Wednesday, April 08, 2015

What do you call something - Name matters !!!

In the recent times - I came across two instances where names/phrases we use in our daily life as software people - programmers and testers make a huge impact on what we do. The names we use to indicate things create objects/actions larger than the life.

Unit testing is something that only developers do
A colleague mine recently demonstrate me a testing framework (some code, library that drives some portion of application under test) as a unit testing framework. I applied some knowledge I gained by reading on unit testing to this framework and realized that the framework did not do or support unit testing.  A unit test by definition is self contained and attempts to validate logic supposedly implemented by piece of code under test with all other dependencies mocked out.  I confronted my colleague on why is he calling the framework as unit testing framework. His answer surprised me - he said while agreeing to definition of unit test that I quoted here "If I do not use the phrase unit testing here - developers would not use this saying it is testers job". Here the word "unit testing" is inappropriately used to effect some change in the behavior of programmers/developers. I can sympathize with my colleague - such is the power of names/words/phrase that we have created.

Behavior is more useful word than Test
Dan North in his introductory article on Behavior Driven Development - says people misunderstood the word "test" in TDD. He observed removing the word "test" from TDD, replacing the word with "behavior" made the whole activity more acceptable to programmers. While there is more to BDD than TDD and word "test" - this instance made me think yet another case of how names create effects with far reaching impact than we seem to think. I guess very name of "test" makes some programmers think "not my job".  All of a sudden the wall between dev and test becomes and we have stereotype developers and testers out there.

We need to be more careful while creating or using words and phrases - development, testing, unit testing etc are few examples here that are creating practices that inhibit effective collaboration between various functions in a software team. Who said "what is in a name" ? We know now - that there is something in name !!!