Terminologizing and Danger Words

I just read this on another blog:

“Regression testing is usually seen as the poorer cousin of ‘proper’ domain-abstracted assertion-based testing. Often rightly so!”

In twenty years of doing testing, managing testing, attending many many conferences and reading many papers and books on testing, I have not heard of “domain-abstracted assertion-based testing”.

I don’t know what assertion-based testing is. So if it’s usually associated with regression testing, then that must be true of a community other than the ones I’ve encountered.

I don’t know what it means to be domain-abstracted. Again, perhaps some community of testers obscure to me uses that term.

Moreover, I find that when I imagine what those things might be– and I thought I was good at imagining things– the ideas I come up with don’t seem anything like regression testing.

I often exhort testing students that it’s okay to make up your own terminology. I am not in favor of a standardized way of speaking except within specific communities, companies, or projects. But this case reminds me to add this caveat: Remember friends, when you invent words and terms, it sure helps if you align them with some aspect of some corpus of existing vocabulary, so that the rest of us have a hope of figuring out what you mean.

Regression testing is a very widely used term in testing. I’m aware of no testing community that does not use that particular term. I googled “domain-abstracted testing” and found zero hits. However I googled “assertion-based testing” and found about 500 hits, some of them interesting.

I would have thought “assertion-based testing” meant embedding ASSERT calls in code. In other words, built-in tests. That would help detect regression-related bugs, but also bugs that aren’t regression-related, so I wouldn’t call it form of regression testing per se. As I google the term, it seems that it is used in various ways.

Some terms used commonly in testing I like to call “danger words”, by which I mean that using them without defining them will confuse people in most contexts that occur to me. It looks like “assertion” is an example of a danger word.

Still, I don’t really mind all this. I’d rather learn from how people baffle me with their words than attempt to stop all innovation and free thinking by legislating a lexicon.