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LinuxCon: Visualize Your Code Repos and More with Gource

By: Dawn M. Foster. PhD student at the University of Greenwich, Centre for Business Network Analysis and open source / community building consultant at The Scale Factory.

LinuxCon North America - Toronto 2016

LinuxCon Europe - Berlin 2016

Linuxing in London Meetup - October 2016

Additional Info

My slides will be available on slideshare shortly after the presentations.

This github repo contains all of the scripts, data, instructions, and other technical materials that you can use to reproduce what I did in the sessions. If I do this well, you'll be able to use these tools to gather data and perform similar analysis using your own community data.

This README file is where you can find most of the instructions for replicating the data and analysis from the presentations along with some extra material.

Using Gource

Gource is a visualization tool most often used to visualize source code repositories.


If you aren’t already familiar with Gource, here are a few interesting videos of how other people have used Gource to get you thinking about how you might use it!

  • Tribute to Seth Vidal, lead developer of the Yum project and long time Fedora contributor, shortly after he was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bike. Seth’s contributions to Yum are in blue, while contributions from others are in white.
  • Linux Kernel Development, 1991-2015. Visualize the full development history of any open source project, the Linux kernel in this example.
  • Population Dynamics 1970-2010. A visualization of population dynamics.

###Useful Gource Info

  • Gource website for downloads and general info
  • Gource github repo
  • Gource wiki for documentation, how-to, and videos
  • Control page for a list of all of the controls you can use to speed up / slow down or show / hide to get something that looks good with your data
  • Use gource -H to get a complete list of all controls (not all are listed on the wiki page)
  • Templates with recommended configurations for different types of data (large projects, long-lived projects, etc.)
  • Gourciferous for visualizing multiple repos in a single visualization using the custom log format

Code Repositories

If you've never run Gource on your code repositories, you should!

It's easy to run:

$ gource /path/to/repo

However, repos vary dramatically in size, activity, etc., so the default options probably won't be ideal.

###Dates and Speed

These are the controls that you'll want to use to speed up the activity of a small repo or slow things down to be able to see what's really happening in a large project.

Dates: Start / Stop

You can tell Gource to start and/or stop on a specific date (time optional) in this format 'YYYY-MM-DD hh:mm:ss +tz'.

It's a great way to highlight a specific time during a project (release window, specific version) or cut out periods of less activity at the beginning or end of a project.

--start-date '2014-01-01'
--stop-date '2015-08-08'

Auto Skip

Auto skip to the next entry if nothing happens for a number of seconds (default: 3).

For small projects with less activity or projects where contributions tend to be sporadic, this option can help cut out the waiting and speed things up a bit.

-a 1
--auto-skip-seconds 1

Seconds Per Day

The speed in seconds per day (default: 10).

Again, for projects without a lot of activity, you'll want to reduce this number quite a bit. However, for large projects where there are a lot of commits per day, and you are focusing on a subset of dates, you might need to increase it to better see what's going on.

-s 0.5

Hide Elements

You can also hide some elements, especially in large repositories, to make it easier to see what matters to you. You can hide any of these elements: bloom, date, dirnames, files, filenames, mouse, progress, root, tree, users, usernames

--hide dirnames
--hide dirnames,filenames

###Add User Avatars

You can either put the images in a directory with a filename matching the name of the user or you might be able to pull the images from Gravatar. In this example, I've put the images into an images directory, since it's a small number of contributors.

--user-image-dir ~/gitrepos/linuxcon_2016/images/

Example: Dates and Speed / Add User Avatars

gource --start-date '2014-01-01' --stop-date '2015-08-08' -a 1 -s .05 
--user-image-dir ~/gitrepos/linuxcon_2016/images/ ~/gitrepos/MailingListStats/

###Make It Look Great

There are a number of options you can use to make your Gource visualization look better. Here are a few that you probably want to use most of the time.

Date Format

You may want to look at the strftime manual for valid format strings if you aren't familiar with strftime.

Display only the Month (name) and Year for busy repositories.

--date-format "%B %Y"

Display the date without minutes / seconds.

--date-format "%A, %d %B %Y"


--title "My Awesome Project"

Font for Date and Title

--font-size 22
--font-colour FF9900


--logo images/bitergia-logo.png

You can also get a little creative with the logo option to create a banner image to give you more control over the title or anything else you want to display at the bottom of the screen. Take a look at the bitergia-banner.png file in the images directory for an example.

