Naming Things isn't hard, but it's local

People say that naming things is hard. This isn’t a problem I’ve had. Coming up with a repo name for a containerised test environment repository is easy. Coming up with a name for a test harness is easy.

What I can’t do is conjure agreement on names for the kinds of tests that exist.

My New Year’s resolution is stop caring about it, and to convince other people to stop caring about it too.

Names are important. Names are a shortcut for a longer description. We use names, we use slang, we use colloquialisms. We use them at work, we use them in shops and we use them at home.

Me and my wife refer to “the green thing”. It’s a smalls dryer with pegs that hangs from the line. It isn’t green. It’s white & purple. But we used to have one that was green, and it was named for that. Now it’s just a shorthand.

When I worked at Peppy, we had a Flag Picker. It had flags, but it referred to the entire language and locale process initiated by the mobile app.

In Nottingham, people refer to each other as “duck” which is odd at first, but quickly becomes as normal as “pal” or “chum”, but maybe one tier it’s a term of endearment that suitable for strangers and for loved ones.

The common thread between each of these is that these terms mean nothing outside of the local context. A stranger in Bristol won’t understand me calling them a duck, and the staff in a store won’t understand when I ask for a new “green thing”.

Why do we spend time dissecting the important distinction between Integration Tests and API Tests, between UI Tests and E2E Tests, and so on? Surely the important aspect is giving a thing a name, so that when we use the name, everyone locally knows the activity or the repository that we’re talking about?

Does it harm onboarding? Barely. Does it harm your ability to get help from the internet? No, since if it’s automated test then you’re likely searching for help with a library or framework, and if it’s an activity, you’re likely searching for the problem rather than the name of the solution you already have.

I’ll try to remember to write in 2025 and let you know how I got on with this New Year’s Resolution.