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Graphics Open Source Software News

Software Evolution Storylines, Inspired By XKCD 136

jamie tips this mind-blowing data visualization concept from (naturally) data visualization researcher Michael Ogawa, who explains that it was inspired by "this XKCD comic. It represents characters as lines that converge in time as they share scenes. Could this technique be adapted for software developers who work on the same code?"
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Software Evolution Storylines, Inspired By XKCD

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  • inspiration (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FuckingNickName ( 1362625 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:16AM (#33834044) Journal

    A data visualisation researcher hasn't seen this method of visualising data before xkcd? Really?

  • Re:inspiration (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kyz ( 225372 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:22AM (#33834068) Homepage

    I thought that too.

    The xkcd comic is itself inspired by Charles Minard's 1869 flow map of Napoleon's march to Moscow [], a celebrated map in visualisation, and most recently popularised by Edward Tufte, one of the most well known data visualisation experts.

    Why would someone, who is supposed to be a data visualisation researcher, not have seen this celebrated work of his own field before he saw a knock-off cartoon?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:36AM (#33834122)

    The XCKD comic was a great example of visualization because after a brief time acclimatizing to the layout, I could immediately comprehend it and draw conclusions out of it. Doing the same with a software project would be interesting, but right now all I see is a bunch of tangled lines -- they don't mean anything to me.

    Anyone who has worked on this project -- do they mean anything to you? Anyone else -- what do you see in these graphs?

  • Re:inspiration (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Exitar ( 809068 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @05:59AM (#33834186)

    Probably he did, but citing xkcd granted him an article on /.

  • Re:"researcher" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vagabond_gr ( 762469 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @06:17AM (#33834230)

    Thankfully, SoftVis 2010 (the ACM symposium where his paper is going to be presented) does not take into account reviews from anonymous cowards on slashdot.

  • by icebraining ( 1313345 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @06:43AM (#33834288) Homepage

    Must be tough browsing the web without JPEG images.

  • by m50d ( 797211 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @07:32AM (#33834426) Homepage Journal
    That's simply false; some programs do something, do it well, and know where responsibility is best handed off to another program. When was the last time ls needed an update?
  • Re:inspiration (Score:2, Insightful)

    by koiransuklaa ( 1502579 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @08:09AM (#33834602)

    Huh? Minard's map isn't even close to the xkcd version:
    A) Minard doesn't depict time, except on the few points on the temp scale, he uses both graph axes for location
    B) There are no multiple actors in Minard's map
    C) XKCD map only trie to convey character proximity over time: the major point of Minard's map is connecting several seemingly unrelated data points: it makes recognizing patterns easier.

    So... I agree that Minard's map is a "better" inspiration for this work (and maybe it was the inspiration but xkcd-references were better /. material), but how on earth is the xkcd map is a knock-off of Minardi? That makes no sense at all.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @08:26AM (#33834670) Homepage

    Most of the time. I'd say you are right but there are exceptions. One example is Privoxy []. It'a been nearly the same since the 3.0 release in 2002, but there's been constantly tiny little fixes so it's not abandoned and has had an average 175000 downloads/year not including Linux distros etc. so obviously many people find it useful.

    So they're not taking over the world. But is there any point to try to be another jack-of-all-trades software? It does one thing and it does it well, or if you'd want to do it differently you probably need to do it in the browser. Either way there's really no reason to make it part of the same application, this one is "done".

  • Re:inspiration (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tanktalus ( 794810 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @08:59AM (#33834878) Journal

    Generally speak, humor is found in the unexpected. If you don't expect to see that reference in the given context, and it is made, or if it's being applied in a context that is unexpected, that is funny. At least to the observer that both gets the reference and doesn't expect it.

    That said, SQL injection attacks are not only unexpected in a child's name, but I've forwarded that comic on to a number of developers of a large commercial database product (as well as many others) as a way to teach people to USE F*CKING PLACEHOLDERS. It has been fairly successful, I might add. After spending 15 minutes trying and failing to get across to them why "SELECT * FROM MYTABLE WHERE FOO = $foo" is bad, I go look up the xkcd comic and show it to them. In 30 seconds, xkcd's author gets across what I can't in 15 minutes over the phone (perhaps I could do it in person with a whiteboard to share).

    Now, maybe a troll will come along and say that I'm not a very good teacher. Although I have plenty of experience to the contrary, let's assume this to be true. My point still stands: those comics teach against SQL injection more effectively than I can, thus it's an invaluable tool. The unexpected reference makes it funny enough for me to remember it, the pointed truth of it makes it a good teaching tool.

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @10:10AM (#33835414)

    We did lots of timelines in my perfectly ordinary elementary school a couple of decades ago.

  • Re:inspiration (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kyz ( 225372 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @10:33AM (#33835646) Homepage

    Take a look at the thickness of the line in Minard's graph, ebbing away as Napoleon's troops die. That was the main purpose of the graph, to visualise how someone could leave with 422,000 men and come back with 10,000. That's why it's famous.

    Now take a look at Sauron ebbing away as he uses his power to create orcs, and how the orc armies and human armies ebb away as they're killed.

  • Re:inspiration (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plcurechax ( 247883 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @10:56AM (#33835914) Homepage

    Why would someone, who is supposed to be a data visualisation researcher, not have seen this celebrated work of his own field before he saw a knock-off cartoon?

    You're either a) new to IT / Computer Science, or b) too young to have experienced a revolutionary new paradigm that matches either anything discovered at Xerox PARC Labs or in general 20-30 years ago by professionals who are now "grey beards," but commonly referred to as old fogies when they point our that even IT / Computing and Computer Science has a history.

    Examples include Alohanet (vs. Wi-Fi / "wireless Internet"), time-sharing systems (vs. thin computing or virtualization), IM (vs talk / irc), CU-SeeMe (vs video IM, ChatRoulette), Jennifer Ringley (vs cam-girls), Xanadu (vs. iBooks, Google Books), and Nikola Tesla (vs. "wireless power" and numerous other things he invented, prototyped, or predicted).

UNIX is many things to many people, but it's never been everything to anybody.