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I've been in many difference sized companies and in many different environments where we've used terms interchangably, Testing Terms, Development Terms and Process types have been overloaded in one place or another. Test types from Acceptance, Feature to Unit Tests I've seen used in multiple ways in different companies and I've stuck with a few that I probably should not have and others I've tried to change immediately when I heard them. It's tough and at times the groups have resisted, and in some places I had to give up since it was an uphill fight. What I've done is try the following:

  • Terminology Dictionaries, either documents or wiki's - makes it easy to direct people as to what a term means and with a wiki you can link in sources
  • Group Think - get everyone together and try to hash out definitions - doesn't work well with big groups but often gets interesting conversations going
  • Dicussion Threads - if you have Discussion Forums in the company its an alternative to a wiki and gives everyone a chance to add their comments
  • Talk to the originators of the term - try and understand the origination and see if its valid, or maybe change at the source

I've seen this come up in other QA Forums as well, where someone new encounters a term they don't understand and questions the wider community. Terms are subjective, and often localized as well, but I believe the strategies in how to deal with these are fairly common.

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I just 'clarify' it by saying "It's part of the scrum process." –  corsiKa May 23 '11 at 15:49
    
Lol...nice one. I'll have to use that. –  MichaelF May 23 '11 at 16:22
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4 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I maintain a Glossary of Testing Terms (based on this: http://strazzere.blogspot.com/2010/04/glossary-of-testing-terms.html) that we use internally. In addition, we maintain a Glossary of Business Terms containing terms and acronyms for the industry in which we live, as well as company-specific terms.

We have a periodic "Lunch and Learn" session where we discuss terms, and other topics of interest.

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A wiki can be a useful place to define terms. If the company uses them differently than the general test community, you can give the company definition and then include at the bottom a link to the more common definition outside of the company. –  Ethel Evans May 23 '11 at 16:34
    
Yup. We store all of our documents in SharePoint. –  Joe Strazzere May 23 '11 at 19:13
    
SharePoint has the advantage of being liked by non-techies. I like the ability to link as I use the terms in a wiki, but my audience is almost always technical, and they like wikis also. –  Ethel Evans May 23 '11 at 19:27
    
I'm going to be biased with this one since I am using, and working with, SharePoint now. It's become our repository for everything. And not just because I know Joe from other forums.... –  MichaelF May 24 '11 at 16:04
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There should be a new hire training presenting the terminologies used in the organization with their precise meanings. Anyone who newly joins the company should go through it. It should be conducted by experts who are really well-versed with these terms.

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There are a couple of aspects to this issue:

The same terms being used differently in different locations/workplaces. For that issue I'd recommend getting a clear definition of the terminology in use there, even if it isn't correct. Why? Terminology usage in an organization is part of that organization's culture, and changing the culture isn't always easy or even possible. You might need to start by adding clarifiers and letting those be accepted before you start chipping away at incorrect usage.

Using a given term to mean more than one thing is even more likely to be a cultural issue in my view - in my experience, if a term like user acceptance tests is used to describe more than one kind of test, chances are the organization does not see a difference between the two usages. If this is the case, you've got a much more difficult education hill to climb.

For sites like this, an accepted dictionary so that new testers (and experienced ones who've come through company cultures where the terminology is used in a non-standard way) is an invaluable resource.

No matter how the incorrect terminology gets there, it helps to start from the assumption that the person using it is misinformed rather than ignorant - tester tact is always a good thing.

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Agreed, diplomacy is everything in QA. –  MichaelF May 24 '11 at 16:04
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If I know the term I'm using is ambiguous, I define it beforehand.

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