Saturday, 20 October 2012

Old software never dies, it just...

Ah, the old ones are the best. Or so some think.

During my PhD, I wrote software for linking the output of comp chem calculations to experimental results (e.g. IR and UV-Vis spectra, and so forth). This software, GaussSum, has now been around for quite some time (Aug 2003 in fact). For the most part I no longer add features, beyond updating the parsing library (from cclib) to handle new file formats. At this point most of the bugs have been identified and removed...but does everyone use the latest version? Let's find out...

If you search Google Scholar for papers published in 2012 with the word "GaussSum" (but not "Gauss") you get about 121 citations (well, mentions, at least). In 45 of these cases, the extract in the Google Scholar results unambiguously lists the version number used.

The majority of the citations, a total of 27, are for the current version 2.2, released in Nov 2009 with several updates since. Four specify the precise version: 2.2.0 (Nov 2009), 2.2.2 (Nov 2009), 2.2.4 (July 2010) and 2.2.5 (the latest, in Jan 2011).

Of the remainder, the majority, a total of 13, are for version 2.1, released first in June 2007 and replaced by version 2.2 in Nov 2009. Three specify the precise version: 2.1.4 twice (Dec 2007) and 2.1.6 once (Apr 2009, the final update).

No one cites version 2.0 (Oct 2006 to June 2007). (Sad face.) But that still leaves five citations unaccounted for.

Version 1.0 was released in Oct 2005 and held sway until Oct 2006. It has been cited 4 times this year. In three of those cases they cite the precise version, version 1.0.5 (the final update, Aug 2006).

But that is not all. Oh no. I still have a loyal user of GaussSum 0.8 out there. Although released in Jan 2004 and superseded in Apr 2005 by version 0.9, this particular version with its quaint bugs and lovable lack of features, still has its adherents (well, adherent, anyway).

And the moral of the story is..."don't ever use Google Scholar to check what versions of software people are using". No that's not it - I mean "update your scientific software or some of your results are going to be dubious." At least check for a new version every 8 years.

Indeed, it seems old software never just gets fewer citations.

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