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"Amazing presentation...took me away into another whole world...not stuff you think about much, and should! - I really enjoyed your presentation...a topic rarely talked about, and badly needed, especially with Designers, Developers and Testers."

-Marc, August 2019 Cincinnati Software Craftsmanship Meetup

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"Damian is excellent at breaking down complex things."

-Richard Bradshaw, May 2017 Ministry of Testing - Masterclass

Word Smatter


"Exploring Semantics, Testers, and Problems" - Introducing, demystifying, and using semantics to better understand testers and testing.


“Testers [do|don’t] (help) [prevent|detect] problems.”


Throughout my career, I’ve encountered numerous variations of this phrase and discussed the underlying ideas often. The phrase uses just a few, small words to express many, big ideas. And so, it is valuable and critical to understand what each word means individually in order to better understand the ideas they convey collectively.


Semantics is the study of meaning in words. The session begins with a brief and broad overview of semantics and related ideas. This sets the stage for deep analysis of each individual word in the phrase above and its potential meaning. We collaboratively consider:

  • Testers – What might this word mean to different people and in different contexts?

  • Do/Don’t – What do normative and descriptive statements have to do with it?

  • Help – How does the inclusion/exclusion of this word affect the meaning of the phrase?

  • Prevent/Detect – What does causality and relativism have to do with which word we choose?

  • Problems – What exactly is the thing that is being prevented or detected?


This session demystifies and promotes semantics, and goes beyond wordplay to introduce critical concepts that have practical impacts on testers, their roles, and their responsibilities.


Anyone interested in learning more about semantics and/or testing.


1 hour

Key Takeaways

  • A deeper understanding and appreciation of semantic discussions

  • How causality and relativism affect perception

  • What exactly is testing, quality, and bugs?


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