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Comparing or Configuring Products: Are We
Getting the Right Ones?
Product
Author

First Name

Last Name

Age

Nat.

Ph.D.?

Posit.

Affil.

Spoken
Lang

Nicolas

Sannier

32

French

Yes

Postdoc

Inria

French,
English,
Reunion
Isl. creole

Guillaume

Bécan

23

French

Not yet

PhD student

University of
Rennes 1

French,
English

Mathieu

Acher

29

French

Yes

Associate
Prof.

University of
Rennes 1, Inria,
IRISA

French,
English

Sana

Ben Nasr

-

Tunisian

Not yet

PhD student

Inria

Arabic,
French,
English

Benoit

Baudry

-

French

Yes

Research
Scientist,
Head of
Triskell team

Inria

French,
English
VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

-2
Comparator

http://www.autonet.ca/comparenewvehicles#comparenewvehicles-tabs

VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

-3
Configurator

http://www.toyota.ca/toyota/en/build-price/

VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

-4
Pros and cons
Comparators

Configurators

Intuitive and easy to understand

Allow to customize a product

Immediate view of differences
between the compared products

Guidance capabilities

Interaction effort is minimal

Force the user to choose a subset of
products to compare (usually 2 or 3)

Configuration steps are hardwired

Not all features are presented
Features are presented in a
predefined and fixed order

User effort can be significant

VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

-5
Comparators and configurators commonalities

Different pros and cons
BUT

Common goal: choosing a product
Both operate on product descriptions

Product
Comparison
Matrix
VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

-6
Product Comparison Matrices (PCMs) as inputs…
- for comparators
- for configurators

300+ PCMs in Wikipedia
thousands on the web

VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

-7
Long term vision
Generating product comparators and configurators from PCMs

PCM

Comparator

Configurator

VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

-8
From Comparison Matrix to Variability Model
(Sannier et al., ASE’13)
1. Boolean yes/no answers
2. Partial/constrained yes/no answers
3. Single-value answers
4. Multiple values answers

5. “Unknown” answers
6. Empty cells
7. Inconsistent cells
8. Additional / Extra information

• 75-80% of the PCMs content is
manageable as usual by variability
constructs
• 20-25% remaining represent
uncertainty or numerical values

Calls for more research for modeling and reasoning about variability
VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

-9
Issues and Challenges
Product Comparison Matrices (PCMs)

Heterogeneous information, lack of formalization, ad-hoc
PCMs (Sannier et al., ASE’13)
The larger the PCM is, the less it is readable and
understandable : “more is less”
No automated support,
guidance capabilities

VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

- 10
Issues and Challenges
Product Comparison Matrices (PCMs)

VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

- 11
Long term vision
Generating product comparators and configurators from PCMs

PCM

Comparator

Configurator

VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

- 12
Long term vision
Generating product comparators and configurators from variability models
and PCMs

Developers
Synthesis of VMs from PCMs
Automated reasoning on VMs
Framework for building comparators and configurators

PCM

Editor

Contributors
PCM editor with:
• Support for defining variability
• Consistency checking
• Export to CSV or Wikipedia format

Variability
Model

Comparator

Configurator

End users
User friendly comparators and configurators
No hidden configuration or feature
Better understanding of constraints
Better usability

VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

- 13
Research questions
RQ1

Variability
Model

PCM

Editor

Comparator

Configurator

RQ1: What is the syntax and semantics of PCMs?
- Variability patterns observed in Sannier et al., ASE’13 need to be refined and
formalized.
- What is the semantics of coma-separated values?
- What does mean an empty value when choosing a product?
Output: empirical study on real-world PCMs.
VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

- 14
Research questions
RQ1

Variability
Model

PCM
RQ2

Editor

Comparator

Configurator

RQ2: What are the issues faced by end-users when exploiting a PCM?
- Overwhelming amount of information (too much products or criteria)?
- Imprecise information?
- Unclear semantics?
Output: usability study

VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

- 15
Research questions
RQ1

Variability
Model

PCM
RQ2

RQ3

Editor

Comparator

Configurator

RQ3: How to specify and maintain a PCM?
- Considerable effort on spreadsheets (Panko et al., 2008, Abraham et al.,
2007, Cunha et al., 2011, Hermans et al., 2012).
- PCMs can be seen as a special form of spreadsheets but none of these works
considered the variability they contain.
Output: domain-specific editor for specifying PCMs
VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

- 16
Research questions
RQ4
RQ1

Variability
Model

PCM
RQ2

RQ3

Editor

Comparator

Configurator

RQ4: How to synthesize variability models from PCMs?
- Numerical values and uncertainty?
- Scalability?
- User’s input is needed to disambiguate PCMs
Output: supervised and tool-supported techniques

VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

- 17
Research questions
RQ4
RQ1

PCM

Variability
Model

RQ2

RQ3

Editor

RQ5

Comparator

Configurator

RQ5: How to generate configurators or comparators from variability models?
- How to reason on variability models for comparison and configuration?
- How to encourage developers to respect good practices (Abbasi et al., 2013,
Trentin et al., 2013) ?
Output: engineering techniques for generating comparators and configurators

VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

- 18
Research questions
RQ4: synthesis
O4: supervised and toolsupported techniques

RQ1: formalization
O1: empirical study

Variability
Model

PCM
RQ2: scalability limits
O2: usability study

Editor
RQ3: specification and
maintenance
O3: domain-specific editor

Comparator

Configurator

RQ5: customized generation
O4: engineering and reasoning
techniques

VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

- 19
Compare and Choose your Answerer!
Look at the Author Comparison Matrix and Choose

Ask your questions ;-)
Product
Author

First Name

Last Name

Age

Nat.

Ph.D.?

Posit.

Affil.

Spoken
Lang

Nicolas

Sannier

32

French

Yes

Postdoc

Inria

French,
English,
Reunion
Isl. creole

Recovering from his PhD
Guillaume

Bécan

23

French

Not yet

PhD student

University of
Rennes 1

French,
English

Mathieu

Acher

29

French

Yes

Associate
Prof.

University of
Rennes 1, Inria,
IRISA

French,
English

Sana

Ben Nasr

-

Tunisian

Not yet

PhD student

Inria

Arabic,
French,
English

Baudry

-

French

Yes

Research
Scientist,
Head of
Triskell team

Inria

French,
English

N/A
Benoit

N/A

VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators

- 20

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Comparing or Configuring Products: Are We Getting the Right Ones? (VaMoS 2014)

