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Think all software changelogs are boring? Think again

Phil Johnson | Aug. 28, 2015
The Strange Log proves that sometimes even the driest-sounding things can actually be pretty entertaining.

The words You’ve Change painted on a building
Credit: marc falardeau CC BY 2.0

If you think the idea of watching somebody write software code sounds boring, then the mere thought of reading changelog notes - that is, the notes that developers write and release when software is updated - may be enough put you right to sleep. However, there’s a Twitter feed that I recently came across that may change your mind and show you that even most the most mundane, boring, dry-sounding things, like software changelogs, can be strangely engrossing.

The feed is called The Strange Log, and it’s a stream of notes from changelogs (also called patch notes) for video games. It really is interesting to read and it features such weird gems as:

The account is the creation of Ben Chapman, a video game fan and freelance writer and comedian. Apparently, I’m not the only one who finds The Strange Log compelling; since it launched last year it’s amassed over 25,000 followers.

What is it about these notes that are so interesting, even to non-developers and non-gamers? “Even though they are these dry, clinical notes, they contain all these relatable words and concepts - Trees, meat, babies, cars, crying, spaceships, sex, etc.,” Chapman told me via email. “So, when you take the context away from the game that's being updated/edited, you end up with this disassociated poetry. It's so much fun. It's like listening to an alien trying to interpret life on Earth.”

A sample ChangeLog file 
A typical changelog file. Ben Garney CC BY 2.0

I asked Chapman how he even got into reading video game changelogs in the first place. He says it started from his penchant for playing Early Access games; that is, games that people pay to play while they’re still in development, which helps to fund their creation and provide valuable feedback to the developer. “Players of those games, like DayZ or early Minecraft, really look forward to patch notes,” Chapman said. “New features get added, annoying bugs get fixed, and suddenly the game they had become so accustomed to has changed with a single update.”

 

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