The Foundation for Reuse

Jeffrey S. Poulin

Lockheed Martin Federal Systems

MD 0210, Owego, NY 13827

Tel: (607)751-6899, fax: (607)751-6025




The field of reuse has matured, as shown by the many established reuse conferences, workshops, and publications. However, as part of that maturity, the knowledge that we have gained in past experiences and research occasionally gets overlooked. This position paper challenges reuse conference organizers, journal editors, and especially paper reviewers to ensure that the work presented in the field of reuse continues to build on the work that has taken place. We have laid the foundation for the future of reuse.

Keywords: Software Architectures, Domain Specific Software Architectures, DSSA, Product Lines, Software Reuse.

Workshop Goals: To explore, learn, and discuss current issues in software reuse.

Working Groups: Software architectures for reuse, Reuse metrics and economics.

1 Background

As a frequent reviewer of submissions to journals and conferences, I have had the pleasure of reading a large variety of papers on reuse. I find the review process enjoyable and rewarding because I receive advance insight into new technical developments and I can help influence papers or make suggestions to improve them. Unfortunately, some of my recent observations while reviewing papers have included:

2 Position

I take the position that papers in the field of reuse have entered a "death spiral" by returning to descriptions of pet reuse repositories and related tools, component classification techniques, and "management issues." It seems that the generation that solved all these problems has moved on, and the next generation has fixated on solving all the problems again rather than simply going to the library. Why does a group of information technology professionals that proselytize reuse not practice what they preach? Why constantly duplicate effort?

3 Approach

Duplication of effort happens, in part, because of the difficulty of keeping up with all the work in our field. I understand this and call it "responsible duplication of effort" because even given a reasonable search, a researcher cannot uncover every item related to their work. They do their best by reading journals and conference proceedings, which help communicate our efforts and help us build on the work of each other. More recently, the WWW has further opened access to current information, especially to those new to field.

As an example, during much of the past 10 years the field of reuse, both in research an in practice, has focused on building libraries. We have explored in depth and solved the various issues surrounding libraries, such as classification [PrietoDiaz87] and access mechanisms [Poulin94]. With this in mind, why do we keep seeing papers on reuse libraries? Most submissions merely reiterate the findings of five years ago. On the other hand, I still see pockets of well-meaning enthusiasts, even within my own company, that insist on building complicated library tools with extensive meta-data upon which to search. While we do our best to communicate our experiences and knowledge for the benefit of all, practical limits prevent us from fully getting the word out even within a relatively small organization.

However, most of the redundancy that I have recently seen falls into the area of "irresponsible duplication of effort." I call it irresponsible because many people seem to lack the ability or motivation to (1) conduct research and (2) credit the extensive volumes of work that has taken place in the field. Not only does this lead to the obviously unethical practice of failing to cite the work of others, but more importantly, it represents a lost opportunity to move forward rather than "sideways."

I understand, to a point, the blinders that we put on when working on our pet projects in the classroom and on the job. I've worn them a few times myself. However, I believe that when reviewing a paper, the reviewer must reject a paper that:

As an example, in the instructions to authors for ICSR'5, the Call For Papers clearly stated in bold print to explain the "relationship to previous work." Likewise, the call for participation for this WISR required authors to provide a comparison of their positions to related work. I challenge all program chairs, journal editors, and especially reviewers to stand by these standards for their publications.

4 Comparison

Reuse fascinates me, in part, because it allows me to do better than I can do alone. Just as proper research allows us to stand on the shoulders of others, software reuse allows us to extend ourselves with the products provided for us. Over the years, I have coded numerous abstract data types and similar functions, and writing them again simply fails to hold my attention. In contrast, I find it rewarding to work in a closely-nit team that plans ahead and designs a domain-specific suite of software that will serve as the foundation for a product line of software applications. For us to continue to move forward, we must use the reuse knowledge that exists today as the foundation upon which we build our next reuse breakthroughs.


[Poulin94] Poulin, Jeffrey S. and Keith W. Werkman, "Software Reuse Libraries with Mosaic," 2nd International World Wide Web Conference: Mosaic and the Web, Chicago, Illinois, 17-20 October 1994. URL:

[PrietoDiaz87] Prieto-Diaz, Ruben, and Peter Freeman, "Classifying Software for Reusability," IEEE Software, Vol. 4, No. 1, January 1987, pp. 6-16.


Jeffrey S. Poulin ( MD 0210, Lockheed Martin Federal Systems, Owego, New York, 13827.

Dr. Poulin works as a Senior Software Engineer and systems architect with Lockheed Martin Federal Systems (formally Loral Federal Systems and IBM Federal Systems Company) in Owego, NY. As a member of the Advanced Technology Group, he has spent the past six years working software reuse and systems architecture issues on a variety of large scale projects across Lockheed Martin. A frequent reviewer for and leader of professional publications and events, WISR'9 marks the second time (with WISR'6) that he has served as General Chair for WISR.

From 1991-1993 Dr. Poulin worked in the IBM Reuse Technology Support Center (RTSC) where he led the development and acceptance of the IBM software reuse metrics and return on investment (ROI) model. He also organized, edited, contributed to, and published a complete library of resources on the IBM Reuse Method. Active in numerous professional activities and conference committees, Dr. Poulin has over 60 publications, to include a book on reuse metrics and economics published by Addison-Wesley. A Hertz Foundation Fellow, Dr. Poulin earned his Bachelors degree at the United States Military Academy at West Point and his Masters and Ph.D. degrees at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.