For some reason, I have a lot of friends from the UK (could be soccer, could be Microsoft – I don’t know). I hang around them enough to know not to look down when someone says “Pants”, and that “sixes and sevens” have nothing to do with math. Learning the subtleties took time, and I misinterpreted conversations often enough to be embarrassed (or at least confused). We speak the same (roughly) language, but important meaning is sometimes lost.

Back in my day job, I asked four testers I know what terms they would use to describe some terms for the following scenario:

Say you have a simple test (or check) that verifies that the xyz driver is loaded when a USB XYZ device is plugged into the system. And – you want to run this test on 32bit and 64bit Windows, and with at least four different USB firmware implementations.

So – you have something you want to verify – let’s call it an “idea”, and you want to confirm your idea on some different configurations – seems pretty straightforward.

  1. What do you call the “idea” (plug in the device and make sure the driver loads)? Is that a test case?
  2. What do you call the permutations? Do they have a different name or are they just more of #1 – i.e. do you still have one test case, or do you have eight?

I have my own ideas (and I wrote about them in hwtsam), but when I asked four testers this question, I came up with five answers (adding mine to the mix).

I worry (perhaps too much) that lack of common vocabulary causes problems in testing. My colleagues who are in favor of certification (or at least aren’t violently opposed to certification) say that the common vocabulary encouraged in the various Bodies of Knowledge are the best things about the certification. But – since there are a variety of certifications (and a larger variety of interpretations), I can’t say that I expect certification will solve the vocabulary problem. But I can’t help but wish that we could dissolve the language gap.

Then again, perhaps it’s not that big of a problem. We do find ways to talk, and we do make (some) progress. For example, I was in a twitter conversation last week (or as much of a conversation as you can have in 140 characters) – I said “The problem with blah is that x, y, and sometimes z” – and the response was “In my world, I call that funklestein”. OK – great – that’s not my word, but now we can have a conversation, and it wasn’t that hard to get us there. I wish all testing conversations were that easy.


I’m wrapping up a ton of stuff this week in order to prepare for being away at star east next week. I hope to get a chance to meet some of you there. Come find me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.