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Requirements of API Documentation: A Case Study into Computer Vision Services

journal contribution
posted on 2020-12-24, 00:00 authored by Alex CummaudoAlex Cummaudo, Rajesh VasaRajesh Vasa, J Grundy, Mohamed AbdelrazekMohamed Abdelrazek
Using cloud-based computer vision services is gaining traction, where developers access AI-powered components through familiar RESTful APIs, not needing to orchestrate large training and inference infrastructures or curate/label training datasets. However, while these APIs seem familiar to use, their non-deterministic run-time behaviour and evolution is not adequately communicated to developers. Therefore, improving these services' API documentation is paramount-more extensive documentation facilitates the development process of intelligent software. In a prior study, we extracted 34 API documentation artefacts from 21 seminal works, devising a taxonomy of five key requirements to produce quality API documentation. We extend this study in two ways. Firstly, by surveying 104 developers of varying experience to understand what API documentation artefacts are of most value to practitioners. Secondly, identifying which of these highly-valued artefacts are or are not well-documented through a case study in the emerging computer vision service domain. We identify: (i) several gaps in the software engineering literature, where aspects of API documentation understanding is/is not extensively investigated; and (ii) where industry vendors (in contrast) document artefacts to better serve their end-developers. We provide a set of recommendations to enhance intelligent software documentation for both vendors and the wider research community.



IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering


1 - 18




Piscataway, N.J.







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal