Monday, 5 June 2017

Usage of words

I came across the following tweet:

I tried to reply on Twitter but the message I tried to portray did not come across in the way I wanted it to.

Disclaimer:  I am not, nor ever have been a member of any cult.

Marlenas' words came across very strongly and appear to be based upon their negative experience when encountering discussions on the use of these words.  Others stepped in with their own experiences and the main message seems to be that the use of these words have been to derailed important discussions.  I find that a shame, since to me the distinction with these words has been useful to help talk to executives and others from outside the testing world about the risks of unfocused automation and testing.

My concern in the statement by Marlena is that the distinction is of low value  and a semantic argument.   Semantics and the meaning of words is vital for society to be able to flourish and this has been going on for a long time.  People have argued over what certain words mean and over time the meaning of some words change.  Some are taken over to deride or insult people and sometimes these words are reclaimed by those who are being insulted.  For example the word "Queer" to some this is a hostile word to others it is a badge of honor.

I worked in Israel for awhile and often would get strange looks when running workshops and replying to a question I would say 'smallish' It was awhile before I figured out that 'ish; is Hebrew for 'man' and I was saying 'small man'.  Culturally words can have different meaning and cause confusion, the same can be said of the words'checking 'and 'testing'  Using these words in the right situation and context to inform and have a discussion can be useful however if used to make a point or win an argument it becomes less useful.  If used in an attempt to show superior intellect then the discussion is already lost.

I use the distinction between the words when discussing the testing effort.  How much checking has been done against the amount of testing that has been done.  How much effort have we spent on putting in place explicit knowledge, information we feel we know, against the effort on information that we do not know, tacit.  Knowing the difference between these two items can be vital to help mitigate risk.  If all the effort and money is being spent on checking with very little testing then there could be a risk that something we do not know could be dangerous.  Unless we spend a little more effort on testing to uncover more of what we do not already know then there is unknown risks.  Another example could be that the product is mature and changes are minor so more effort is put into the checking.

For me having these meanings helps to inform and tell a story.  I do not use them to score points or be a member of a cult I use them because they have a value to me in my context.  I do not really care if you use these words or not.  I have explained how I use them and the usefulness I find in them.  Yes I will discuss with people why I feel the distinction has value but at the same time I respect others opinions and viewpoints.  To me it is a useful tool to be able to communicate with teams around the world.