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Are SonarQube Rules Inducing Bugs?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSANER 2020 - Proceedings of the 2020 IEEE 27th International Conference on Software Analysis, Evolution, and Reengineering
EditorsKostas Kontogiannis, Foutse Khomh, Alexander Chatzigeorgiou, Marios-Eleftherios Fokaefs, Minghui Zhou
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781728151434
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020
Publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventIEEE International Conference on Software Analysis, Evolution, and Reengineering - London, Canada
Duration: 18 Feb 202021 Feb 2020


ConferenceIEEE International Conference on Software Analysis, Evolution, and Reengineering


The popularity of tools for analyzing Technical Debt, and particularly the popularity of SonarQube, is increasing rapidly. SonarQube proposes a set of coding rules, which represent something wrong in the code that will soon be reflected in a fault or will increase maintenance effort. However, our local companies were not confident in the usefulness of the rules proposed by SonarQube and contracted us to investigate the fault-proneness of these rules. In this work we aim at understanding which SonarQube rules are actually fault-prone and to understand which machine learning models can be adopted to accurately identify fault-prone rules. We designed and conducted an empirical study on 21 well-known mature open-source projects. We applied the SZZ algorithm to label the fault-inducing commits. We analyzed the fault-proneness by comparing the classification power of seven machine learning models. Among the 202 rules defined for Java by SonarQube, only 25 can be considered to have relatively low fault-proneness. Moreover, violations considered as 'bugs' by SonarQube were generally not fault-prone and, consequently, the fault-prediction power of the model proposed by SonarQube is extremely low. The rules applied by SonarQube for calculating technical debt should be thoroughly investigated and their harmfulness needs to be further confirmed. Therefore, companies should carefully consider which rules they really need to apply, especially if their goal is to reduce fault-proneness.


  • architectural smells, code smells, coding style, machine learning, SonarQube, static analysis, Technical Debt

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland