VISSOFT 2017 Summary

I (Leonel Merino) was happy to attend the VISSOFT conference in Shanghai from 18-19 September 2017. This year there were nine full technical papers, six tool demo (TD) papers, and four new ideas and emerging results (NIER) papers.

There were two keynotes during the conference. The first by Stephen Reiss entitled “Visualization in Code Bubbles: A Perspective and Look Ahead” presented his contributions to the software visualization domain over the last two decades. Amongst others, he described his work with Code Bubbles —a visual programming interface, in which pieces of code are encapsulated in bubbles that can be linked, and reused across the application to compose various functionalities. He spiced-up his presentation with provocative statements such as that software visualization is a failure since most IDEs are mostly text-based, but he also explained that visualization is constantly used in IDEs in the form of navigation widgets, word-sized charts and graphs. The take home message of his presentation was 1) visualization should focus on displaying the data, 2) users do not have time to find insights, they need quick answers, and 3) simpler visualization techniques work better. The second day Shixia Liu presented “Interactive Model Analysis”, in which she uses visual analytics for supporting interactive machine learning. She elaborated on her work for enabling human users to understand and diagnose machine learning models.

Steve Reiss, keynote, Visualization in Code Bubbles: A Perspective and Look Ahead.

During the conference, there were presented several interesting papers. To name a few, “iTraceVis” [1] that describes visualization of analyze source code reading based on eye tracking technology. A tool demo paper [2] that proposed a chat-based interface for the interactive visualization of software artifacts. The “Method Execution Reports” full paper [3] for automating the documentation of method execution. And, the “SoL Mantra” tool demo paper [4] that proposed a solar metaphor for identifying libraries update opportunities.


Besides our paper [5] that focuses on the evaluation of the impact of the medium in the effectiveness of 3D software visualization, there were several others papers that focused in 3D visualization techniques. One [6] that presented an animated 3D software city for analyzing real-time performance. One tool demonstration [7] that used an Oculus Rift device for displaying the visualization of the components of OSGi-based applications. One full paper that presented the Code Park tool [8], which uses virtual reality displayed in a computer screen for source code reading. And the Getaviz tool demo paper [9] that described support for automating some laborious tasks when conducting empirical evaluations of software visualizations.

2017-09-18 21.28.18Medium in the effectiveness of 3D software visualization, Leonel Merino.

The best paper award was given to “Visual Exploration of Memory Traces and Call Stacks” [10]. The paper describes visualization of memory traces and call stacks using scatter and icicle plots based on data and control flow structures for memory profiling.

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Best paper, Visual Exploration of Memory Traces and Call Stacks.

The Most Influential Paper (MIP) award was given to “A task oriented view of software visualization” [11]. The award was received by Jonathan Maletic and Andrian Marcus who presented the storey of the paper using slightly similar slides than used when presenting the paper fifteen years ago. The motivation of the paper resulted from discussions in a previous workshop, in which they observed a need of a more concise taxonomy to classify software visualizations. Although along the years their research interests are not in software visualization anymore, they reflected on the little adoption of software visualization tools by practitioners and conjecture whether the main barrier for adoption is the disconnect between the problem domains on which visualization have focused and the domains that get the most attention from practitioners. They closed their presentation with a call-to-action for researchers in the software visualization domain to look for uses cases in software development for which software visualization can demonstrate its unique usefulness.

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Most influential paper, A task oriented view of software visualization.

The conference ended with an open steering committee election, in which were elected three new members: Bonita Sharif, Andrea Mocci, and Ivan Beschastnikh.

Steering Committee elections.

Demoing CityVR

All in all, I had a great time attending the talks, meeting new people and demoing CityVR [12] during the demo session (though I formally presented the tool in the ICSME conference a few days after VISSOFT). I liked the fact that VISSOFT is a rather small conference that facilitates to engage in interesting discussions. I look forward to attend the next version of the conference in Madrid!

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2017-09-19 14.16.22

2017-09-19 15.03.14

Leonel Merino
PhD student
Software Composition Group
University of Bern


[1] “iTraceVis: Visualizing Eye Movement Data Within Eclipse”. Benjamin Clark and Bonita Sharif
[2] “A Conversational User Interface for Software Visualization”. Stefan Bieliauskas and Andreas Schreiber.
[3] “Method Execution Reports: Generating Text and Visualization to Describe Program Behavior”. Fabian Beck, Hafiz Ammar Siddiqui, Alexandre Bergel and Daniel Weiskopf
[4] “SoL Mantra: Visualizing Update Opportunities Based on Library Coexistence”. Boris Todorov, Raula Gaikovina Kula, Takashi Ishio and Katsuro Inoue
[5] “On the Impact of the Medium in the Effectiveness of 3D Software Visualizations”. Leonel Merino, Johannes Fuchs, Michael Hund, Craig Anslow, Mohammad Ghafari, Oscar Nierstrasz, Michael Behrisch and Daniel Keim
[6] “Using High-Rising Cities to Visualize Performance in Real-Time”. Katsuya Ogami, Raula Gaikovina Kula, Hideaki Hata, Takashi Ishio and Kenichi Matsumoto
[7] “Interactive Visualization of Software Components with Virtual Reality Headsets”. Andreas Schreiber and Marlene Brüggemann.
[8] “Code Park: A New 3D Code Visualization Tool”. Pooya Khaloo, Mehran Maghoumi, Eugene Taranta II, David Bettner and Joseph Laviola Jr.
[9] “Getaviz: Generating Structural, Behavioral, and Evolutionary Views of Software Systems for Empirical Evaluation”. David Baum, Jan Schilbach, Pascal Kovacs, Ulrich Eisenecker and Richard Müller.
[10] “Visual Exploration of Memory Traces and Call Stacks”. Patrick Gralka, Christoph Schulz, Guido Reina, Daniel Weiskopf and Thomas Ertl
[11] “A task oriented view of software visualization”, J. I. Maletic, A. Marcus and M. L. Collard, 2002
[12] “CityVR: Gameful Software Visualization”. Leonel Merino, Mohammad Ghafari, Craig Anslow, Oscar Nierstrasz

About Craig Anslow

Craig Anslow is a Lecturer in Software Engineering at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, with research interests in software visualization.
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