Exploration Through Example

Example-driven development, Agile testing, context-driven testing, Agile programming, Ruby, and other things of interest to Brian Marick
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Tue, 13 Jun 2006

Agile software development and Glade air freshener (a pet peeve)

It really gripes me when people argue that their particular approach is "agile" because it matches the dictionary definition of the word, that being "characterized by quickness, lightness, and ease of movement; nimble." While I like the word "agile" as a token naming what we do, I was there when it was coined. It was not meant to be an essential definition. It was explicitly conceived of as a marketing term: to be evocative, to be less dismissable than "lightweight" (the previous common term).

Discussing the characteristics of Agile software development by reference to the dictionary is akin to discussing the product characteristics of Glade Air Freshener according to the definition of "glade" as "an open space in a forest". There is some limited use: I can imagine an S.C. Johnson and Son executive objecting to a proposed new scent by saying a user smelling it is more likely to think of a day at the beach - "that briny smell" - than Bambi at the edge of the forest. In the same way, I can imagine someone saying of a development team that since it doesn't respond nimbly to changes in the business environment, it sure doesn't seem to be "agile" from the perspective of those paying the bills.

But it would be unreasonable for our executive to object to chemists adding tri-nitro-benzo-dawnocaine because it's extracted from sea water, not meadow earthworms. By the same token, the nimbleness of the Agile methods from the point of view of the business may be achieved by being inflexible about frequent releases of shippable software. Or the project might insist on a path toward faster feedback (like unit testing) even if that path's short-term costs are higher than some alternative and the long-term benefits of feedback aren't clear in this case.

In a way, context-driven testing may be more agile than Agile testing in that it relies on individual rationality and choice in cases where XP and even Crystal would at least begin by following rules and precedents.

That's why I habitually capitalize the "agile" in Agile testing, etc. It doesn't mean "nimble" any more than Bill Smith means "a metalworker with a hooked blade and a long handle."

## Posted at 08:09 in category /agile [permalink] [top]

Two updates

Richard P. Gabriel is reported to have used the scrapheap metaphor in a 1986 talk about "Used Software".

Robert Chatley and Tom White have been working on sentence style for tests in Java:


## Posted at 07:59 in category /misc [permalink] [top]

About Brian Marick
I consult mainly on Agile software development, with a special focus on how testing fits in.

Contact me here: marick@exampler.com.




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Working your way out of the automated GUI testing tarpit
  1. Three ways of writing the same test
  2. A test should deduce its setup path
  3. Convert the suite one failure at a time
  4. You should be able to get to any page in one step
  5. Extract fast tests about single pages
  6. Link checking without clicking on links
  7. Workflow tests remain GUI tests
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