February 6, 2007

Slogans are models.

Posted by Ben Simo

Harry Robinson posted an answer to inquiries about the Google Testing Blog's slogan: "Life is too short for manual testing." Some were concerned that the slogan implied that Google does not value manual and exploratory testing. I too had such concerns.

Harry pointed out that the slogan is just a slogan and that life really is too short to try all the combinations that might expose important bugs.

This got me to thinking about slogans as models. A slogan is really a model of an idea. It is not complete. It is simpler than the thing it describes.

Consider the following advertising slogans:

  • "The ultimate driving machine"
  • "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight."
  • "Finger lickin' good."
  • "Let your fingers do the walking."
  • "Reach out and touch someone."
  • "The quicker picker-upper."
  • "Have if your way."
  • "It's everywhere you want to be."
  • "Betcha can't eat just one."
These slogans bring to mind attributes about the companies and their products that are not an explicit part of the slogan. I don't even have to mention the companies or their products. This is your mind accessing your mental model of the company and products that the model represents.

In addition to the more detailed model invoked in your mind, it should not be difficult to find faults with these slogans. The slogans are incomplete; yet they are not useless.

Slogans demonstrate both the usefulness and potential complexity of models. A model does not need to be complete to be useful.

So, how does this apply to software testing ... and test automation?

When we develop test cases or perform exploratory testing we are implementing our mental models. When we execute tests, we (hopefully) learn more about the system under test and update our mental models.

In the same way, explicit models used for model-based test automation can be refined after each test execution. There is no need to model all the possible details before the first test run. Running tests based on incomplete models can provide valuable information about your test subject. It can validate or disprove your assumptions. Results from an incomplete model can help lead you to other useful tests -- both manual and automated.

Investigate using Hierarchical State Machines to simplify model definition and maintenance.

Build your models one step at a time.

  Edit

3 Comments:

May 01, 2007  
Erkan Yilmaz wrote:

Hi Ben,

Since I am from Germany, let's see if the slogans also transmit their message across to other cultures/countries :-)

(I could search for them in google of course - but a more interesting approach is, that I tell you what I think what kind of product it stands for. Please tell me, if I am right.)


* "The ultimate driving machine"
something with cars ?
for a kid it could be a snow sledge, for Mogli it could be Baghira or Balu, for santa it seems a sledge with reindeers

* "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight."
UPS (or for Germany: Deutsche Post)
or a stork delivering a baby

* "Finger lickin' good."
* "Betcha can't eat just one."
something to eat, I think of rice pudding prepared by my mother
What would a cannibal prefer ?

* "Let your fingers do the walking."
hm, ... instead of me walking, let my fingers do it. This means that I can save somehow time or do something faster.
Is it involved with shopping ? You give your girl friend a mobile for shoping and then call her during that.

* "Reach out and touch someone."
an organization which helps people: social service, old people's home, greenpeace (UN, or a bank)
-> but well I do not know, if UN or bank fits to the first three, but I would think that they would misuse the idea of the slogan

* "The quicker picker-upper."
hm, I know of pickup trucks and the verb to pick up
A search in dictionary.com tells me:
picker-upper: something that restores one's depleted energy or depressed spirits; pick-me-up.
Then I would think of coffee or red bull (they make much advertisement in Germany) or someone hitting me directly in my face :-)

* "Have if your way."
spelling error ?
so I assume "Have it your way"
from a tobacco company ?
from a tea producing company ?
(or from a bank, e.g. with money you can have it your way)


* "It's everywhere you want to be."
I would think of an ad for a mobile
but I would rather prefer: fun



>A slogan is really a model of an idea. It is not complete. It is simpler than the thing it describes.
yes, sometimes it does not transmit that good - but this is also good, so it makes you wonder and think.
Perhaps proverbs or famous quotes are an even better way to transmit an idea ?
BTW: here are some heuristics

Erkan YILMAZ

May 01, 2007  
Ben Simo wrote:

let's see if the slogans also transmit their message across to other cultures/countries

I betcha they don't. :)

I also be that Harry's "Life is too short for manual testing" slogan loses meaning when taken out of the software testing context.

Advertising slogans are likely to mean very little when taken out of context. However, after we've been bombarded with advertising, they seem to stick in our minds.



* "The ultimate driving machine"
Yes, something with cars. In fact, its a German car: BMW.

* "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight."
Not UPS, but close. Its Federal Express.

* "Finger lickin' good."
* "Betcha can't eat just one."

Yes, something to eat. But not rice pudding. Whose fingers are the cannibals licking? The first is Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. The second is Lays potato chips.

* "Let your fingers do the walking."
Yes, it is for a product that helps save time. It is involved with shopping. It is the Yellow Pages sorted-by-topic business phone directory.

* "Reach out and touch someone."
Not social services. Its AT&T long distance telephone service. This is a slogan from the 1980's. AT&Ts current slogan is "Your world delivered." I never thought of having the world delivered to me.

* "The quicker picker-upper."
This has nothing to do with coffee or Red Bull, but I think it would fit those products. It is not something to drink. Intead it is something to help you pick up a spilled drink. It is Bounty brand paper towels.

* "Have it your way."
Yes, there was a typo in the original post. This has nothing to do with tobacco or tea. This slogan belongs to Burger King restaurants where you can have your burger your way. I remember radio ads with a man ordering a hamburger with two bottom buns and a pickle in his milk shake. I prefer to have my food my way, not his.

* "It's everywhere you want to be."
If you have your VISA card, you can buy all the fun you can afford. This slogan states that VISA is accepted everywhere anyone would want to be. I guess this means that if VISA isn't accepted, you don't want to be there.

May 02, 2007  
Erkan Yilmaz wrote:

>"Whose fingers are the cannibals licking?"
:-)

>"The quicker picker-upper."
ah, I have learned something again - should have taken the initial guesses and worked around them.

>"I prefer to have my food my way, not his."
me too and I save also money by doing this at home :-)

>"It's everywhere you want to be."
ah, now with your help I remember such a slogan from VISA - crawling up from the depths of my brain (there was also involved a swim suit wearing woman in the spot)


As I see, a few ad slogans seem to transmit well and others not so well (or the recipient should get bombed additionally with pictures/sounds/videos)
So, thank you again for the experience.

>"I also bet that Harry's "Life is too short for manual testing" slogan loses meaning when taken out of the software testing context."
We could find out by playing researcher with people we know who are not involved in software testing.

Bye,
Erkan