Understanding Trigger-Action Programs Through Novel Visualizations of Program Differences

Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems(2021)

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Abstract
ABSTRACTTrigger-action programming (if-this-then-that rules) empowers non-technical users to automate services and smart devices. As a user’s set of trigger-action programs evolves, the user must reason about behavior differences between similar programs, such as between an original program and several modification candidates, to select programs that meet their goals. To facilitate this process, we co-designed user interfaces and underlying algorithms to highlight differences between trigger-action programs. Our novel approaches leverage formal methods to efficiently identify and visualize differences in program outcomes or abstract properties. We also implemented a traditional interface that shows only syntax differences in the rules themselves. In a between-subjects online experiment with 107 participants, the novel interfaces better enabled participants to select trigger-action programs matching intended goals in complex, yet realistic, situations that proved very difficult when using traditional interfaces showing syntax differences.
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Key words
novel visualizations,programs,programs,trigger-action
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