--logo images/bitergia-banner.png

Other Options not in this example

Here are a few other options that I'm not using here, but might be useful for you. Other options for changing the appearance can be found on the wiki or by using gource -H

Background color (hex value)

--background 555555 

Background image

--background-image background.png

Examples: Make it look great

Using Logo and Title:

gource -a 1 -s .3 --date-format "%A, %d %B %Y" --font-size 22 --font-colour FF9900 
--title "MailingListStats aka mlstats" --logo ~/gitrepos/linuxcon_2016/images/bitergia-logo.png 

Using banner image logo to replace title

gource -a 1 -s .3 --date-format "%A, %d %B %Y" --font-size 22 --font-colour FF9900 
--logo ~/gitrepos/linuxcon_2016/images/bitergia-banner.png ~/gitrepos/MailingListStats/

###Display Additional Information


Add a file extension key to show which colors are used for each file extension. You can also toggle this on or off by typing the "K" key while gource is running.



Captions are great for narrating important milestones or other activities in the project: release dates, people joining the project, major refactoring, etc. The captions page on the wiki has more details and a few additional options.

First, you need a pipe separated file with unix timestamp|description (one per line):

1373850061|Kris begins work on the website
1375750861|Dawn fixes some typos
1379120461|Richard makes everything look nice

Tell gource where to find the file:

--caption-file linuxcon_2016/data/captions.log

Specify the duration of the caption display in seconds (default is 10 seconds):

--caption-duration 3

Hex value for the caption font color:

--caption-colour FF9900

Font size for caption:

--caption-size 20

Example: Captions

gource -a 1 -s .3 --key --caption-file ~/gitrepos/linuxcon_2016/data/captions.log 
--caption-duration 4 --caption-colour FF9900 --caption-size 20 ~/gitrepos/

###Additional Display Options

Running it on a loop can be useful if you want to run it on a big screen before a talk, at a meetup, or in the office.


You may also want to run it full screen.


###While Gource is Running

  • Space bar to pause
  • Ctrl + / - to speed up or slow down
  • Use arrow keys to move camera
  • Mouse over timeline widget at the bottom and click on a date to move in time
  • K to show / hide the file type key

###Generating video

For large repos, Gource can take a while to start the visualization while it parses the logs. In this case, you might want to record it as a video to show people or upload online. There are instructions and examples on the Gource wiki. Keep in mind that recording the video can take a long time. I didn't time it, but it took 5-10 minutes on my MacBook Air to record a 31 second video.

The Gource video for an earlier demo was generated using this command:

gource -f --logo images/bitergia_logo_sm.png --title "MailingListStats AKA mlstats"
--key --start-date '2014-01-01' --user-image-dir images -a 1 -s .05
--path ../MailingListStats -o - | ffmpeg -y -r 60 -f image2pipe -vcodec ppm -i - -vcodec
libx264 -preset ultrafast -pix_fmt yuv420p -crf 1 -threads 0 -bf 0 gource.mp4

Data Gathering to use the Gource Custom Log Format

More details about Using the Gource custom log format option.

If you are gathing data from open source communities, your best friend is the MetricsGrimoire suite of tools. This presentation uses mlstats for mailing lists and bicho for bug data.

Mailing Lists

###Step 1: Get your mailing list data into a database using mlstats

a) Install mlstats

$ python install

b) Log into mysql and create the database

mysql> create database mlstats;

c) Import your mailing list data by running mlstats

$ mlstats --db-user=USERNAME --db-password=PASS http://URLOFYOURLIST

Note: this can take a long time depending on how long your mailing list has been around and the number of messages.

###Step 2: Run database queries to extract your data

This is the "do it yourself" method and requires a bit manual / scripting work on your part. See Step 2 (alternative) below for a Python script that does this for you.

A good list of starter queries can be found on the mlstats wiki and you'll want to look at the database schema as well.

To get the data for the Gource custom log, you would need something like this, but you would need to re-format it into a pipe-separated file that Gource can read (see Python script alternative below):

SELECT unix_timestamp(DATE_ADD(m.first_date, interval m.first_date_tz second)) 
AS unix_date, mp.email_address AS sender, (SELECT mp2.email_address FROM 
messages m2, messages_people mp2 WHERE m2.is_response_of=m.is_response_of AND 
mp2.message_id=m2.is_response_of limit 1) AS receiver FROM messages_people mp, 
messages m WHERE YEAR(m.first_date)=2015 AND MONTH(m.first_date)=1 AND 

###Step 2 (alternative): Use a Python script to easily run the database query and re-format the data a bit.


$ python -o <outputfiledir> -d <database> 

What does:

  • Gathers information about where to put output files and the database being used. (Note: assumes you have a my.cnf file to authenticate to the database.)
  • Runs the query.
  • Strips the email down to the username (everything before to have a shorter identifier for the users.
  • Formats the output into a nice Gource custom log format sorted by time as gource_output.log

CAVEAT: I am not a real programmer; the code is ugly; and it may or may not work for you without some tweaking. However, I will be doing more Python programming, and I appreciate helpful suggestions about how to improve :)

###Gource - Mailing List Options

I also added a few other options to make it look a bit nicer:

File idle time: Time files remain idle in seconds (default 0). This allows people being replied to to disappear after 5 seconds to clean up a bit and make it more readable.

