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Stack Overflow is, I think we can all agree, The Best Thing Since Frozen Waffles. Unlike sad knock-offs such as digg (where Questions are called "Stories", Upvotes are known as "Diggs", and Downvotes referred to as "Buries"... good grief, people - we're not all children), the material posted to SO has Real Value. Programmers world-wide visit it to learn and share, leaving better able to do their jobs, get paid, and buy waffles. I don't think it's going too far to say that SO puts food in programmer's mouths.

That being the case, I was saddened to find that the hated digg labs offers powerful data visualization for their pointless inanity, though naturally all are hidden behind cutesy names like Arc, Bigspy and Swarm. People, this is an outrage! Are going to sit by and let Digg make a mockery of all that is Good and Right in this world? Or will someone step forward, some brave soul skilled in the arts Flash or Silverlight, one who could whip something up that feeds off of the rss, html, and json data-sources found here on the SO-sites?

With our serious, business-oriented Questions, Comments, Votes and Flags you could come up with some very visually-stunning representations of recent activity, and once and for all show the kids over at Digg what Real Programmers can do.

arc bigsby swarm

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I take issue with the premise "StackOverflow is similar to digg in many ways." –  XMLbog Sep 3 '09 at 11:43
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The details are similar, but at a high level they're completely different. I take it you're a bottom-up kind of guy, but I'm a top-down kind of guy. To me, it would be difficult to find two things less similar to each other. To me, it's like comparing sharks to ponies because they both have teeth and tails. Sure they both have teeth and tails. They both eat, too. And they have skin and internal organs. But if I were to tell you that sharks and ponies are the same thing, you would take out a waffle iron and smack me on the side of the head. And you know what? I'd accept being smacked for that. –  XMLbog Sep 3 '09 at 11:47
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Welbog, even at the higher levels they're similar. Content-submission by users (even a sense of reputation) sorted by algorithms shaped by age, total score, etc. Users discuss particular submissions, and help moderate the content of the site via flags and other measures. The analogies are pretty evident and I don't think it requires a working-app to demonstrate that. –  Jonathan Sampson Sep 3 '09 at 11:59
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We understand perfectly. Our concerns are in the spirit of the application, not the details. You could take an existing digg Flash app, apply it to SO data and get something useless, because digg and SO are different in spirit and priorities, and the kinds of apps one would make for digg are influenced by the high-level nature of digg, not its low-level implementation details. I'm not saying that apps can't be made for SO (which is why I have no yet voted on this question), I'm saying that you need to prove that these apps will be useful - and that saying "digg does it" isn't good enough. –  XMLbog Sep 3 '09 at 12:28
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But I'm certainly for more pretty pictures, graphs and clicky drilldown widgets...always good in my book. –  Kev Sep 3 '09 at 12:33
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And who would use it? The example you just described (real-time tag watching) doesn't appeal to me as I look at all tags without ignoring any (except doctype on meta - lol doctype). Why would I care that new votes are cast on questions? Question votes don't tend to mean a whole lot, unless they're downvotes, in which case I don't want to see the question. This is what I've been saying; you're thinking that if you say, "Flash apps," people will say, "Oh that's a good idea." Instead I'm saying "Prove it." Prove it. –  XMLbog Sep 3 '09 at 12:35
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Just one user isn't worth the effort. If that's your answer I will have to downvote the question. –  XMLbog Sep 3 '09 at 12:36
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@Welbog What qualifies you to determine what is worth somebody else's effort? –  Jonathan Sampson Sep 3 '09 at 12:39
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@Welbog If it's just your opinion that it's not worth the effort, fine. Your opinion doesn't actually mean anything. I expressed out of my own personal interest a desire to see something like this. Considering the fact I would find it personally useful, I feel completely justified bringing it to light. But you really have no place to insist this is worthless for the community, since you cannot speak on behalf of the individual users. With all due respect. This question has received up-votes, demonstrating that some users apparently like the idea. –  Jonathan Sampson Sep 3 '09 at 12:42
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@Welbog, Your opinion is not invalid. I appreciate it. I don't appreciate you suggesting your opinion is somehow support for the claim that making an app like this is "worthless" in some absolute-sense. Allow an individual to view the worth for themselves. That is my point. –  Jonathan Sampson Sep 3 '09 at 12:49
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Okay, the point is that digg is not the example to look to for data visualizations, because those are make digg more useful. Digg is immensely popularity driven and time-sensitive. The only time sensitivity that SO has is in getting a question answered, and you're asking for popularity-based analysis. Ask for an API to do some visualizations on the amount of unanswered questions or some neat graphs on SO vs Meta rep or what have you. Then you've got my full backing, because it means much more in the context of the site. Asking for a chart of which tag just got upvoted is just plain useless. –  Eric Sep 3 '09 at 12:50
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You're misinterpreting what I've been writing if you think that. I'm here to present my view of the issue. Like any issue, I have an opinion. Like any opinion, my views can be changed with fact. Neither of us has fact because there's no prototype to draw conclusions from (which was one of the first things I suggested you do). You're reading too much into what I've been saying. Given the facts I have, it is my opinion that Flash applications for SO are a waste of time. I believe you are being optimistic about the usefulness of such apps, and that is why you have the opposite opinion. –  XMLbog Sep 3 '09 at 12:53
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@Welbog How many people sit and watch already? –  Jonathan Sampson Sep 3 '09 at 13:02
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I badly need a visualization for this comment thread, so i can follow the conversation without having to read all this text... –  Shog9 Sep 3 '09 at 13:08
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@jonathan, but wouldn't those users require an API? APIs take hundreds of man hours to create, because you are exposing yourself to considerable risk of abuse, and you have to ensure that all your code is safe and blah blah blah. You would be asking for a considerable amount of development. –  devinb Sep 3 '09 at 14:39

