Diagrams 2008 Day 3 Highlights: (Useful) Eye Candy

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In a word: Awesome. There really is no other way to describe today’s Keynote Presentation by W. Bradford Paley (link). Paley has done a ton of work in Graphical Design and implementation which has touched many industries—from revolutionizing the ways in which Wall Street traders to their job, to creating stunning displays for the New York Museum of Modern Art, to creating tools which aid in literary analysis. To sum up, he has created exciting new ways to model a large amount of very complex information, as well as provide the ability to analyze the information easily and in a visually captivating way. His creations blur the line between design, art, and analysis. Here is one sample of his work, which can be explored more at www.textarc.org

An interactive map of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland used for literary analysis. The entire story is displayed around the circumference of the map. In the middle, sits all the words in the story, with the more frequently used words displayed the brightest and biggest.
Clicking on a word will display in a map all of the places in the story that word is used. This provides a very simple visual cue to the user. While this tool was designed with structuralist literary analysis in mind, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be used for requirements analysis.
Paley has also designed a tool to create org charts, but in a much more sophisticated way than Visio. Paley’s tool allows the user to define more informal relationships, as well as drag and drop nodes into several different clusters. It looks like a great way to create an org chart from scratch when all you have is a list of people, their positions, and a few loosely-defined relationships among them:

You may be able to make out a tree structure on the left hand side of the diagram. This is a directory structure which mirrors the visual structure on the org chart. It seemed as though, according to the demonstration, that one could drag names from the structure on the left into the space on the right, creating a new node on the org chart.

A few more examples of Paley’s work, many of which are described on his website. All of these were fully interactive, allowing the user to pull apart, zoom in, and highlight nodes:

This was a model Paley created of a social network.

A model of the relationships among scientific paradigms.

Finally, something a little more applicable to requirements: A concept mapping of items in an online catalog. One of the cool things about this application was that it allowed the user to design her own icons which represented each concept in the hierarchy using a freehand drawing:

Well, today was the final day of Diagrams 2008. The agenda has been intense and has covered everything from Euler Diagrams to Animation. Because Diagrams was so interdisciplinary, there was no specific requirements engineering agenda; however, that does not mean it wasn’t useful to RE practitioners. Quite the contrary, many of the presentations were not only inspiring, but directly applicable to Requirements Engineers. Just having the exposure to a vast array of brilliant minds thinking about how to represent complex information efficiently and more simply made the conference well worth attending for someone with an interest in RE.

Now, off for a day of sightseeing—and most likely a little more beer, followed by a long commute home.

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