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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Organic Software Visualization puts Wireshark Development in a New Light

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This is by far one of the coolest videos I've seen in a long time. Created by Loris Degioanni (creator of WinPcap), this video visually represents the Wireshark development process from its inception using a tool called code_swarm.

The video shows an organic information visualization (a term coined by Ben Fry) which "eschews traditional data confinement in space and lets the elements play together in free form and unpredictable ways."

The result is stunning!

Visit for more information on code_swarm and to see the visualizations for the following projects:

Additional project videos can be found at

You can see when specific areas of a project are HOT. For example, in Wireshark's code_swarm there are moments when everyone is focused on the dissectors (shown in light blue) - the image radiates a halo of light blue as
dissector code is checked in (like stars flying in). At other times, feverish work was being done on the GTK (Graphical Toolkit) to make Wireshark more user friendly.

Release files are indicated in red. Sudden red bursts can be seen when version is released. A legend in the upper left corner helps the viewer understand what parts of the project are most active at any time. Names flash when that
developer checks in code. The histogram at the bottom of the screen indicates the size and time of commits to the project.

In June 2006 all hell breaks loose when Wireshark is born of Ethereal. The histogram goes wild with commits and you can see all the work being done to change the name to Wireshark - in the manuals, in the dissectors, in the plugins
- everywhere.

I showed the various code_swarm videos to my kids when they came home from school today. Their first reaction - "Whoa... that's cool!" Second reaction from my son - "Do you think they have something like that for WoW?" Sigh....

Their final reaction really hit me (after living on 3 hours sleep a night trying to finish the Wireshark Network Analysis book and try to catch the features and capabilities of this celestial moving target) - "It looks like the project is a black hole sucking in the life around it."

Good observation.