SoftVis 2010 Highlights

This post highlights some aspects of the SoftVis 2010 symposium.

1. Summary

The 5th ACM Symposium on Software Visualization (SoftVis) was held in Salt Lake City, Utah, 25-26 October 2010 and co-located with the IEEE VisWeek which includes InfoVis, Vis, and VAST. Alex Telea was General Chair, and Carsten Georg and Steve Reiss were the Program Chairs. 55 full papers were submitted and 20 were accepted, which yields a 36% acceptance rate. In addition 9 posters and 3 tool demos were presented. The SoftVis 2010 Proceedings are available in the ACM Digital Library.

2. Awards

There were two ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Awards:

Emerson Murphy-Hill awarded ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Award at SoftVis 2010

Mathias Frisch awarded ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Award at SoftVis 2010

one award for the best poster:

Gowritharan Maheswara awarded best poster at SoftVis 2010

and Alex Telea was awarded the best General Chair organiser at IEEE VisWeek 2010.

3. Invited Speakers

There were two invited speakers. The main theme behind both presentations were that software visualization is not widely adopted within industry and both proposed ideas to work on to help improve this research area.

3.1 Keynote Presentation – Arie van Deursen

Arie van Deursen (Delft University of Technology) gave the Keynote Presentation, A Pragmatic Perspective on Software Visualization (Slides PDF 6.8MB).

Arie van Deursen giving his Keynote Presentation on A Pragmatic Perspective on Software Visualization

Arie van Deursen Keynote Presentation at SoftVis 2010

The keynote began with reflections on his software visualization work from the past 10 years. Some of his observations included:

  1. My visualizations leave room for improvement …
  2. Some very cool results are never applied.
  3. Software visualizations in context can be successful.
  4. Simpler might be more effective.
  5. What is our perspective on evaluation?

Then he went on to say that as a field that we should be following a qualitative research approach to software engineering and software visualization. This kind of approach has been very successful within the social sciences. Arie points out John Creswell’s book Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches.

Arie next covered his work in reverse engineering spreadsheets to extract class diagrams. This work is related to the EUSES consortium which aims at helping end-users with software. This work also involved a series of qualitative interviews asking users how effective they found the visualization techniques and some user experiments. Most of the users found the visualizations useful but there were some usability issues. Although this work was related it was probably of more interest to the VLHCC community.

The keynote ended with some thoughts on how to improve software visualization research and ideas for conducting research in this area:

  • What are the current research methods and tools (Evaluation of software visualization tools: Lessons learned by Mariam Sensalire, Patrick Ogao, Alex Telea, VISSOFT 2009)
  • Engage with users first (understand existing way of working, identify problems, embed solutions)
  • Software = Peopleware (evaluations are qualitative, incomplete and subjective; at which case evidence for the area and techniques must grow and be criticized)
  • Visualization = Communication (beyond individuals, we must evaluate team interaction and how they collaborate together)
  • Support end user programming with visualizations of the software
  • If you have time start a company on the side

3.2 Capstone Presentation – Grady Booch

Grady Booch (IBM Research) gave the Capstone Presentation on Why Don’t Developers Draw Diagrams (Slides PDF 3MB). Grady gave his presentation in SecondLife. People nicknamed him “RoboBrady” since his SecondLife avatar made him look much younger and stronger. Before he began Grady said one nice thing about SecondLife, “in virtual worlds we can control the Sun.” The talk was very entertaining and filled with wonderful quotes (thanks to Adrian Kuhn for recording some of these).

Grady Booch Capstone Presentation in Second Life

Audience listening to Grady Booch

The keynote centered around that most developers are mainly in a textual world and have no desire for the visual dimension except occasionally a few diagrams with some dubious semantics.

We never intended UML to be used as programming language! It’s maybe funny that I say this as inventor of UML, but most diagrams I want to see once & then throw away.

To answer the question of why developers don’t draw diagrams:

Developers (for the most part) don’t draw diagrams because they (the diagrams, that is) rarely offer any fundamental value that advances their (the developers, that is) essential work.

to elaborate further:

Developers don’t draw diagrams because the primary product is raw, running, naked code, not diagrams! Diagrams and code have an uneasy relationship that quickly drifts into oblivion and usually ends in tears.

Grady claimed that software visualization research has created some great ideas but there is a lack of adoption by the software development industry. Grady proposed some ideas on how to narrow this gap to attend to the pain points of developers. Grady claims:

We’ve largely mastered the software visualization technique. But there’s been an emphasis on easy eye candy. And so we need to return to the basics of why we model and seek visualizations that are actionable.

and some visualization examples that are actionable include:

Go do sociological studies and visualize the people that do software development.

How can we capture design decisions and show how they manifest? same for triggers of complexity.

What are the kind of visualizations that a developer or architect could take with them on an iPad like a whiteboard?

To wrap the talk up Grady proposed some
Grand Challenges for Software Visualization:

  • How can I visualize any of the points of friction?
  • How can I model any of the triggers of complexity?
  • How can I visualize multiple interlocking architectural views?
  • How can I highlight/discover the patterns in a system?
  • What can I learn from visualizing the views of a system’s architecture overlaid with the architecture of the organization?
  • How might I use an iPad as an architect’s workbench?
  • Combine Terminator vision with Minority Report Interaction. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

and concluded the talk with a final quote:

Give me a whiteboard and a place to stand and I can model the world.

Terminator Vision

Terminator Vision

Minority Report UI

Minority Report UI

4. Paper Highlights

In addition to the two ACM Distinguished Papers there were a number of papers that I enjoyed listening to.

Chris Parnin - CodePad

Michael Ogawa - Software Evolution Storylines

Wim De Pauw - Zinsight

Adrian Kuhn - Software Cartography

My research group also had a couple of papers at SoftVis 2010:

Other papers and posters are located in the ACM SoftVis 2010 Proceedings.

5. Other

I also showed a film by a colleague of mine Andrew Caudwell on Gource which was presented at the Onward! 2010 conference the week earlier in Reno.

and an earlier version of the film on YouTube:


About Craig Anslow

Craig Anslow is a software visualization researcher understanding multi-touch table user interfaces with respect to software visualization.
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2 Responses to SoftVis 2010 Highlights

  1. stephen says:

    Keep the good work. Visualization is such a timely idea that has not being widely used to harness its potential

  2. Craig Anslow says:

    Thanks for your nice comments. If you are interested more in this area consider submitting to the upcoming VISSOFT 2011 workshop or have a look at some of the links on this blog which are gradually evolving over time.


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