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Questions and answers relating to data models and OO design are often greatly improved by a simple diagram. I want to propose the idea of having something like asciiflow integrated into the editor on SO for creating diagrams.

As a totally arbitrary example; the second answer down on this question makes the data structure he is suggesting almost immediately apparent, without having to construct a mental image from a wordy description.

Something like this could be abused - creating pointless diagrams just because there is the facility to, however this could easily be dealt with by having a new flag for 'irreverent diagram'. This would put an extra little bit of strain on the moderators but I think it would be worth that extra effort for the clarity and quality it would provide to truly suitable questions.

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The easiest solution would be to make a diagram in asciiflow and copypast it into your question/answer.

The thing is, though, that questions and answers actually rarely need to use diagrams. You could think of questions that relate to any data that is presented by tables, but if you are referring to an application with a GuI it's almost always faster and better to just make a screenshot than to recreate the data with ASCII. Questions that refer to databases and really require ASCII-like tables are, I assume, rather rare, if you take all the questions on SO.

So I would say it's nice and fun stuff, but it's not something we can't live without.

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Stack overflow is all nice and fun too, but likewise we could live without it... – rgvcorley Aug 27 '12 at 14:03
I assume by “it’s not something we can’t live without”, SingerOfTheFall really means “it’s not worth the costs of adding it”. – Rory O'Kane Aug 27 '12 at 22:47
What are the costs? Some I can think of: • it would be harder for a poster to choose the correct toolbar button to click, because now there will be one more button cluttering up the toolbar • users might get stuck in asciiflow drawing-mode and have trouble exiting • the site code would be a little harder to maintain – Rory O'Kane Aug 27 '12 at 22:47
I personally agree with SingerOfTheFall that the slight cost outweighs the slight benefit; ASCII diagrams are too little-used to be worth implementing. I think it’s better to delegate the problem of creating diagrams to other tools so people can choose their favorite way of making them. There’s no one obvious best way. Graphical diagrams are prettier and easier to read, but you can’t select the text in them. SVG would be ideal, but it may not have wide enough browser support yet. – Rory O'Kane Aug 27 '12 at 22:51

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