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Exploring and Evaluating Personalized Models for Code Generation

Andrei Zlotchevski, Dawn Drain, Alexey Svyatkovskiy, Colin Clement, Neel Sundaresan, Michele Tufano. FSE 2022


Large Transformer models achieved the state-of-the-art status for Natural Language Understanding tasks and are increasingly becoming the baseline model architecture for modeling source code. Transformers are usually pre-trained on large unsupervised corpora, learning token representations and transformations relevant to modeling generally available text, and are then fine-tuned on a particular downstream task of interest. While fine-tuning is a tried-and-true method for adapting a model to a new domain – for example, question-answering on a given topic – generalization remains an on-going challenge. In this paper, we explore and evaluate transformer model fine-tuning for personalization. In the context of generating unit tests for Java methods, we evaluate learning to personalize to a specific software project using several personalization techniques. We consider three key approaches: (i) custom fine-tuning, which allows all the model parameters to be tuned; (ii) lightweight fine-tuning, which freezes most of the model’s parameters, allowing tuning of the token embeddings and softmax layer only or the final layer alone; (iii) prefix tuning, which keeps model parameters frozen, but optimizes a small project-specific prefix vector. Each of these techniques offers a trade-off in total compute cost and predictive performance, which we evaluate by code and task-specific metrics, training time, and total computational operations. We compare these fine-tuning strategies for code generation and discuss the potential generalization and cost benefits of each in various deployment scenarios.

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