-i 5
--file-idle-time 5

Max user speed: Speed users can travel per second (default: 500). I slowed this down to 100 to make it easier to see the users.

--max-user-speed 100 

Highlight users: keeps the usernames for the people sending emails from disappearing. I would have liked to have the same for filenames which are the people being replied to, but can't seem to find at option for that.


Example: Mailing Lists

$ gource -i 5 --max-user-speed 100 -a 1 --highlight-users ~/gitrepos/linuxcon_2016/data/mailing_list_custom.log

Bug Data

There are (at least) two options for getting your bug data:

  1. Query your bug database directly. This is probably the quickest and easiest option, but it assumes that you have access to submit queries directly against your bug database. The Gource Wiki has an example of a query that you can use for Bugzilla. Unfortunately, most of us don't have this access, so we are left with option 2.
  2. Use Bicho to download bug data into a database that you can query. The rest of this section assumes that you are using Bicho.

###Step 1: Get your bug data into a database using Bicho

a) Install Bicho

Note: See instructions at the link above for dependencies you might need to install first.

$ python install

b) Log into mysql and create the database

$ mysql> create database bicho;

c) Import your bug data by running Bicho (see instructions at link above - varies by bug tracker)

$ bicho --db-user-out=[USER] --db-password-out=[PASS] --db-database-out=bicho -d 15 -b jira -u [URL]

Note: this can take a long time depending on how long your mailing list has been around and the number of messages.

###Step 2: Run database queries to extract your data

These database queries are for a Bicho database; however, if you have direct access to your bug database, it might be easier to run queries on your bug database directly as mentioned above.


  • These are queries for JIRA, since it's what I had handy, but others would be very similar.
  • issues_ext_jira.issue_key AS bug is only for debugging purposes, since it's a handy way to double check the data.

New Issues (A)

SELECT unix_timestamp(issues.submitted_on) AS unix_date, 
issues.submitted_by AS submitter_id, 
(SELECT people.user_id FROM people, issues WHERE = submitter_id limit 1) AS submitter, AS id,
issues_ext_jira.component AS path,
issues_ext_jira.issue_key AS bug
FROM issues, issues_ext_jira
WHERE = issues_ext_jira.issue_id
ORDER BY unix_date;

Modified Issues (M) - non-comment changes

SELECT unix_timestamp(changes.changed_on) AS unix_date, 
changes.changed_by AS submitter_id, 
(SELECT people.user_id FROM people, changes WHERE = submitter_id limit 1) AS submitter, 
changes.issue_id AS id,
issues_ext_jira.component AS path,
issues_ext_jira.issue_key AS bug
FROM changes, issues_ext_jira
WHERE changes.issue_id = issues_ext_jira.issue_id
ORDER BY unix_date;

Modified Issues (M) - comments

SELECT unix_timestamp(comments.submitted_on) AS unix_date, 
comments.submitted_by AS submitter_id, 
(SELECT people.user_id FROM people, changes WHERE = submitter_id limit 1) AS submitter, 
comments.issue_id AS id,
issues_ext_jira.component AS path,
issues_ext_jira.issue_key AS bug
FROM comments, issues_ext_jira
WHERE comments.issue_id = issues_ext_jira.issue_id
ORDER BY unix_date;

Example: Bug data

gource -a 1 -s 1 --highlight-users ~/gitrepos/linuxcon_2016/data/bugs_custom.log

Data and Examples

###Mailing List Data

The data used in the examples comes from the Linux kernel IOMMU list for January 2015. IOMMU (Input/Output Memory Management Unit) is used in the Linux kernel to map the virtual memory accessible by devices to physical memory for security and other reasons. I selected this list for a few reasons:

  • I'm studying the Linux kernel community at the University of Greenwich, so I wanted to pick something from the Linux kernel, but there are over 240 mailing lists documented for the Linux kernel (and not all of them are listed at that link).
  • The IOMMU list is lower volume than many of the kernel lists (651 posts for January), so it's more manageable as an example.
  • It is a mailman list, which has nicely formatted, clean logs that import well using mlstats. Many of the kernel lists have other ways of logging (Gmane, etc.) that aren't quite as clean when imported.

###Bug Data

The bug data is courtesy of Dr. Guido Conaldi, Senior Lecturer at The University of Greenwich. This dataset came from one of his research projects using network analysis on bug tracker data from Apache 2.x Bugzilla.

License and Copyright

Code is licensed under GNU General Public License (GPL), version 3 or later.

Other content, including the tutorial materials in this README and data files are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Copyright (C) 2016 Dawn M. Foster


Code, data files and instructions for my LinuxCon 2016 talks in Toronto and Berlin



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