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Christian Kaestner:
How to Break an API: How Community Values Influence Practices

Breaking the API of a package can create severe disruptions downstream, but package maintainers have flexibility in whether and how to perform a change. Through interviews and a survey, we found that developers within a community or platform often share cohesive practices (e.g., semver, backporting, synchronized releases), but that those practices differ from community to community, and that most developers are not aware of alternative strategies and practices, their tradeoffs, and why other communities adopt them. Most interestingly, it seems that often practices and community consensus seems to be driven by implicit values in each community, such as stability, rapid access, or ease to contribute. Understanding and discussing values openly can help to understand and resolve conflicts, such as discussions between demands for more stability and a pursuit of frequent and disruptive innovations.