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Erik Doernenburg on Software Visualization

Erik Doernenburg talked with InfoQ about about "software visualization", a concept that he has been focused on for the past two years. Software visualization aims to provide a representation of artifacts at an intermediate level of abstraction which provides enough information to be useful but are at a high enough level that you can perform broadly scoped analysis. In Erik's words:

You generally only get the 30000 foot view where every system has a small little box or you have to ground level view where you are looking at actual source code, but that doesn't help the developers, that doesn't help the management and that doesn't help the enterprise architects. So we are looking for a way to actually find some middle ground to get a 100 foot view, to get a better understanding of software systems.

Interestingly, instead of imagining complicated modeling tools, Erik forwards a strategy for software visualization that uses a mix of some modest open source tools and manual customization. He likes in particular an old visualization tool called dot, which he has been able to use in powerful and creative ways to communicate hierarchical information. In a nod to the pragmatic, he also utilizes Excel spreadsheets for the analysis. And although the tools he uses might be basic, the idea is very powerful and is a necessary tool when attempting to absorb the context of large systems.

Watch the full interview with Erik Doernenburg (20 min)

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