. The scientific theme of the project revolves around giving stakeholders an active role in shaping systems adaptation and evolution in a lifelong style, i.e. when and after the software is deployed and run. The project focuses on developing systematic ways to obtain structured feedback from stakeholders to enable a faster and better processing of it and link it more efficiently to the system requirements and its various design options. This would then enable a better decision making, autonomous or semi-autonomous, in relation to the system adaptation perceived as the process of choosing an alternative strategy that fits stakeholders’ collective opinion on how to reach a requirement in a certain context.

SOCIAD adopts concepts from crowdsourcing and participatory design and tries to integrate them into the practice and artefacts used in requirements and variability engineering, validation and evolution stages. To achieve that, SOCIAD established a reference model for crowdsourcing providing an integrated conceptualization to demonstrate the commonality and variability of the various pillars of the paradigm and help to disambiguate the concept and provide a reference point when setting up crowdsourcing projects. It also identified patterns for configuring such projects and ensuring compatibility and consistency in their configurations. A special attention has been paid to crowdsourcing the activities of requirements elicitation and software validation. SOCIAD offers patterns, a formalized ontology and a process for feedback acquisition and linking users’ feedback to the models of system requirements and the management of change process.
SOCIAD also focuses on the motivation and willingness of the crowd to participate and ways to increase that motivation through the use of digital motivation mechanisms based on known paradigms such as gamification and persuasive technology. It also explored users’ preferences and archetypes in their style of dealing with feedback requests, providing feedback and participating in the system adaptation and evolution processes. These patterns provide foundations for feedback collectors meant to enrich the knowledge base with stakeholders input processed to validate domain assumptions and requirements and design models for their suitability in various contexts alongside the lifecycle of the software product operation.
SOCIAD contributes to a growing effort on the area of crowd-based requirements engineering and the project team presented significant contributions to the field through papers and talks at well-reputed journals, such as the Requirement Engineering Journal and Information and Software Technology Journal, and conferences such as CAiSE, REFSQ, RCIS and PoEM.

SOCIAD is a Career Integration Grant that is also meant to support Dr Raian Ali to integrate well into his new academic environment, Bournemouth University, which he joined in 2012. Raian has benefited largely from this grant and established his group, the Engineering of Social Informatics Research Group (ESOTICS). He was promoted from Lecturer (2012) to Senior Lecturer (2013) and Associate Professor (2016). The grant also enabled Raian to foster his international collaboration networks including Universities of Brasilia and Utrecht and present the project results in a wide range of conference and research groups.

The project has offered a vibrant research environment for four successfully completed PhD theses, two of them were partially funded by it. The project supported over 30 peer reviewed publications over the 4-year period and over 20 talks and presentations.