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Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Words vs Images?

Considering Worth

Not Worth a Thousand Words     By Bertrand Meyer October 12, 2021

Three minutes into my talk at my first meeting of the IFIP working group on programming methodology (WG2.3), Edsger Dijkstra raised his hand -- or not -- and said: "Why is this arrow red and that one blue?" The meeting's chair (Natarajan Shankar) saved me by saying, "You don't have to answer that" and urging me to go on. Dijkstra was notoriously hostile to fancy presentation tricks and any kind of bling-bling. I am not sure he ever reconciled himself with PowerPoint. But he had a point. Too often, technical texts use pictures as a substitute for substance.

Graphical illustrations can be a great help for understanding. They are particularly appropriate to give a general idea of the structure of problems and solutions. Their use, however, requires caution. (These observations are for the most part excerpted from my forthcoming book on requirements engineering and business analysis1, which also provided the background for my previous article on this blog.)

It is all too common to see texts that flash fancy graphics at the reader without taking care to define the precise meaning of the conventions being used. Such "boxes and arrows" diagrams are particularly common in networking, as in the figure below from Wikipedia, describing components and connections of a "Service-Oriented Architecture".  ... '

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