  • 1. Comparing or Configuring Products: Are We Getting the Right Ones? Product Author First Name Last Name Age Nat. Ph.D.? Posit. Affil. Spoken Lang Nicolas Sannier 32 French Yes Postdoc Inria French, English, Reunion Isl. creole Guillaume Bécan 23 French Not yet PhD student University of Rennes 1 French, English Mathieu Acher 29 French Yes Associate Prof. University of Rennes 1, Inria, IRISA French, English Sana Ben Nasr - Tunisian Not yet PhD student Inria Arabic, French, English Benoit Baudry - French Yes Research Scientist, Head of Triskell team Inria French, English
  • 2. VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators -2
  • 3. Comparator http://www.autonet.ca/comparenewvehicles#comparenewvehicles-tabs VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators -3
  • 4. Configurator http://www.toyota.ca/toyota/en/build-price/ VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators -4
  • 5. Pros and cons Comparators Configurators Intuitive and easy to understand Allow to customize a product Immediate view of differences between the compared products Guidance capabilities Interaction effort is minimal Force the user to choose a subset of products to compare (usually 2 or 3) Configuration steps are hardwired Not all features are presented Features are presented in a predefined and fixed order User effort can be significant VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators -5
  • 6. Comparators and configurators commonalities Different pros and cons BUT Common goal: choosing a product Both operate on product descriptions Product Comparison Matrix VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators -6
  • 7. Product Comparison Matrices (PCMs) as inputs… - for comparators - for configurators 300+ PCMs in Wikipedia thousands on the web VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators -7
  • 8. Long term vision Generating product comparators and configurators from PCMs PCM Comparator Configurator VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators -8
  • 9. From Comparison Matrix to Variability Model (Sannier et al., ASE’13) 1. Boolean yes/no answers 2. Partial/constrained yes/no answers 3. Single-value answers 4. Multiple values answers 5. “Unknown” answers 6. Empty cells 7. Inconsistent cells 8. Additional / Extra information • 75-80% of the PCMs content is manageable as usual by variability constructs • 20-25% remaining represent uncertainty or numerical values Calls for more research for modeling and reasoning about variability VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators -9
  • 10. Issues and Challenges Product Comparison Matrices (PCMs) Heterogeneous information, lack of formalization, ad-hoc PCMs (Sannier et al., ASE’13) The larger the PCM is, the less it is readable and understandable : “more is less” No automated support, guidance capabilities VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators - 10
  • 11. Issues and Challenges Product Comparison Matrices (PCMs) VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators - 11
  • 12. Long term vision Generating product comparators and configurators from PCMs PCM Comparator Configurator VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators - 12
  • 13. Long term vision Generating product comparators and configurators from variability models and PCMs Developers Synthesis of VMs from PCMs Automated reasoning on VMs Framework for building comparators and configurators PCM Editor Contributors PCM editor with: • Support for defining variability • Consistency checking • Export to CSV or Wikipedia format Variability Model Comparator Configurator End users User friendly comparators and configurators No hidden configuration or feature Better understanding of constraints Better usability VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators - 13
  • 14. Research questions RQ1 Variability Model PCM Editor Comparator Configurator RQ1: What is the syntax and semantics of PCMs? - Variability patterns observed in Sannier et al., ASE’13 need to be refined and formalized. - What is the semantics of coma-separated values? - What does mean an empty value when choosing a product? Output: empirical study on real-world PCMs. VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators - 14
  • 15. Research questions RQ1 Variability Model PCM RQ2 Editor Comparator Configurator RQ2: What are the issues faced by end-users when exploiting a PCM? - Overwhelming amount of information (too much products or criteria)? - Imprecise information? - Unclear semantics? Output: usability study VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators - 15
  • 16. Research questions RQ1 Variability Model PCM RQ2 RQ3 Editor Comparator Configurator RQ3: How to specify and maintain a PCM? - Considerable effort on spreadsheets (Panko et al., 2008, Abraham et al., 2007, Cunha et al., 2011, Hermans et al., 2012). - PCMs can be seen as a special form of spreadsheets but none of these works considered the variability they contain. Output: domain-specific editor for specifying PCMs VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators - 16
  • 17. Research questions RQ4 RQ1 Variability Model PCM RQ2 RQ3 Editor Comparator Configurator RQ4: How to synthesize variability models from PCMs? - Numerical values and uncertainty? - Scalability? - User’s input is needed to disambiguate PCMs Output: supervised and tool-supported techniques VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators - 17
  • 18. Research questions RQ4 RQ1 PCM Variability Model RQ2 RQ3 Editor RQ5 Comparator Configurator RQ5: How to generate configurators or comparators from variability models? - How to reason on variability models for comparison and configuration? - How to encourage developers to respect good practices (Abbasi et al., 2013, Trentin et al., 2013) ? Output: engineering techniques for generating comparators and configurators VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators - 18
  • 19. Research questions RQ4: synthesis O4: supervised and toolsupported techniques RQ1: formalization O1: empirical study Variability Model PCM RQ2: scalability limits O2: usability study Editor RQ3: specification and maintenance O3: domain-specific editor Comparator Configurator RQ5: customized generation O4: engineering and reasoning techniques VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators - 19
  • 20. Compare and Choose your Answerer! Look at the Author Comparison Matrix and Choose Ask your questions ;-) Product Author First Name Last Name Age Nat. Ph.D.? Posit. Affil. Spoken Lang Nicolas Sannier 32 French Yes Postdoc Inria French, English, Reunion Isl. creole Recovering from his PhD Guillaume Bécan 23 French Not yet PhD student University of Rennes 1 French, English Mathieu Acher 29 French Yes Associate Prof. University of Rennes 1, Inria, IRISA French, English Sana Ben Nasr - Tunisian Not yet PhD student Inria Arabic, French, English Baudry - French Yes Research Scientist, Head of Triskell team Inria French, English N/A Benoit N/A VaMoS'2014 - Sannier, Bécan, Acher, Ben Nasr and Baudry – PCMs, VMs and Configurators - 20