Visualizing Open Source Software Development

July 30, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- A UC Davis graduate student has created short, colorful movies that show the development of open source software. With dancing points of light, rings of color and a soundtrack, the Code_swarm animations show how software such as the Python scripting language and the Apache Web server have developed from the contributions of different programmers.

Inspired by music videos, the objective of Code_swarm is to create an engaging visual representation of computer software accessible to anyone, said Michael Ogawa, who created the movies in the laboratory of Professor Kwan-Liu Ma at the UC Davis Department of Computer Science.

Computer software projects are among the most complex artifacts ever created by humans. Some of the most complex are "open source" programs that are created by a floating group of volunteers developing and making changes to different parts of the code.

In Ogawa's videos, the names of those developers float across the screen and fade away if they stop contributing. Colored dots, representing new files, appear in random locations and fly toward the developer working on them, forming rings around the names. Developers working on the same or related files hover together; the names of those working on different parts of the software are farther apart.

"The viewer gets an impression of the dynamics of the project: Who the big players are, whether they work on the same or separate files and the scale of the project in time and space," Ogawa said.

The animations show that there is no single, signature way to create open source software, Ogawa said. Some projects are the work of a single person for long stretches of time, some are guided by a small group and others are regularly worked on by a large group.

Ogawa calls Code_swarm an example of "organic information visualization," which turns data into a living, breathing system. He chose music videos as a model for the final product because they are short, dynamic and interesting, in contrast with most academic videos, he said.

The Code_swarm software itself is now open source, hosted by Google Code. Examples of the videos can be found at vis.cs.ucdavis.edu/~ogawa/codeswarm/ .

Provided by UC Davis

Explore further: Video: Researchers unveil augmented reality teaching sandbox

Related Stories

The future of data science looks spectacular

July 21, 2015

It wasn't that long ago that we lived in an entirely analogue world. From telephones to televisions and books to binders, digital technology was largely relegated to the laboratory.

Can computers be creative?

July 1, 2015

The EU-funded 'What-if Machine' (WHIM) project not only generates fictional storylines but also judges their potential usefulness and appeal. It represents a major advance in the field of computational creativity.

Modeling how thin films break up

June 19, 2015

Excess surface energy from unsatisfied bonds is a significant driver of dimensional changes in thin-film materials, whether formation of holes, contracting edges, or run-away corners. In general, this break-up of a material ...

Recommended for you

Netherlands bank customers can get vocal on payments

August 1, 2015

Are some people fed up with remembering and using passwords and PINs to make it though the day? Those who have had enough would prefer to do without them. For mobile tasks that involve banking, though, it is obvious that ...

Power grid forecasting tool reduces costly errors

July 30, 2015

Accurately forecasting future electricity needs is tricky, with sudden weather changes and other variables impacting projections minute by minute. Errors can have grave repercussions, from blackouts to high market costs. ...

Microsoft describes hard-to-mimic authentication gesture

August 1, 2015

Photos. Messages. Bank account codes. And so much more—sit on a person's mobile device, and the question is, how to secure them without having to depend on lengthy password codes of letters and numbers. Vendors promoting ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.