Product Line Engineering

SPLC 2009: A Survey

Posted in Bits'n'Pieces by danilo on September 22, 2009

A few weeks ago  I was attending this year’s SPLC and, well, it was different this time compared to last year in Ireland. I think for the first time ever there were significantly less participants. But I had the impression that participants from the industry who were there, were more focused and seemed to be even more eager to get something out of the conference. So in the end, I think I liked it more than the one last year.

However, some of the trends in research seemed a bit odd to me. Take this proposition: “pure::variants is the most often mentioned commercial tool for product line engineering at SPLC 2009”. Based on this I did  a very simple survey on the usage of the term “pure::variants” and some other commercial tools in the proceedings of this years SPLC. Looking at the result I am quite happy with the survey: the term “pure::variants” is used 37 times in 6 articles. That sounds impressive. A little bit closer look reveals, of course, one of the articles I was the co-author. And the numbers do not tell you whether the respective paper was in favor or against use of pure::variants. So what is the value of this information? It is close to zero. You can get the  impression that pure::variants seems to have some influence. But that is about it. You have to read the paper to find out. And that is the point: A survey should give you some valuable additional information. Just numbers and charts are not enough. However, I must admit, I like the numbers about pure::variants very much, since it can be used for marketing, and who said marketing has to follow scientific rules 🙂

What else? Speaking about numbers and surveys: Kyo Kang, one of the master minds behind feature models, gave a keynote looking back at 20 years of history of feature models. And he also did kind of survey on citations of the paper that started it all (FODA – Feature Oriented Domain Analysis). But this was not part of the research track and the way he presented it, it gave some interesting insights beyond pure numbers. One them was that it took quite a number of years (almost 15!) until numbers of citations per year really rocketed (more than a hundred per year). That is aligned with my impression that when we at pure-systems started promoting feature models (2003) it was not so well known but soon after things changed. Again good for us 🙂

I liked the proceedings on a USB stick. First time saw this on a rather research oriented conference for me but I think quite a good idea. If only I could have gotten hold of one of those new eBook readers with electronic ink 😦 . 

Talking of equipment and first time experiences: I had 2 Windows blue screens on my laptop before my demonstration. Whenever I switched to external display, it crashed after few seconds. I have never seen this kind of thing happen before, and I have done a fair number of presentations in the last decade. Only the remote desktop stuff (and another laptop with a network cable) saved my day. The demonstration then went well but I do not have to have this ever again.

Lastly I have to talk about the location, which one of the things I heard often in discussions of the participants. First of all, I must admit I found the direct view on the runway of the San Francisco Airport from the hotel’s lobby bar quite entertaining. Watching planes landing in parallel, Boeing 747 slowing getting of the ground and this kind of thing were really relaxing things to do. Apart from that being in a hotel directly beside the airport for about a week is not as entertaining as one might think. And don’t get it wrong: The hotel as such was one of the best business hotels I have been to in the U.S.