Testing terminologies, communication and patience.

The other day I took a small break from a task at hand in office and came across an interesting discussion around Artificial Intelligence and what it should be actually called on Ministry of Testing slack channel. While I enjoyed the discussion it softly drifted towards the use of correct or relevant terminologies while we communicate. While there was an emphasis on the use of correct terms while communicating, there was also a valid concern over audience or listeners pulling things down over minute unintended terminology errors or grammar mistakes. I could relate to both sides of the coin as far as the use of correct testing terminologies is considered and thought of adding my understanding on it.

Fast forward few hours and we all (participants in that discussion) had enjoyed so many thoughts as discussion further shifted to constructive confrontation or healthy communication.


Maciej Wyrodek(@mwyrodek) have already covered the takeaway and part of the discussion over user of terminologies already, let me try taking it ahead. But before that, please read what he said/covered here.

I am again not going to repeat the entire discussion. So the discussion was happening about whether errors over the use of terms should be ignored, ignored temporarily, confronted politely or taken down(no one supports this I believe). It was around both Yes/No and the How part.

The Problem:

  • James Sheasby Thomas offered this excellent summary:

“I think that if a discrete group of people are using the same problematic term as a proxy for the same concept, having previously acknowledged that the term itself is problematic/reductionist, then they should be free to use a said term as a shortcut for what they mean. However, if there is some disagreement about the true meaning or concern that third parties may take the term literally or not know the true meaning, then I think it’s important to spend time discussing the naming of concepts. (edited)”

  • My thought on the topic:

“Whenever a certain terminology or naming seems to cause harm to a craft, in near or distant future, the healthy debate should happen over it(in a healthy way of course and possibly on a side track to make sure original discussion agenda is not gone and speaker/presenter is not getting negative vibes). Again and again, till the time maximum people take a note of it, understand the intent behind it and adapt to it(hopefully, ideal thing).” *Edited to club multiple thoughts in one para

  • @Paulhaulland further added :

“The approach I tend to use when people around me use “sloppy” terminology (or any terminology I disagree with like SQA, Best Practices, Automated Testing, etc.) is to replace their terminology with what I feel is better terminology (Testers, Good practices in this context, automated checking, etc.).
If their use of their terms continues then I will talk to them alone and let them know why I disagree with the terms they are using.
I have found when using this approach at conferences and at my current company that the suggested changes have been very well received at all levels (conference speakers and attendees, and employees from the CTO & VPs, to front line devs, PMs and POs).
I often get an apology from some of the people (especially when referring to my testers as SQA)”

  • Augusto Evangelisti(@gus) presented the problem with one example:

Developer X comes to our slack to clarify a problem he has with automation and asks: “Hi tester friends, I have a problem with my automated tests. When I call the API blah blah blah… …can you help me?”

a) Hi Developer X I think that you could use library Y to help you understand the results of your automated tests blah blah blah
b) Testing cannot be automated, you are talking about automated checks, please refer to <long list of blog posts>
c) Hi Developer X I think that you could use library Y to help you understand the results of your automated checks blah blah blah
d) other

While most of us will agree on Option ‘C’ here or probably amended version of it with little explanation conveying the intention behind replacing ‘tests’ with ‘checks’, there may be few going for B.

I will like to stress on this part. The problem is not only the criticism or unhealthy feedback over not-so-correct terminologies but it goes all the way till unhealthy communication practices and usual internet/social trolls.

  • During the discussion, Gus shared his not-so-positive experience during talks where he unintentionally used ‘tests’ over ‘checks’ and reaction was ranging from hijacking the Q&A section debating over the difference between both and further down.
  • @mwyrodek shared his experience of how people will focus on grammar mistakes ignoring the core content at hand and criticise.
  •  My experience(which I didn’t get chance to share there) is no different. I wrote a very popular guest post on softwaretestinghelp.com and while many loved it appreciated. There was one who found time to say that there is grammatical mistake and content seems to be suitable only for the Indian audience. In another experience when I started blogging and I think it was a very first post of mine which I happened to share mistakenly in one Automation related LinkedIn group where there was someone(Don’t bother to remember who) was quick to take me down like it was a big mistake.

The Takeaway:

So the point is, why we as a human being become so impatient while listening to others, facing something we are not convinced about or something which doesn’t please us. No one knows the single answer to this probably but similar to how our discussion ended there, below can be the takeaways(mixed with content from the discussion and thoughts currently in my mind):

  • We all can be little more patient, polite and aware while we listen, read or face someone’s work/words. Responding over Reacting.
  • @mwyrodek shared this wonderful piece. Do read it if you want to improve on constructive confrontation.
  • Michael Bolton rightly highlighted the importance of accepting the vulnerability we as a human being have and we should stay aware of it all the time. It helps others form the right(or better) understanding of us/our words. Here he goes:

“As testers, it’s important for us to remember that lots of trivial bugs begin with typos. The _devastating_ bugs begin with misunderstanding. Peace.” He further added- “No matter what it looks like, everyone is trying to be helpful.”

  • Martin Hynie(@vds4) says:

“Language is an abstraction… accept the artistry of how others choose to paint their thoughts using words. It may allow you to model your own thoughts with a new set of eyes.”

  • We all should(hopefully) agree and stay aware all the time that we are always learning how to do right communication all the time. We all are human and we can make mistakes. Practicing shall improve us.

I hope this documentation of one interesting discussion I had and few additions to it will help in some way.

Loved discussing and loved MoT for giving such an awesome platform to all the testers. Cheers !!!

Note: If at all any typos, errors in framing other’s opinion in words, please help me know those. Needless to say, in healthy words :p