How do developers fix issues and pay back technical debt in the Apache ecosystem?
During software evolution technical debt (TD) follows a constant ebb and flow, being incurred and paid back, sometimes in the same day and sometimes ten years later. There have been several studies in the literature investigating how technical debt in source code accumulates during time and the consequences of this accumulation for software maintenance. However, to the best of our knowledge there are no large scale studies that focus on the types of issues that are fixed and the amount of TD that is paid back during software evolution. In this paper we present the results of a case study, in which we analyzed the evolution of fifty-seven Java open-source software projects by the Apache Software Foundation at the temporal granularity level of weekly snapshots. In particular, we focus on the amount of technical debt that is paid back and the types of issues that are fixed. The findings reveal that a small subset of all issue types is responsible for the largest percentage of TD repayment and thus, targeting particular violations the development team can achieve higher benefits.