Visualising version history

I’m a redundancy fanboy. In visualisation, different formats suit different personalities and different tasks. With version control, the usual format is just a text log. This is good if you’re scanning for specific terms, but pretty ordinary for other activities – e.g. to get a feel for general trends that have arisen, the pace of change, or the rise and fall of specific contributors.

It’s encouraging, then, to see demos like the following, which shows the evolution of the Python language project (via Dion’s tweet).

code_swarm – Python from Michael Ogawa on Vimeo.

It reminds me of one of the first screencasts by Jon Udell, a fascinating walkthrough of the evolution of a wikipedia page over a year or so. The page he chose for this demo is as memorable as the message of the video itself.

These visualisations are cool as tasters for what might be, but they are “here’s one we made earlier”. Where are the tools to automate all this? I have no doubt such tools have been created in academic research projects, but let’s see them in action. I’d love to see the source code hosts – sourceforge, google code, github, et al – integrate this technology to produce visualisations on the fly.

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