Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Word-policing and responding critically

I feel my call for kindness and consideration of what debates/discussions I want to immerse myself into has lead to an idea that I don't want to be criticized. I value good discussion, but one that takes us forward. Forward for me is increased understanding, instead of defense of an idea. When understanding grows, some ideas turn out to be bad. Some turn out to be better than without the added understanding.

I've been wondering a lot about an ongoing discussion about wordplay vs. relevance of semantics. I feel that when I tweet, I get corrected a lot. Most often by the lovely, helpful Michael Bolton. He occasionally reminds me that we can't prove things, we can't assure quality and that we can't automate testing. I'm trying to learn to say thank you. Because even with risk of shallow agreement, I believe we agree on the relevant bits of these.

I picked a sentence from comments of a specific blog post by James Bach.
The competence issue is when you stand up, put your ideas out to your peers, and yet expect them not to respond critically.
I've loved some debates and hated others. Both are about "responding critically". Where's the difference, then?

There's questioning that aims at adding understanding. In these discussions, people talk more to understand and to map my experiences and ideas into their context. My skills and knowledge at the point of time are part of that context, and often helpful questions are about my awareness of opposing views (e.g. "Yes, thank you, I have heard about continuous delivery being a bad idea without automation. We still do that very successfully for two years now").

Then there's question that seeks a winner. For a debate or an argument, there's a winner. Which implies there's also a loser. These debates often end up in rhetorics that lead to winning, even through taking the opponent out of balance.

When people say twitter is a bad medium, I believe it is only bad if we make it so. If we approach discussions to seek the one truth.

There was a particular discussion today that I want to use as an example. I tweeted and got a response that I consider typical:
A friend was quick to jump in to inform I was aware of the difference and that there was a message other than choice of words in my tweet. I got corrected on words. Again. Good thing I'm beyond my earlier fear of saying things, because this could also be a great (unintentional) silencing technique.

A little later, I was still tweeting about my unfinished thoughts:
A friend of mine coins this beautifully in a private discussion. A bit of flexibility in vocabulary can open so many doors! 

So, I keep on being critical without focusing on vocabulary. There's more words in the world, and more words may eventually lead to a better understanding. Defining the words and policing them makes people feel bullied, even if the intention is to help and respond critically.

Final note: 
(the word "congruence" - I just can't get my head around this as non-native english speaker, it just does not translate well - so I use words that make sense to me)

I will talk about test automation and automating testing. 
I will not work with the testing/checking distinction. 
I will trust my developers and managers to understand there's no complete testing, so while I can try using safety language, I forgive myself and call myself a skilled tester even if my language is imprecise on what exactly I can assure or confirm or test.