Terms and other things we can’t agree on

I was in a meeting last week where we had a long drawn out discussion of some terms around scenarios, use cases, and design. I knew the ambiguity was there, but watching the conversation unfold reminded me how important a common understanding of terminology is in order to have a conversation that goes somewhere.

The meeting was great, but I walked away depressed. I was depressed because as great as the meeting went, it reminded me that communicating about test is much, much worse. Quick, tell me – what is test automation? What’s a test harness? What’s a test case? Your answers are probably different than mine, and our are different from the next person to read this post. Testers can’t have deep or broad conversations about testing because we can’t understand each other. I’m racking my brain right now to think of one word or phrase about testing that would mean the same to all of the testers I know.

Normally, I like to present my solution right now, but I don’t have one. The profession has had a few common terms in place for decades, but some sections of the profession want to define their own terms. I completely support having different approaches to the craft of software testing, but I wish it didn’t come at the expense of losing the chance of a common vocabulary.

So, you tell me. Name something all testers agree about. Or, tell me why we don’t need to agree on terms. If you think we do need to agree, tell me how we can get there.

Or, just make stuff up.