I had a discussion today about the name “unit testing”, and its connotations.
I’d like to remind you, dear reader, that the audience of this blog is already aware of the goodness that comes with unit testing. Unit testing is part of our day-to-day work, and also for people just starting to get interested in becoming professionals.
But what about those poor souls that don’t know what “unit testing” is? Does the term sound frightening to them? When you ask your developer friend: “Have you heard about unit testing?” you probably expect: “No – tell me more about it!”
Only she thinks: “Well, I’m a developer, not a tester”. Or maybe she’s thinking: “Man, this guy is condescending. He’s using a name-of- the-week from the garbage-can of tech-talk. I’m going back to work”. Case closed, your friend now won’t even hear about the happiness that goes along with the name.
The way we talk about our favorite methodology, though we mean good, can have some horrendous results. For your friend, you either wasted her time, or wrecked a relationship.
Is it just the name?
Names of features, products, methodologies, and even people can actually create or lower barriers to acceptance. The term “unit testing” is ancient (in development years) but apparently doesn’t take into account any emotional or even cultural context. It conveys the practice, not the value it brings.
Ok, let’s rename it!
It could help somewhat (if you can now re-educate thousands of developers worldwide –they probably won’t let go of what they’ve mastered so quickly). But I don’t believe just changing the name will change behavior.
When I explain unit testing, I start at the pain: bugs. Stupid bugz. Returning bugs. Let me clue you in – developers are creatures of ego. We care about what we do, and any bug found is a dent in our armor. Bugs drive us nuts. And we’re ready to invest some time (minimum, if possible) in making sure our face-time with QA is limited.
(QA people – I love you, you know that. Don’t take it the wrong way, but in the development story, we shoot the messenger, the one who found the bug).
So when you come to persuade, use the right context and language and talk to the heart. You’ll get better acceptance, and probably take away the effect of the name.
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