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Chapter 12. Turning a Table into a Tree: Growing Parallel Sets into a Purposeful Project

Robert Kosara

ACADEMIC SOFTWARE PROJECTS TEND TO GROW ORGANICALLY from an initial idea into something complex and unwieldy that is novel enough to publish a paper about. Features often get added at the last minute so they can be included in the paper, without much thought about how to integrate them well or how to adapt the program's underlying architecture to make them fit.

The result is that many of these programs are hacked together, buggy, and frankly embarrassing. Consequently, they do not get released together with the paper, which leads to a fundamental problem in visualization: reproducibility is possible in theory, but in practice rarely happens. Many programs and new techniques are also built from scratch rather than based on existing ones.

The optimal model would be to release the software right away, then come back to it later to refine and rearchitect it so that it reflects the overall design goals of the project. This is seldom done, though, because there is no academic value in a reimplementation (or thorough refactoring). Instead, people move on to the next project.

The original prototype implementation of Parallel Sets (http://eagereyes.org/parallel-sets) was no different, but we decided that in order to get the idea out of academia into actual use, we would need a working program. So we set out to rethink and redesign it, based on a better understanding of the necessary internal ...

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