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Visualising Software Development

February 10, 2010

I’ve just been passed a couple of links to the code-swarm system. It’s a method a visualising the development process of a software project – and it’s pretty amazing looking! What this system does is use the commit process (aka check-in) of software development to track the additions to a software project. This is where a developer takes a copy from the central control one of the source files and adds to it, then places it back into the repository. This is part of a system of revision control that most software projects have today – it allows the developers to revise what they see and roll-back to an earlier version if the newer code has broken the current build of the project. In this instance it has also proved to be a great way of tracking the work flow on one project:

This visualization, called code_swarm, shows the history of commits in a software project. A commit happens when a developer makes changes to the code or documents and transfers them into the central project repository. Both developers and files are represented as moving elements. When a developer commits a file, it lights up and flies towards that developer. Files are colored according to their purpose, such as whether they are source code or a document. If files or developers have not been active for a while, they will fade away. A histogram at the bottom keeps a reminder of what has come before.

Here’s an example of the system being used to visualise the development of a Eclipse:

code_swarm of Eclipse

At first glance it seems to look like a galaxy swirling in the ether – but step past this and it seems to me to be more like the activity of an ant swarm or cells interacting within a body. It’s very biological. It also shows a key facet of what we observe from evolution; the trend towards increasing complexity.

Also worth seeing it chart the development of Twitter and be applied to poetry with T S Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

(Hat-tip to Ben for the link!)

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