Thursday, 28 March 2013

Think of a Word - a 99 Second Talk

I've said in various talks that I don't enjoy creating, justifying, or applying, definitions.
I think creating your own definition does work well as an exercise, because you can explore your vocabulary and try and create an encompassing statement of intent to cover what you mean when you use a word. And there exist, people who do the 'definition' thing really well. James Bach and Michael Bolton act as exemplars of this approach and freely share, discuss and debate their definitions via blogs and twitter.
I do not appear to fit into that group, my definitions do not work well, and when I adopt a definition it feels stifling. I find that my definitions change, not because I have changed, or the situation changed, but because I created a definition that didn't encompass everything I needed it to cover.
Fortunately, for me, I found an exercise that words better for me. Using words as symbols, and identifying words that apply to the concept or term I want to explore. These words might act as attributes, or characteristics, or high level abstractions, or symbols.
When used as symbols we deliberately read into them. We deliberately don't try and tie them down. We deliberately explore them from different angles and take from them what we need at the time. The symbol doesn't have a definition. You find and explore the relationship between yourself and the word, at the time and place you find yourself now.
I phrase it slightly differently in the 99 second talk. Different medium. Different message.
I prepared this 99 second talk in advance of TestBash 2.0 but in the end the talk didn't feel right on the day. So I created another one instead. Since I prepared the talk in advance I have a recorded practice session, which I release now.

Next Steps:
  • Create your own definitions - see if that works for you, see how you feel about it
  • Identify some symbols, explore them - see if that works for you, see how you feel about it

Create your own mind maps at MindMeister


  1. Alessandra Moreira (@testchick)28 March 2013 at 02:44

    Hi Alan,

    Fantastic presentation! Thank you for sharing. I struggle with the same issue, definitions don't seem to work for me. And yet they seem to flow so easily to others ;-)

    I'll give your exercise a go, maybe I can change after all!


    1. Thanks for the comment. Best of luck with the exercise.