language

Whose domain is it anyway?

The brittleness of tests or specs is a recurring topic in BDD (or acceptance test-driven development, specification-by-example, or whatever you choose to call the thing where you write acceptance criteria, automate them and then make the application match). This is a tricky area, and there are probably as many styles of defining and grouping acceptance criteria as there are teams automating them.

The aspect I want to focus on in this article is domain language, because there’s a failure mode I encounter surprisingly often, which seems to have a common root cause.

Goal-oriented vocabulary - saying what you mean

I was in a hotel in Stockholm recently and I noticed a bottle opener attached to the wall in the bathroom. There was a bilingual sign under it which got me thinking about the term “bottle opener” itself. (I was giving a talk about BDD the next day so I was already thinking about how language is used.)

It occurred to me that “bottle opener” is a great example of goal-oriented vocabulary. The device itself is actually a cap remover, and it only works on one particular design of metal cap. The reason I use it, however, is to enable me to get to the beer in the bottle. Hence “bottle opener” rather than “cap remover”.