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I don't have a problem with some types of applications being developed to give users different ways of viewing and using the data that is out there, this is obviously one of the biggest reasons to develop an API to allow for such things to take place.

If we are talking about emulating Digg in idea only and not in the actual ways that the applications are used for Digg itself, sure why not.

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Thanks for weighing in TXI. That's all I've been attempting to suggest. Not that we should emulate the behaviors/purposes of Digg, only that we experiment with data-visualization as they have. –  Jonathan Sampson Sep 3 '09 at 12:58

http://diveintomark.org/archives/2007/03/15/links-for-2007-03-15

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Don't focus on the titles, Jeff. The content-structure is the important thing here. Story with a title, summary, and tags. It's very similar to Stackoverflow, which is my point. A visual-tool could be created to show the flow of questions, any votes that modify their sorting, etc. –  Jonathan Sampson Sep 3 '09 at 12:05
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I think Jeff is saying that he would rather highlight differences than be in any way associated with Digg. –  devinb Sep 3 '09 at 12:07
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Pointing out differences wouldn't make a great case for why we can replicate what they did with little effort. –  Jonathan Sampson Sep 3 '09 at 12:09
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Eh, that story was already on reddit last week. –  random Sep 3 '09 at 12:10
    
@Jeff, Care to explain your point? –  Jonathan Sampson Sep 3 '09 at 12:14
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If he explained himself he wouldn't be Jeff anymore. –  XMLbog Sep 3 '09 at 12:21
    
Digg is the poster child for providing visually incisive ways to navigate content via flash apps. If you focus on how the flash tools help navigate the site, and forget the content for a moment, you'd appreciate what a good choice Jonathan picked to illustrate his point. I'm wondering how many rah-rah's we'd have had over the same tools and this same suggestion if it had been Google that came out with them. (Reference to Google's recent "wonderwheel") –  nagul Sep 19 '09 at 23:09

While I don't object to graphs and funky activity displays per se, I really don't want them on the SO homepage or anywhere else I'd be looking for actual questions/answers. Maybe a "Recent Site Activity" tab or something.

Keep them away from the main site please.

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I agree. The digg labs site is completely separate from the digg homepage. –  Jonathan Sampson Sep 3 '09 at 12:00

I would love to see a multidimensional data representation using icons. Let's say taking a smiley:

  • the background, face, eyes, mouth could be linked to represent certain attributes like activity in certain tags.
  • each of these could use fill color, thickness of line, line color, size and even graphical representation (sleeping eyes to wide open eyes, frown vs. smile).

As an example the background color could represent overall activity (from low: white to active: red).

Imagine several such icons in an icon bar with user customizable monitoring requests.

  • overall activity (#questions, #answers, #users, #comments, #votes, ...)
  • activity on certain tags, especially users interesting tags
  • activity on users questions and answers
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And where will you keep the decoder ring to figure out WTF a given happy face means? –  XMLbog Sep 3 '09 at 11:57
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We built such a system for trade at the sock markets. It after a while gave traders a feeling what to watch for when certain attributes changed, using very little screen space and being very "graphic". Each icon had a caption, pointing to the stock market or stock watched (main category). Hints helped if uncertain. –  malach Sep 3 '09 at 12:02

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